25 June 2013 — CASE STUDY: Recently released statistics from the first year of Commercial Building Disclosure show that poor lighting efficiency in buildings is a widespread problem in Australia.

The figures showed that 36 per cent of commercial net lettable area had “poor” nominal lighting power density – greater than 15 watts per square metre.

But more and more companies are having their light bulb moment, coming to the realisation that upgrading inefficient lighting systems makes strong commercial sense, with increasingly shorter payback times as technology improves and costs come down.

A recent project by NuGreen Solutions, a sustainable project finance and management company, illustrates the cost, energy and greenhouse gas savings of upgrading building lighting. NuGreen offers upgrade solutions in which clients can lease back energy efficiency equipment, with the choice of paying for it outright and being covered for maintenance.

Executive director, national business Paul Schlaphoff told The Fifth Estate that the lighting upgrade of a 20,000 square metre warehouse, depot and office for a leading freight and logistics company had provided a 61 per cent saving on the current lighting spend.

Schlaphoff, a quantity surveyor, said that in terms of electricity, fitting out 888 new LED lights reduced power consumption by 540,000kWh per year for the 24/7 operator. In dollar terms, over 10 years, the project is expected to save over $2 million, including maintenance costs, which would be covered by NuGreen.

The projected return on investment was estimated by NuGreen at 3.07 years, and would save 482 tonnes of CO2 per annum.

Schlaphoff says the market for lighting upgrades had been tough but there were signs of improvement as the business case became increasingly apparent.

Funnily enough, it was financial managers who were most responsive to upgrades, he said.

“The financial guys are the kindest because they see the savings.”

He said for the Sydney warehouse project, his company tried to provide the most efficient solution possible.

In offices, there was a one-for-one replacement of twin T8 fluorescents (83W) with 42W LED planks.

In the warehouse and depot, light levels were brought up from 72 lux to 170 lux to meet Australian standards, and NuGreen provided design and specification of LED fittings for a new warehouse being built adjacent.

Schlaphoff said design was a “hugely important” part of energy efficiency solutions.

“For the warehouses, we have to make sure they can constantly achieve the 160 lux standard, remembering that these buildings operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said.

Optimising and deleting fittings for overlit areas was a key method for upgrades.

He gave an example of a 30-storey building in Melbourne, where modelling showed that close to 1000 fittings were able to be deleted while still maintaining appropriate lighting levels.

“Design and actual lumen output is very important for us,” he said.

Better lighting had other benefits besides cost and greenhouse gas reduction, Schlaphoff said, including improved security, better productivity, and a safer occupational environment.