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Environment Matters Audio Podcast

Environment Matters
EPA Region 3
Topic: Lighting and Sustainability
Size: : 5,697k
Time: 06:07

Date: February 9, 2012

Amy Whiteluke: World energy consumption is increasing. It’s increasing because we’re building more buildings, because we have more people, because we’re using more spaces. It’s increasing—44% from 2006 to 2030 is the projection.

[Opening music]

Andrew Kreider: Speaking to an EPA audience about how commercial lighting relates to environmental and energy sustainability, Amy Whiteluke, a consultant with a leading lighting company, needed little time to demonstrate the strong connection. Hi, I’m Andrew Kreider with EPA’s mid-Atlantic regional office, and welcome to Environment Matters, our series of podcasts. Amy’s presentation emphasized the importance of saving energy through lighting control.

Amy Whiteluke:  It all twists around lighting control and, today, interwoven is the sustainability message. You can’t work on a project, a renovation, anything, not just lighting control, but all systems need to be considered working at their maximum efficiency for energy, for the impact on the environment, and then, really, creating an environment internally, for people to maximize their efficiency.

Andrew Kreider: Opportunities for energy saving through lighting control are especially important in the United States.

Amy Whiteluke: Lighting on a commercial project is between 35 and 40 percent of your connected load. The United States—we’re just 4.5 percent of the world’s population—we use the most, by far, than everybody else combined. And prices are going up, either because your house got bigger or because your electricity costs went up. So these are the things that are driving sustainability, energy reduction and a look at the low-hanging fruit of what lighting control can bring.

Andrew Kreider: Amy cites Energy Secretary Steven Chu in comparing the current value of alternative energy sources and conservation, including lighting control.

Amy Whiteluke: Steven Chu really puts it very nicely, because we have all these opportunities for alternative power—wind, solar—they’re great. I’m not dissing them at all, awesome technology. But where we’re going to see the most significant reduction in carbon dioxide and the most significant contribution to energy reduction is in conservation.

Andrew Kreider: Amy advises us to look at lighting sources and control more broadly than we usually do.

Amy Whiteluke: Sustainability has given us this great opportunity to use windows as a lighting fixture. Today we look at controlling the light and the energy that comes in from windows in much the same way we’ve historically looked at controlling electric light. And marrying the two, to maximize energy efficiency, to maximize inhabitant efficiency—all of the things that we talk about in this holistic approach to how we develop projects.

Andrew Kreider: While switching and dimming are two very effective tools, implementing them in most buildings remains a challenge.

Amy Whiteluke: There’s a couple of ways to reduce energy in a space with lighting control by dimming. If you dim a light by 50 percent, you’re saving 50 percent of the energy. It’s a very linear equation. Most buildings—about 80 percent of the buildings that we work, breathe and live in today—were built before 1989. The footprints are wider, they don’t take into account being able to utilize daylight, they don’t have the optimized systems for lighting, they don’t have even the circuiting to accommodate multi-level switching or dimming.

Andrew Kreider:  In describing some limits to energy reductions, Amy refers to two well regarded codes that establish standard ways to measure and recognize outstanding energy efficiency.

Amy Whiteluke:  We build buildings for people. If we didn’t, we would call them monuments. But we can’t optimize them so much that they’re not comfortable and people can’t be productive. We do have technology to take these projects further than LEED, further than ASHRAE, to zero energy buildings. But we always have to keep in mind what’s going on in them, how do we keep that space optimized, and how do we keep the people in it comfortable, productive, happy, healthy.

Andrew Kreider: And, we learned, even these widely used codes are limited in use.

Amy Whiteluke: Here’s the catch, here’s the rub with these codes. We don’t have a national code policy that everybody has to adopt an aggressive energy code. In fact, we have no code in some states. It’s optional.

Andrew Kreider: Amy emphasized the value of data and promotion in broadening best lighting practices.

Amy Whiteluke: A centralized control system for lighting or mechanical systems, something that takes and measures all that information, can dump that data into a dashboard so that other people can see what’s going on in that building relative to the energy savings. That’s super important. We continue to educate, continue to share what’s going on, inspire and motivate other people to play along with us.

Andrew Kreider: We were pleased to learn that the federal government’s property manager—the  General Services Administration—plays an important role in lowering the cost of lighting control technology.

Amy Whiteluke: The GSA has been incredibly supportive of moving technology through. They pulled an ROI requirement that they had to deliver within a certain return on investment. They pulled that back so that if we put these requirements to get these buildings into a high performance mode, we’re going to invest in this technology. If we invest in this technology, we’re going to be moving it forward, and therefore reducing the cost of the technology so that it can be incorporated on a broader scale.

Andrew Kreider:  Amy’s concluding remarks nicely sum up what she sees as the fundamental changes we need to pursue.

Amy Whiteluke: Sustainability is a holistic approach, not just to construction, not just to devices, but to life in general. And my hope would be that the whole attitude changes, but it’s not just about providing devices. It’s about changing habits and changing needs and wants, without sacrificing the quality of what goes on in the spaces—the changing of an attitude. We need to live, breathe, walk, speak it every day to convey that to people who are less aware.

[Closing music]

Andrew Kreider: We’re grateful to Amy for sharing her strong, encouraging beliefs and practical experience in harmonizing lighting needs with sustainability. For more information on this topic, go to energystar.gov and search for “lighting.” And thanks for joining us on Environment Matters.          

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