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A time for transformation

Colin Lawson from Tamlite Lighting offers his tips for next-generation lighting

Posted by Stephanie Broad | July 14, 2015 | HVAC & lighting

It came as no great surprise to find that the future of education was a hot topic of debate throughout the recent UK General Election campaign – as indeed has been the case at most ballots during the past 20 years. But while individual parties’ approaches and priorities varied considerably, there was a general consensus that work to upgrade the infrastructure of schools and colleges must continue apace to remain on parity with those in mainland Europe.

An integral part of making this happen since 2011 has been the Priority Schools Building Programme, under the terms of which more than 500 schools will ultimately benefit from rebuilding or refurbishment projects that include the overhaul of many ‘core’ facility components. With the capacity of newer systems to deliver not only dramatic energy-savings but also long-term benefits for pupil behaviour and overall health, lighting has inevitably emerged as a primary focus of these initiatives.

With the project currently due to run all the way through to 2021, it stands to reason that this represents a massive ongoing opportunity for all parts of the lighting supply chain. The good news is that the manufacturing community has rallied behind more efficient flourescent and LED lighting systems in emphatic fashion over the last ten years, and as such there is no shortage of products to suit any type or size of school.

For consultants and installers, in particular, it is important to note that ‘new lighting’ is never a simple tick-box exercise – it requires considerable time and attention for the greatest value to be extracted. Those making decisions on lighting products and solutions should bear in mind these ‘ten top tips’ for lighting specification. 

  1. There are no easy answers. Different spaces may require contrasting approaches – for example, lighting conditions will likely be significantly different in the average classroom to those in the typical sports hall.
  2. Lighting efficiency isn’t just about LEDs. For some venues, low energy flourescents may constitute a less labour-intensive, more practical option – so take your time to investigate lamp life expectancy, installation issues and, above all, supplier track-records.
  3. Question quality and reliability. Of course you want to help the school save energy (and money) – but do the fixtures in question have a demonstrable history of outstanding performance? It might be time to check out the message boards and forums as well as taking the time to isolate the best possible vendor.
  4. Look for long life. This might be obvious but it bears repeating – products with a long life-span will need to be replaced more infrequently, allowing schools to reduce labour costs and minimise downtime.
  5. Take the temperature. Studies have shown that optimising the colour temperature of your lighting systems can impact positively on pupil morale and overall productivity. With some systems, there is even the possibility of fine-tuning the colour temperature to match seasonal conditions.
  6. Seek good sense on sensors. Linking fixtures to sensors that will turn systems on or off in accordance with lighting or occupancy conditions can result in a further dramatic uptick in energy savings.
  7. Keep your colours natural. The best way of doing this is to find out more about – and then implement – the Colour Rendering Index.
  8. Consistency is crucial. Lighting conditions need to be uniform across an educational space to derive the greatest possible value, so make sure you think carefully about how many fixtures you need to light a specific space – especially if it is a sizeable one.
  9. Don’t be afraid of bespoke. For schools receiving less extensive work under the PSBP (or indeed any other currently active programme), it may be that pre-existing systems are simply unable to fit the existing ceiling grid.
  10.  Be aware of the warranty. Product warranties of four or five years are by no means uncommon these days ­– so don’t settle for short-term back up as there is simply no need!

Those involved in specifying school lighting are also encouraged to bear in mind the level of access to good quality support and maintenance infrastructures. But whilst the above might seem like a long list at first glance, the results of putting in the time and effort to select the best lighting system can result in not only a satisfied current client ­– but also prospective future ones who fall under the same educational authority.    

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