Earlier this year, the US Department of Energy (DOE) launched Commercial Lighting Solutions, an interactive Web tool that provides lighting templates, supported by construction documents, that can help commercial building owners achieve desirable lighting quality while improving lighting efficiency by at least 30 percent over the ASHRAE 90.1-2004 energy standard. Part of DOE’s Commercial Building Energy Alliances—private-public forums aimed at significantly reducing energy use in various vertical building markets—Commercial Lighting Solutions seeks to stimulate adoption of advanced lighting technologies and design practices by making them available to anyone who specifies lighting, such as electrical contractors, designers, owners, distributors and other industry professionals.

“Achieving high levels of lighting energy efficiency appropriately involves thoughtful design,” said Carol Jones, lighting program manager for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “Simple approaches, such as replacing T12 lamps with T8 lamps, can achieve meaningful savings, but many building owners and tenants have already taken these steps. To get to the next level of performance, more comprehensive and integrated approaches are needed. But we have a capability challenge. Not enough people know how to do good lighting on a very low-energy budget.”

The first Commercial Lighting Solutions module, residing at www.lighting-solutions.org, focuses on the retail market (full disclosure: the author provided wording for the controls recommendations). The DOE identified typical spaces and engaged expert designers to work with commercial end-users, architects and manufacturers to produce design templates that can be used in new construction and relighting projects. Called “vignettes,” these templates include lighting layouts, controls recommendations, projected demand and energy savings, component specifications, and supporting documentation.

The user selects the building type from a drop-down menu (discount big box, grocery store, pharmacy or specialty market); the state in which the building is located; and the hours of operation (business hours and total hours of operation, including restocking hours).

The user next identifies the space types included in the building and inputs the size, in square feet, for each. The choices vary based on type of building (specialty markets, for example, may include general sales and point-of-sale spaces and bistro, cafe, bakery, produce and specialty goods sections).

Now the user selects a design for each space from a series of templates, each designed to maximize energy savings while satisfying lighting-quality goals typical for the applicable space type. As each template is selected, the amount of achieved energy savings is automatically updated on the screen. Next, control strategies are selected based on a series of choices that boost energy savings. Lighting controls, in fact, are often critical to achieving the 30-plus percent energy savings goal, and Commercial Lighting Solutions is based on saving kilowatt-hours through design, not kilowatts solely through lighting fixture choices.

Once the user finishes the design choices, several reports are available for download as PDF files, including detailed breakdown of the lighting design and control choices, energy summary and lighting fixture schedule.

“Commercial Lighting Solutions is not an ‘intelligent lighting designer’ and is not meant to replace the design process, but instead [to] help lighting specifiers leapfrog the learning curve by providing a spectrum of possibilities for energy-efficient design,” Jones said. “It offers these design options based on best practice design principles for those wishing to exceed code without sacrificing quality for efficiency.”

The program is currently being expanded. During the winter of 2009–2010, Commercial Lighting Solutions for Retail is being updated with a v.1.2, which will include additional lighting designs and building types. Subsequently, a v.2 will be launched, which will include new and improved features, an “add a space” function for spaces not included in the key plan, and a user interface where users can input design information for verification of estimated energy use.

Meanwhile, at the time of writing, the DOE was also working on a Commercial Lighting Solutions tool for office and institutional buildings, specifically open plan, private offices, conference rooms and corridors; the beta version was to be launched by press time. One feature that will differentiate this version is the user will be able to select and download documentation on control templates as detailed and useful as the lighting fixture design templates (which the author also is providing).

Energy codes are getting tougher, and tax incentives and sustainability programs, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), encourage maximizing energy savings beyond code, but achieving good lighting quality under these conditions can be difficult. By using the Commercial Lighting Solutions tool to generate options, any specifier can more easily meet the challenge of realizing 30-plus percent lighting energy savings, while ensuring the lighting quality needed to support productivity and sales.

For more information about Commercial Lighting Solutions, visit www.lighting-solutions.org.

DILOUIE, a lighting industry journalist, analyst and marketing consultant, is principal of ZING Communications. He can be reached at www.zinginc.com.