Lighting can consume up to 35 percent of a building’s electricity. While energy conservation was important before September 11, it has become even more significant with the possible difficulties in obtaining foreign oil. Therefore, in suitable applications, it is essential to use lighting products that are more efficient than the usual incandescent, halogen and fluorescent lamps. This way, even if the mandated wattage restrictions and lighting controls called for in the American Society of Heating, Ventilating, Air-conditioning Engineers/Illuminating Society of North America (ASHRAE/IESNA) Standard 90.1 (Energy Conservation for other than low-rise residential buildings) are avoided, electricity will still be saved.

This standard, to be incorporated into enforceable building codes in every state, covers the building envelope, heating/ventilating/air-conditioning, power and lighting for existing and new buildings, plus alterations and additions.

Think of the tremendous potential in nationwide retrofits. Those familiar with these additional lighting systems and their effective installation will be in great demand. Two of these completely different technologies are light pipe, providing ambient interior and exterior illumination for large, inaccessible, hazardous or confined spaces; and glass fiber optics, for directional functional task, display, architectural contours and ambient light. They offer a supplemental tool to be used wherever they can do a better job than the conventional components. Alternately, they can also be employed in conjunction with traditional products.

Recognizing the huge potential market in retrofitting for energy conservation, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 98 in Philadelphia sponsors a free glass fiber optics installation course. This program, offered in February and repeated in April, is open to all members of the construction team, including architects, engineers, interior and lighting designers, contractors and building managers. With all disciplines attending, improved job coordination will be achieved. This training is intended to assist locals across the country in boosting lighting business in existing properties while new construction lags.

Glass fiber optics are suitable if a client:

• Needs unobtrusive, sophisticated lighting.

• Must comply with the ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1 (Energy Conservation).

• Has inaccessible areas for relamping.

• Has wood and textiles damaged by drying out and fading from exposure to light.

• Has water features.

• Has hazardous or confined spaces.

• Wants to improve productivity, sales or attendance.

• Wants to reduce the air conditioning load.

• Needs vandal-proof lighting.

• Wants to simplify maintenance.

• Expects long-lasting equipment with prompt payback.

• Requires lighting safety plus affordable installation.

In addition to meeting budgets, projects employing this revolutionary lighting, long used abroad, have received commendation from the International Illumination Design Award committee for both design and energy conservation.

Once installers are familiar with the process, length of work could vary from two days with a man and a helper to a month with 100 electricians, depending upon the design complexity. This is just another lighting job. No complicated cutting, polishing or splicing is required. The fully assembled glass octopus-like harness of lighting guides is merely inserted into the light source.

Power and controls wiring is required no matter what type of lighting is used. The glass fiber optics installation wiring involves simply fishing the flexible glass “tails” through interstitial spaces in walls, ceilings or floors. The electrician does focusing under the lighting designer’s or the client’s supervision.

The following describes a first-time user’s installation procedure:

The big-game hunter owner of a brand-new office building in Wisconsin wanted to display a collection of 34 animals he had taken in the wild in the two-story entrance. The client wanted low maintenance, energy efficiency and most of all, unobtrusive and safe lighting for the large hairy animals displayed. Only miniaturized glass fiber optics could provide both ambient illumination in the 20-foot ceiling, the stairs down from the second floor, the log bridge between the two building wings; and directional beams for the exhibits.

After reading a 1997 article on glass fiber optics lighting in ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine, the project manager for Pieper Electric sent a videotape of a cardboard scale mockup (1 inch = 1 foot) of the space to the writer. Toy animals were placed on the artificial rock ledges on three sides of the lobby (the fourth wall was glass). Since the structure was still under construction, the design had to be developed just from that model.

Three journeymen and two helpers installed 255 glass tails in concrete and heavy steel in three days. During that time, the fiber optics consultant was present to answer questions that arose. Although the craftsmen were completely new to the technology, their ingenuity was exceptional and they said they never had such fun. Lobby lights were left on after business hours for people to look in and see the animal collection. However, the viewers were more fascinated by the lighting! EC

KAY is president of Conservation Lighting International Ltd. in Philadelphia. She can be reached at 215.568.0923.