Lighting controls are essential in modern commercial structures. As technology has advanced, owners and operators have looked for sophisticated, yet easy-to-operate systems. The newest energy codes require manual overrides in every space, astronomic time clocks with calendar, reduced after-hours site lighting and more.

To capture the business opportunity created by these new wants and needs, electrical contractors (ECs) are positioned to install systems to meet the demand. The key to success is finding the right technology and hardware solution for each area of the building.

“Our new marketing partners in this venture are energy codes such as ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1-2001, and the new Energy Policy Act of 2005,” said David Thurow, specification sales manager, Lithonia Control Systems, Lithonia Lighting, Conyers, Ga. “The new energy codes driving this trend vary from state to state.” Per the federal energy mandate, new codes require the following basic functions:

  • Automatic light shut-off
  • Occupancy sensing
  • Time clock-based lighting control systems
  • Occupant intervention—building automation system (BAS)
  • Manual override in every full-height partitioned space

Other requirements may include daylight harvesting (dimmed and switched), bi-level switching, individual workstation lighting control from desktop computers, and integration with BAS [which are sometimes known as integrated building systems (IBS). The terms are used interchangably in this article].

Thurow said the federal government offers tax incentives for meeting and exceeding code requirements. The tax incentive will pay the building developer up to $1.80-per-square-foot for energy-efficient buildings.

The most common system installed in commercial structures is the building automation system, which operates the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment. Since the BAS is already part of the building infrastructure, facility operators also want the system to operate lighting. Great idea, but sometimes the mechanical contractors have little knowledge of the lighting installation and cannot provide the manual override switches or dimming with tracking photocells.

The building operator’s objective is to see all of the building systems at one workstation display. Single-point operation of HVAC, lighting, security, life safety, fire detection and other building support systems is practical and more efficient. The key is BACnet digital protocol, which allows computerized equipment to communicate and exchange information (www.bacnet.org).

“When ECs install a full-function lighting control system with override switches, occupancy sensors, time clock and BACnet, their side of the project is complete,” said Thurow. “The BAS can address and operate any relay, dimmer or switch in the system using BACnet. This keeps the line of performance responsibility clearly defined because both trades delivered operational systems that can be demonstrated to owners. The owners and their facility staff can program and operate the building to suit their needs.”

Thurow recommends native BACnet.

“The most native BACnet lighting control systems use standard Cat 5 cable to plug into the BAS facility network. Since the electrical room and mechanical room often are close to each other, the Cat 5 connection is short and simple. On many BAS integration projects, the mechanical contractor or network specialist installs the Cat 5 wire.”

GE’s new IBS solutions

GE recently launched remote operated circuit breaker (ROCB) panel for integrated buildings. ROCB incorporates the functionality of 50 years of relay-based lighting control into A-Series lighting panelboards, enabling full-circuit control with some new benefits. GE expanded the number of groupings or zones the user can define.

According to Joe Briscoe, total lighting control product manager, GE Lighting Systems, Plainville, Conn., GE also offers ROCB with Ethernet connectivity for customers wanting to put their integrated products on one network.

“Customers can access any panel from anywhere they have Web access. ROCB is based on native BACnet and ModBus architecture enabling customers to easily integrate their lighting control into their building management systems, including HVAC and power distribution.”

Future GE releases include an integrated dimming system for daylight harvesting and a wireless product geared to the retrofit market as well as to customers linking their lighting control with energy management. Briscoe said the upcoming dimming solution will expand on ROCB capabilities, enabling customers to not only turn their lights on and off, but also dim the lighting.

GE’s wireless solution will enable customers to quickly and easily retrofit existing spaces for control as well as to access their facility from anywhere via Web control. This system allows customers to tie in their meter data and incorporate demand response decisions based on their real-time usage and the real-time market price of power.

Easy installation is not only a factor of each individual component, but also of the integrated design as a whole, Briscoe said.

“Time spent at the beginning of the design cycle specifying equipment and clearly defining roles and responsibilities of each component save time and money. Conversely, lack of planning and understanding can magnify delays ... . The number one issue for efficient installation of IBS systems [sic] is clearly defining the role of lead integrator.”

Hubbell offers BAS solutions

Hubbell’s BAS lighting control products embed intelligence into a variety of devices—occupancy sensor, photocell, low-voltage switch, dry contact input, relay panel—creating distributed intelligence capability.

“With a neuron chip and transceiver, the devices can be connected by a very simple two conductor, unshielded twisted-pair wire carrying both communications and power to provide a reliable, low-cost networked communication bus. The connected devices can be programmed to communicate with each other,” said Tom Braz, general manager, Hubbell Building Automation, Austin, Texas.

If a common open-architecture communications protocol such as LonWorks or BACnet is used, these devices can communicate occupancy, ambient light levels, commands and scheduling to one another, increasing building functionality and reducing energy costs. Braz said the lighting control system information interoperates with HVAC, security, fire alarm and vertical transportation.

“With plug-in software from the device manufacturer, a systems integrator commissions all systems to interoperate smoothly, customized to facility needs. The network can be accessed with a desktop PC, laptop or web-enabled hand held device,” he said.

Lighting is a direct electrical cost, and heat produced by lights increases cooling bills. Because the lighting control system turns lights off in unoccupied areas and signals HVAC to use less cooling or heating, energy costs decrease.

According to Braz, BAS will enhance both functional and cost containment opportunities. In the past, a proprietary systems approach entrapped building owners with one manufacturer’s products. In contrast, an open standard, interoperable system encourages multiple manufacturers to build similar products offering more choices in a competitive market.

Braz said BAS installation is not substantially different from customary device installation, although interconnection of devices is done with low-voltage wiring. BAS installations introduce a bus network similar to how computers introduced structured cabling in buildings, layered over existing systems. ECs learn the best installation practices, become proficient at troubleshooting, as well as in system maintenance. ECs also can become proficient in the integration of one or multiple systems, thus expanding their revenue opportunities.

From a hardware standpoint, BAS installation is simple because less wire is used due to the topology-free nature of the system. Connecting and installing the devices is straightforward. Software for both commissioning and integration is complex because of the wide array of systems on the market.

The challenge of installing a full-blown BAS system is working with multiple disciplines, Braz said. Typically, ECs work on lighting, while mechanical contractors and security installers handle HVAC and security systems. However, the software integration package is not separated—all systems merge at this point. To date, this integration has for the most part been handled by HVAC providers.

“Thus the average EC is unlikely to gain the knowledge necessary to become the ‘Systems Integrator,’” Braz said. “Some larger, more technically savvy ECs seize this opportunity to enhance their viability and jump into the integrator space.”

Integrated solution from TAC

A single graphical interface managing an entire facility reduces operator-training time and enhances reporting, according to Pete Wilson, marketing manager at TAC, with the Americas headquarters in Dallas. Moreover, a common infrastructure and shared system components reduce installation costs. Coordinated behavior across multiple systems boosts energy savings, improves comfort and enhances security.

“Integration is achieved through open systems protocols [LonWorks, BACnet and Modbus], Web technology, as well as through drivers for proprietary protocols,” Wilson said. “The objective is to pull data from the various systems to provide one centralized management and monitoring system.”

According to Wilson, cutting-edge IBS/BAS products leverage open-system protocols and information and Web technologies to offer a broader range of capability.

A distinct advantage is the ability to more easily integrate diverse building systems into a single cohesive building management system.

Lutron and Cooper Lighting dimming ballasts

Ken Walma, EcoSystem product manager at Lutron Electronics Co., Coopersburg, Pa., said multiple input dimming ballasts have an address and communicate digitally to each other.

“Once this network is in place, a sensor or wall control can be connected to a single fixture with low-voltage wiring,” said Walma. “The sensor can be programmed to communicate with any or every fixture on the network with a handheld programmer or PC.”

Controllable shading systems rely on photosensors (daylight sensors) that measure available daylight and a lighting controller executes window covers positions.

When motorized shades are integrated with lighting control and other building management systems, the shades provide glare control to help reduce the cooling load and protect interior surfaces from UV wavelengths.

Cooper Lighting offers DLS, a digital lighting system that places the control intelligence in the fixture. Each DLS dimming ballast contains a microprocessor and memory chip, eliminating the need for any external process hardware or complex wiring schemes. DLS can be modified at any time to adapt to a new user or floor plan. Users have complete flexibility to reprogram zones, scenes and fades.

Merging lighting controls into building automation systems does not have to be a cumbersome process for the electrical contractor. As shown above, many manufacturers offer products that require little in the way of wiring installations. The contractor is out of excuses—integration is the future. EC

WOODS writes for many consumer and trade publications. She can be reached at patwoods123@hotmail.com.