Green Lighting

It wasn't too long ago that being green in sports was synonymous with being a rookie. Recently, “green” has taken a 180-degree turn toward visionary. Today, it is the universal definition of sustainable high-performance products that use energy--efficient materials to support measurable results. Organizations—from Little League to the National League of Cities and NASCAR to the NFL—are identifying sports lighting as a key part of their budgets with a significant impact on sustainable operations.

Lighting is central to energy usage at any level of organized sport. Taking steps to reduce energy consumption while providing high-quality illumination gives sports management an opportunity to participate in a growing national and global effort to control their energy situation.

As a result, sports lighting manufacturers are focusing product development resources on squeezing greater efficiency from their fixtures. The genesis of any green sports lighting technology is fixture efficiency because it can translate into fewer fixtures, which translates into less power consumption, which means less adverse impact on the environment as a whole.

Evaluating lighting’s role

Ultimately, lighting engineers, and often electrical contractors, must evaluate the various aspects of a lighting system—fixtures, beams, light pollution, hardware, performance, installation and maintenance—to help owners make the best value decision for their facility.

Denver-based ME-Engineers has been a member of professional sports facility construction teams on many continents. Focusing considerable attention on HVAC and lighting systems, which account for the bulk of a building’s total energy needs, the firm also uses life-cycle cost analysis to determine the appropriate application of energy-efficient design and to document the life-cycle operating expenses.

Traditionally, owners have been more focused on initial cost. More recently, ME-Engineer President Ed Ragain has seen more collaboration between owners and cities to save energy where it makes sense, and to spend more up front on a system if there is a three- to four-year return on investment.

“So, lighting is becoming a business decision rather than an emotional decision,” Ragain said.

From an engineering perspective, the quality of the primary beam and energy efficiency are top priorities.

“We want a tight beam plus the voltage that will increase to take advantage of the full operation of the lamp. These are things that drive us to the best solution for each project. It’s not a generic answer every time,” Ragain said.

However, there is more to an engineering recommendation than fixture features.

“From a contractor’s perspective, they want it to be as simple as possible. Systems need to be more modular, more off-site constructed and easier to install once it arrives,” Ragain said.

LEEDers of the pack

Sports lighting also has earned a place at the nation’s largest construction meeting tables. Eight years after its launch of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, the U.S. Green Building Council is experiencing more interest than ever from sports facility developers, although sports facilities as such still are not specific targets of the program.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of sports facilities and arenas that are seeking certification. These facilities use a tremendous amount of energy and water and directly contribute to climate change and global warming, but they don’t have to,” said Ashley Katz, USGBC communications coordinator.

Currently, there are eight LEED-registered stadium projects in various stages of the certification process. Three facilities have earned LEED certification, including high-profile projects such as the Utah Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City and the Detroit Lions headquarters and training facility.

According to Robert M. Anderson, AIA, LEED AP with SmithGroup, the national architectural engineering firm that oversaw planning for the Detroit Lions facility, lighting played a big role in the certification process.

“The use of daylighting was maximized wherever possible in offices, corridors and exercise rooms. The field lighting was critical to the Lions organization. In order to achieve the level of lighting required for practices and to mimic the conditions of outdoor lighting for games, a number of lighting studies were modeled to arrive at the most efficient plan and fixture type,” Anderson said.

Eco-friendly considerations

ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR asked major sports lighting providers to share their views on factors contractors should consider when specifying and installing their newest energy-efficient technologies. Participants include Hubbell Lighting (SportsLiter Solutions), Musco Sports Lighting (Light-Structure Green), and Qualite Sports Lighting (Pro Series, Gold Series, International Series).

Hubbell Lighting, Ken Cornett, director of SportsLiter Solutions: “The method of the sports lighting design is a big factor. Is the design in compliance with the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) recommended practice for recreational and sports facilities (IESNA-RP-6), or has the design been based on individual manufacturer methods?

“The IESNA is an independent organization. Their design practice recommends adding 5 percent more fixtures to account for ballast factor, 5 percent more fixtures for dirt depreciation between relamp and cleaning, and 18 percent for lamp lumen depreciation.

“An alternate method is to relamp and clean more frequently and reduce the above mentioned increases in fixtures.

“There are critical differences between one manufacturer’s design versus others if the same design guidelines are not used. Specifically, if the industry standard for design (IESNA-RP-6) is abandoned, the result will typically be a field that is illuminated to initial light levels, not the industry standard of minimum maintained foot-candles.

“By lowering fixture counts, lighter gauge wire and distribution equipment can be utilized. The customer will realize energy savings but will also have dimmer fields than what they have been accustomed to under the IESNA design standard.

“Specifically, end customers are used to their fields being over 65 foot-candles and dropping to 50 just before relamp and cleaning. Abandoning the IESNA standard, customers will notice dimmed fields starting at 50 foot-candles and most likely dropping to 40 foot-candles before relamp. All in all, it is the customer’s choice: bright fields that never fall below 50 [foot-candles] or dimmed fields that save on electric costs.

“The future of sports lighting, and all lighting in general, is for the first time in decades facing substantial evolution. The future promises real technology, but it is not here yet. We think there will be electronic ballast efficiencies, possible use of light emitting diodes (LEDs) for sports lighting applications and improved light sources beyond the current metal halide that has been around for decades.

Musco, Jeff Rogers, vice president of sales: “Contractors will want to ensure that customers are getting a lighting system that guarantees long-term performance in light levels and uniformities appropriate for the sport and player level. Additionally, they should make sure to specify the key values that customers care about like energy efficiency, environmental light control, life-cycle cost savings, ease of operation, and a long-term warranty and guarantee.

“Light-Structure Green includes Musco’s Constant 25 product assurance and warranty program that provides 25 years of carefree lighting equipment operation, including guaranteed light levels, routine maintenance, group lamp replacements, monitoring and remote on/off control services. Musco’s Lighting Services Team consists of over 120 team members, plus we work with a network of over 1,800 contractors nationwide to provide this service.

“Contractors and customers will both benefit from a lighting system that is designed and engineered as a complete system. This will add reliability, save installation time and costs, and provide single-source accountability if a problem arises. Light-Structure Green is engineered in ‘5 Easy Pieces’ for fast, trouble-free installation.

“Energy-efficient systems are better at directing the light onto the field, thus achieving the target light level with fewer fixtures. Light-Structure Green uses 40 percent fewer fixtures than prior technology systems. The factory-aimed, assembled and tested fixtures attach to the crossarm by tightening just two bolts—saving a significant amount of labor. Having fewer fixtures also reduces windloading on the poles and electrical load requirements.

“Each Light-Structure Green pole also comes with a pole alignment beam so that poles are easier to sight into a single aiming point, reducing crane time and labor costs.

“Musco’s energy-efficient technology is opening funding sources for customers through utility company and state energy office financial incentives. Our team has a database of available sources by state.

“Light-Structure Green customers are applying to earn LEED points in the areas of light spill and glare control, reduced energy consumption, use of controls, and innovative design. A growing number of states are offering financial incentives to projects that achieve LEED certification.”

Qualite, Nick Page, director of design and quotations: “Performance of the fixtures is very important. Can the field performance criteria be met? Light levels, uniformity requirements, spill light requirements, etc. Specifiers should be very careful when setting these requirements. Too often we see a specification that was written by a manufacturer, which was created more to keep their competitors out than it was to provide the best system for the customer. When this occurs, the quality of the design gets sacrificed, and the cost is unnecessarily driven up. Maintenance, component availability and ease of installation are also important factors.

“Qualite offers remote ballasts that help keep maintenance costs down, especially when used in conjunction with our Maintenance Diagnostic System (MDS). The MDS makes troubleshooting our system very easy to do with the power off. Simply plug it in. Push the diagnostic button, and LED indicator lights will let you know the problems. We also offer an electronic monitoring that, along with keeping track of usage, will let you know of any failures immediately. The monitoring system can be set up to let the Qualite know of the outage and schedule a repair within 24 hours.

“Most of the electrical components within the Qualite systems are available through any electrical distributor. We do not use proprietary lamps, ballasts, fuses or capacitors. Therefore, the customer would not have to worry about being gouged for replacement parts.

“The main installation advantage would be fewer fixtures to install. This translates into less wire to pull and fewer man-hours for setup. The components within the lighting systems are getting more reliable and more efficient. The lamp is still the weakest link, but they are much more reliable and consistent than they were a few years ago.”

MCCLUNG, owner of Woodland Communications, is a construction writer from Iowa. She can be reached at


About the Author

Debbie McClung

Freelance Writer
Debbie McClung, owner of Woodland Communications, is a construction writer from Iowa.

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