Pulling off the lighting codes balancing act

by FM Media
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New lighting codes demand careful balance of lux and watts. Brightgreen explores how facility managers can ensure the lighting needs of a facility are met, while complying with all the various codes and guidelines.

With the gradual phasing out of 50-watt halogen and incandescent lights over the next few years, business and commercial facility managers have begun to face the dilemma of finding a suitable replacement for the tried and tested 50-watt halogen that falls in line with the Building Code of Australia’s new regulations of only five watts per square metre.
Compounding this situation is the fact that, while the wattage per square metre has changed, the regulations for lux levels have not. Commercial properties are still required to meet the minimum lux levels based on the Australian Standards Lux Levels (AS 1680 series) for commercial settings.
This means facility managers need to find a solution to the problem of complying with the new energy efficiency codes, as well as maintaining the required lux levels as part of their occupational health and safety (OHS) guidelines.

Lux standard levels, while legally required, are also a necessary regulation for your workplace, ensuring it is a safe environment in which to work. In addition, it is also a component of many facilities’ insurance policies.
In general, good lighting enables people to easily view their work and environment without the need to strain their eyes. Different activities, however, require different levels and qualities of light. The visual demands of the activity or task performed determine the lighting needs of an area. Activities that do not require a high level of visual acuity, for example, walking through a corridor, do not require high levels or an optimum quality of light.
On the other hand, tasks such as drawing or checking a document for errors involve fine and detailed work requiring a moderate to high level of visual control, and so greater levels and a higher quality of light are required.
Poor light levels can be an OHS concern, causing problems for workers. Eyestrain, general vision problems and headaches can all be caused by poor or defective lighting. This can result in employees having time off, as well as increased worker compensation premiums.

One solution to this issue is high quality light emitting diode (LED) downlights. LED technology has improved drastically over the last few years, with many LED products now able to reproduce the same lighting quality as the common 50-watt halogen globe. It has now effectively become a direct replacement.
With new LED products flooding into the market, however, it is important to choose the right LEDs that meet the specifications required for the particular facility.
One important specification in maintaining lux levels is the luminosity of the LED. A lumen is a unit of measurement that is used to express how much illumination a light source provides. An easy way to illustrate this measurement is to imagine a birthday cake with candles. A lamp that puts out one lumen of light is as bright as one birthday candle. A lamp that puts out 100 lumens of light is as bright as 100 candles. Thus, the higher the amount of lumens, the brighter the light.
LEDs have major advantages over halogens, as they can produce high luminosity from a low wattage, enabling them to easily comply with the new building codes and lux level standards. In fact, some high quality LEDs can produce up to 720 lumens while running off only 10 watts of power, making them a direct replacement for 50-watt halogen globes.

So, as a facility manager, what is the best course of action? First and most importantly, you should thoroughly read the specifications of an LED light to work out whether it meets your requirements. You should make sure that any LED you choose can produce a minimum of 720 lumens without exceeding 20 watts.
It is also a good idea to investigate the colour temperature and colour rendering index (CRI) of the light. These two factors determine how well the light is capable of reproducing vibrant colours. This is important in workplaces where visual clarity is needed, such as advertising or media publishing.

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