Greening Hospitality 101: Strategies for Sustainable Lighting

11/7/2011 By Karen Lee

NATIONAL REPORT—The hospitality industry is no stranger to green initiatives and has been committed to sustainability programs for a long time. With the 24/7 nature of their operations, hotels, restaurants, and related businesses have a huge impact on the Earth’s resources, making the conservation of water, energy, and raw materials a top priority that also makes good business sense for owners.

According to the EPA Energy Star Program, U.S. hotels spend close to $4 billion on energy costs each year and are the fourth most intensive users of energy in the commercial sector. Lighting accounts for nearly 25 percent of electricity consumed by hotels and for more than 40 percent in guestrooms alone. In today’s business climate, attracting guests and events is more competitive than ever, and smart energy management programs are a critical part of a solid business strategy.  It is not possible, however, to save your way to success—hospitality businesses must not lose sight of the need to attract business in the first place, which drives the revenue per available room (RevPAR) metric. When it comes to addressing ways to simultaneously increase revenue and decrease operating expenses, creative lighting strategies are a must.

Lighting Design—Having Your Cake & Eating It, Too

Lighting defines the character and image of a hotel or restaurant. Well lit, creatively designed spaces build a sense of intrigue. Poorly lit or unmaintained areas evoke fear and trepidation.  Much attention is paid to the selection of building materials, furnishings, and textiles to define a brand, yet those can be destroyed instantly by incorporating low quality or poorly placed light sources. Today, all lighting technologies are available with excellent color rendering ability (color rendering index (CRI) values over 85), with some premium lamps engineered to perform particularly well with rich warm color palettes common in hospitality design schemes. There was a time when saving energy implied low light levels, boring design, and poor color quality. That is no longer true.

Good lighting design employs a layered approach, combining ambient, accent, and decorative lighting to create visual interest. Light levels should be appropriate for the tasks being performed in the space. Lower light levels and warmer tones create a sense of calm. Brighter, whiter light builds energy levels and focuses attention. Using contrast and varying directionality of the light can create a sense of drama that entices a guest to visit. The lighting design should complement the theme and design of the establishment and the mood that is being created.

Lighting’s Best for Hospitality

The selection of the appropriate lighting technology will be driven by the application requirements. Consider the factors that influence this decision: color quality, light distribution, dimming and controls requirements, luminaire design, maintenance and operating costs.

Incandescent & Halogen

While the legislation debates continue feverishly, the fact remains that we will lose some of the more inefficient filament lamp types soon. Where incandescent or halogen lamps may still be preferred due to aggressive dimming or color requirements, make sure to use the highest efficiency version available. Halogen lamps are more efficient and last longer than incandescent lamps. Infrared-conserving halogen lamps are even more efficient. Use directional lamps, such as PAR or MR16 types, instead of globe or A-lamps where the objective is to provide accent or task lighting.

Fluorescent Systems

Linear fluorescent systems are the workhorse of back of house spaces, as well as many common areas and bathrooms. With very high efficiency and lamp life ratings now achieving 60,000 hours, these systems are outstanding, cost-effective solutions for any area. Thinner T5 lamps allow sleek architectural features to be created using very optically efficient luminaires. These narrower lamps are also available with uniquely “folded” ends that deliver seamless lines of light without socket shadows or the need to stagger fixtures—ideal for cove lighting. Use reduced-energy versions of T8, T5 or T5HO lamps where lower light levels are acceptable.

For a warm incandescent feeling from fluorescent systems, use 2700K color temperatures in either T8 or T5 lamp types. Be sure to pair lamps with high efficiency electronic ballasts for greatest energy savings. Programmed rapid start ballasts are preferred where frequent switching occurs to extend lamp life.

Compact Fluorescent Systems

Many pin-based compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) configurations are now available in reduced-energy versions, creating the perfect opportunity to reduce energy consumption without modification to the electronics. Capable of well controlled dimming, pin-based CFLs are excellent options where adjustable light levels are desired or where natural light might allow less artificial lighting.

Self-ballasted CFLs now dominate most guestrooms across the country. Widely accepted in many areas and available in nearly every configuration, several establishments have continued to reject them due to dissatisfaction with the color quality. Some premier lamp manufacturers have addressed this issue with CFL lamps with enhanced deep red color content (R9), designed to mimic incandescent lamp color quality and be more preferable in the living spaces of residential or hospitality environments.

Induction Fluorescent Systems

A “new technology” over 12 years ago, some early induction lighting installations have outperformed their 100,000 hour predicted life rating. Available in a wide range of colors and power packages, the high color rendering induction lighting systems are ideal for extended use applications, such as in lobbies, atriums, parking lots, and signs, particularly where luminaires are mounted at great heights. Offering high efficiency, glare-free illumination, these long life systems support sustainability initiatives well.

Metal Halide Systems

Long banished to exterior applications, metal halide systems have improved greatly. The greatest impact has been the progress made with ceramic metal halide (CMH) technology, particularly where spherical arc tubes and advanced fill chemistry have improved color quality and consistency to now be viable for indoor applications. With configurations as low as 15 watts, CMH luminaires are now available for ambient and accent lighting at lower light levels characteristic of hospitality establishments. Small bi-pin lamps allow for very optically efficient, compact luminaires with much nicer styling than has been available in the past.

Lighting Control Systems

Whether using simple local controls with occupancy sensors or dimmers, or complex building automation systems, a smart lighting control strategy can save a tremendous amount of energy, as well as simplify facility maintenance. Understanding the lighting design intent and occupancy patterns of the space can contribute to a plan that allows lighting to be turned off or dimmed as activities or available natural light levels vary. Well commissioned systems using occupancy or vacancy sensors, bi-level or dimming switches, or photocells are critical. It is important to match the characteristics of lighting technologies with the controls strategy, so that issues such as warm-up time and hot restrike requirements do not adversely affect performance.

LEDs for Hospitality Lighting

It is not possible to discuss the latest in lighting technology without talking about LEDs—the poster child for what is hot and trendy in lighting. Applications such as dramatic colored effects, dynamic color-changing schemes and decorative accents have nearly all changed over to LED technology—for very good reasons.  No technology does color better, simpler and more efficiently than LED. This has brought effects common to entertainment venues and stage performances into hotel lobbies, facades, restaurants, conference centers and even the occasional guestrooms.

The long life and compact form factor of LED sources allow designers and architects to be very creative about how they incorporate light into a space. Light now appears to come from nowhere.  Luminaires are embedded into floors, walls, furniture, and art—curved, straight, round, free-form shapes. Colors can easily be tuned to a signature hue to become part of an establishment’s branding strategy.

But what about functional white light? Everybody seems to have a story—some good experiences, some bad. It is well known that LEDs perform better at higher color temperatures, but few hospitality establishments want that cold, blue color where the goal is to create a warm, inviting environment. The good news is that excellent quality, warm white light is now available in dimmable LED lamps. While higher output packages and omnidirectional distribution is still a challenge, many fixtures in hotels and restaurants have been relamped with LEDs, using much less energy and offering significantly longer lamp life. The dimming performance of premium LED lamps is better than most self-ballasted CFL lamps, providing another reason to convert.

From a design standpoint, LEDs promise the excitement of lighting spaces in unprecedented ways. Luminaires can be designed to take advantage of LEDs’ unique characteristics, such as their diminutive size and strong directionality, and proactively engineered around the challenges that they pose, such as thermal management requirements and binning.  Well-designed luminaires are available for applications such as recessed downlighting, accent and task lighting, and decorative applications with efficiencies and life expectancies, which demonstrate that manufacturers are learning how best to leverage their new tools.

Don’t Forget the Outside—Your First Impression

A guest’s first impression of a hospitality establishment is created on approach. A dimly lit parking lot or selectively dark sign suggests a poorly maintained facility, which is not good for anyone’s brand image.

LED technology is a clear winner for signage or way finding applications.  Long life and low energy consumption drastically reduce maintenance. Outstanding low temperature performance and their unique form factor allows for higher brightness and better uniformity, improving appearance and visibility from greater distances.

Parking lots should be well lit to provide a greater sense of security, and special attention should be given to areas around building entrances or where surveillance cameras might be located. Select luminaires whose distribution provides adequate vertical illumination to make it possible to identify pedestrians and vehicles, yet limits light pollution to support sustainability initiatives.  Consider using photocells and timers to control energy consumption and limit operating hours.

Green building programs, such as LEED, encourage the preservation of natural open space. Take advantage of these spaces to enhance the character of your facility with landscape lighting. In areas where outdoor events or activities might occur, design lighting systems to make these spaces more appealing to potential clients.

In summary, here are some strategies for sustainable lighting:

•    Use the most energy-efficient technology that meets the requirements of the application—the one that delivers the required light to where it needs to be for the least amount of power. This not only reduces operating costs by minimizing the electricity bill, but it also protects the environment by avoiding the release of hazardous byproducts of power generation.
•    Select long life light sources to extend relamp cycles and preserve natural resources. Not only is this good for the environment, but it also reduces labor costs for the business.
•    Provide only as much light as needed. Regardless of how efficient a light source is, using more light than is necessary is wasteful and costly. The Illumination Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) provides recommended light levels for the different areas of a hotel, based on the activities occurring within.
•    Consider using controls that switch off or dim lighting systems when ample daylight is available, spaces are unoccupied, or activities can tolerate less light. In the evenings when eyes are adapted to the night sky, decrease interior light levels to minimize contrast when moving between indoors and outdoors. This not only presents an opportunity for additional energy savings, but also creates a relaxed and more dramatic environment as people wind down their day.

Karen Lee, LC, LEED AP, is the head of applications marketing for OSRAM SYLVANIA.


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