Home Energy Management How Lighting Control Contributes to Sustainability in Hospitality

How Lighting Control Contributes to Sustainability in Hospitality

Craig Casey

There are many sides to sustainability.

The concept is most associated with being earth-friendly: mindful use of renewable resources, attentive recycling practices, and limiting energy use in an effort to put less stress on the environment. In the hospitality industry, sustainability generally refers to sourcing green materials and engaging in energy-efficient practices, from recommending the reuse of towels—the better to save water and power—to shutting down conference rooms when not in use.

But sustainability is also about putting people first.

In the hospitality industry, this attitude comes naturally: the guest experience is always the priority. Nevertheless, lighting control is often overlooked as a means of achieving that aim. Good lighting design—what’s been called “human centric lighting”—has been shown to support an individual’s comfort and happiness, and ultimately can play just as powerful a role in guest well-being as fine linens or attentive staff. Indeed, by helping make hotels more pleasurable and delightful places to stay, human centric lighting supports sustainability at many levels.

Here are some of the ways lighting control helps enhance the guest experience and contribute to a sustainable philosophy.

Setting the Atmosphere

In many hotels, the guestroom lighting setup has changed little since the 20th century. Guests are still greeted by toggle switches in the entryway, area lamps in the corner, overhead fixtures in the bathroom, and small reading lights at the bedside.

But the common setup invites some familiar annoyances: What lights are controlled by the toggle? Do you have to turn off each light separately? How do you find the bathroom in the middle of the night?

It is both aggravating and inefficient. The uneven distribution of these lamps leaves some corners of the room in darkness. The lack of labels on the switches forces guests to use trial and error to figure out what they are operating. And who does not grimace at getting into bed only to find that one light is still on?

Well-designed lighting control bolsters both energy efficiency and guest satisfaction. Simply substituting dimmers for on-off switches, for example, helps reduce power usage and gives the guest more control over their personal lighting experience.

More robust lighting setups offer controls that are clearly labeled with the light they operate. These labels do not even have to be in text form—in a world of international guests, pictorial icons offer a universal language. Many upscale hotels have adopted systems that place keypads by the bed, so not only can guests activate the lights from a single spot, they can also turn off all the lights at once before going to sleep. Some manufacturers’ keypads even have backlighting that dims to complement low-light conditions, so the keypad lights do not disturb guests.

And rooms designed with human centric lighting may incorporate additional control in key areas to locate control closer to the guest. By allowing guests to personalize their room lighting, you create a more convenient, warm, inviting, and energy-efficient environment.

Adding Automation

Switches, dimmers, and keypads are just the beginning of a sustainable approach to hospitality. Automation—including sensors, wireless technology, and coordination with hotel management systems—helps hotels run at optimal efficiency while delivering a better guest experience.

These days, a guestroom management system can put the room into operation before guests even arrive. Upon check-in, room controls are activated, automatically adjusting the thermostat to heighten guest comfort, and preparing the television with a personalized welcome message. It is an attention-getting approach that serves as a bright greeting for guests, who no longer have to enter a dark room—while still saving energy before arrival thanks to thermostat setbacks.

In addition, occupancy and vacancy sensors regulate the guestroom systems based on the occupant’s arrivals and departures. When a guest leaves, lights automatically turn off and the thermostat retreats to a set point to save energy. When the guest returns, the room remembers its settings and recreates the guest’s preferred environment. In more elaborate systems, these controls are connected to a central hotel management system with software that enables hotel staff to monitor settings and troubleshoot issues.

These guestroom management systems, particularly those in use at high-end luxury properties, also provide hotel staff with access to system alerts, detailed reports, and shared information to help streamline workflow and simplify hotel operations. If the guest has recently vacated the room, the system can automatically alert housekeeping or turndown services to visit. If the system indicates a light is not working properly, an engineer can be tapped to visit the room before the guest is even aware of the problem. That means fewer complaints, fewer rooms offline, and greater operational efficiency.

Wireless technology contributes to sustainability. With less metal and plastic required than wired systems, wireless saves on material costs. In addition, wireless is scalable, so incorporating it into a growing facility is simply a matter of adding and programming devices.

They can also be monitored, adjusted, and managed from any smart device, so facility personnel can accommodate conference room bookings, support occupant comfort, and enhance energy efficiency. With simple integration, they can connect with other building systems using BACnet protocol, a protocol for automation and control networks.

Shading and Daylighting

If lighting control is underrated, shades and draperies are even more so when it comes to sustainability. After all, they do not just block out the sun. As part of an overall total light management strategy, they are central to maximizing the benefits of daylight, while minimizing the disadvantages. These include saving energy by reducing demand on HVAC systems, and promoting views of the outside—a welcome amenity. And like other aspects of lighting control, shades can be automated, opening upon arrival to welcome guests and closing depending on scene settings or occupancy cues.

Energy Savings by Strategy

At its most basic level, lighting control promotes energy efficiency, a cornerstone of sustainability. Given the range of devices that provide lighting control—switches, dimmers, sensors, shades, panel hardware, and connected software—it’s helpful to have a management system that can keep track of everything.

Robust systems help monitor the use of lights in both interior and exterior spaces and deliver actionable data and alerts. At their best, they integrate with BACnet and the Internet of Things to promote and enhance smart building performance. With an intuitive, user-friendly interface, facility managers can manage data and operations for multiple lighting and shade control solutions from a single smart device.

All these lighting control options make for a win-win situation. On one level, they save energy, time and, ultimately, money. On another, they contribute to extraordinary guest experiences, supporting more joyful and stress-free stays.

From both perspectives, lighting control simply works, creating a welcoming environment—for both people and the planet we live on.

Craig Casey is Senior Building Science Engineer at Lutron Electronics, works at the intersection of theory and applied science, quantifying the human and energy benefits of leading-edge lighting/daylighting control systems. Founded in 1961, Lutron Electronics, headquartered in Coopersburg, Pa., is the world’s leading provider of smart lighting and shading control systems.