Blog

Lutron lighting technology transforms university research lab

Commercial buildings stand to benefit from significant energy savings by utilizing advanced lighting controls such as occupancy sensors and dimmers coupled with efficient commercial lighting. Using such controls is just what the Gurdon Institute, an advanced research laboratory connected to the University of Cambridge in the UK, chose to do.

Due to the nature of the work performed at the Gurdon Institute, it was selected as one of five pilot departments to test Lutron's Energi TriPak retrofit lighting control solutions to reduce energy consumption. It was critical that the lighting controls implemented at the institute building did not interfere or disrupt the critical research being conducted, but significant energy savings were desired. In addition to utilizing Lutron's lighting control technology, the Gurdon Institute also conducted a behavior-change campaign, encouraging staff to better utilize lighting

"We wanted to reduce electricity consumption throughout The Gurdon Institute but we wanted to do this without affecting the 'good science' that is done here in developmental biology and cancer research," said Kathy Hilton, the building facilities manager of the Gurdon Institute. "With this in mind, we challenged the researchers to get involved in an energy reduction competition. The key to keeping 'switching off' front of mind was to maintain a high profile of energy awareness and reminders. An iPad kiosk in the main entrance helped with this, as did various behavioral changes. We began to see great results, one lab in particular achieved electricity consumption reductions of 50 percent, without compromising their research, by a complete shift in behavior; this involved planning usage of equipment in advance and leaving it switched off when not in use."

Aside from the behavioral changes contributing to reduction in energy use, Hilton also selected areas within the facility that were used by various parties, but that no one person or group was in charge of. In these areas, Lutron's Energy TriPak wireless retrofit technology was installed, along with a wireless Lutron Rania RF switch and Radio Powr Savr wireless occupancy/vacancy sensors. The energy patterns were then closely monitored with the sensors activated and in a manual switching mode. Researchers found that, with an average energy savings of 60 percent achieved by using the occupancy sensors, the cost of the Energy TriPak system would pay for itself within approximately 1.5 years.

Testing the laboratory
A similar set up was installed in a nearby laboratory. Electricity use was monitored just as before, under conditions where the sensors were activated, and where lights were turned on and off manually. Ironically, the manual setting outperformed the sensors, which initially baffled researchers. However, upon closer inspection, researchers discovered that, due to the campaign to alter staff habits and behaviors, lab workers had gotten into the habit of working without the lights on the weekends, throwing off the results. And this occurred because sensors were programmed to detect the presence of people within the space. By switching the sensors to detect vacancy instead, adapting the system to suit the habits of the staff. 

"The importance of taking into account occupant usage patterns was highlighted for us in lab 328," said Hilton. "It was only when the data didn't show the kind of energy savings that we expected that we explored further and found that the lab occupants were traditionally in the habit of leaving the lights off while working in the lab during weekend, whereas the sensors were automatically switching on the lights. As we had been encouraging behavioral changes for some time, the lab users had become used to only turning on lighting when they needed it, rather than doing it out of habit."

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