By Tim Bowes, Head of Lighting Application, Whitecroft Lighting Ltd
The factors influencing building sustainability are evolving quickly, and issues such as the rising cost of energy and increased focus on embodied carbon are making clients reassess lighting specification.
To assist, Whitecroft Lighting has recently published ‘Shinning a Light on Net Zero’, a guide that breaks down the five key considerations that we feel will deliver a more robust, long-term approach to lighting, and balance carbon reduction with other important outcomes such as wellbeing and ongoing cost.
I get a lot of interesting questions regarding Whitecroft Lighting’s sustainability led initiatives, in particular our Cradle to Cradle certification and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), and I’m pleased to hear they are already helping our customers’ to calculate how they can faster achieve net zero carbon and wider aspirations around sustainability.
The big contractors have made their carbon saving ambitions clear, and most now publicly list reduction milestones that culminate in them becoming at least net zero by 2050 - BAM and Willmott Dixon are a good example.
At Whitecroft Lighting we have been quick to recognise how our product and supply chain decisions can impact on customer’s operations, and how our assets and activities contribute to their Scope Three carbon emissions.
We’re now working to measure the operational and embodied carbon in the majority of our products, and have had an EPD on our Flight Vitality product since 2021.
Lighting has done tremendous things to lower operational energy consumption and the related carbon over the last decade, and the move from conventional source lighting technology (such as florescent lamps to LEDs), has helped reduce domestic and commercial lighting consumption by 60%.
In 2019, the BBC Online posted that, at that point in time, energy efficiency was beating renewable generation in the race to decarbonisation: “Studies show making products more efficient has - along with other factors - already been slightly more effective than renewable energy in cutting CO2 emissions.”
Such was the level of success in this area that the UK Government was quick to back operational efficiency targets as the fastest method of delivering results.
But there are risks that Government set operational driven carbon reduction standards could engender two dimensional decision making around lighting specification, or even limit the possibilities of more ambitious carbon reduction.
Specifiers and decision makers my seek out the easiest, most cost effective ways to hit these targets, rather than considering operational efficiency alongside other important factors such as welfare - and also miss out on further carbon reductions due to advancements in technology.
A typical example of this can be found in primary school lighting specification, a market in which Whitecroft has a long track record of delivery.
The Department for Education has set the primary school lighting energy reduction benchmark at 8kWh per-meter squared per-annum, reduced from 12KwH.
But I know from experience that with a good LED product with a quality light control system, combined with an audit system to measure the efficiency of the whole system, a typical primary school can comfortably hit 5.5kWh per-meter squared per-annum, or even 4.6KwH with the highest quality LEDs and emergency lighting system.
Achieving an extra 7.4kWh per-meter squared per-annum beyond the government’s benchmark will not only further reduce carbon, but save the school significant amounts of money in the face of rapidly rising energy costs.
At least the market can currently agree on how to identify and measure reductions in operational carbon - and so far the Department of Education has only used this as its carbon yardstick.
But this will definitely change with the factoring in of embodied carbon, which is less clearly defined than operational, so harder to measure.
Why? Because to fully quantify and reduce embodied carbon, you must first find it all – which means proactively seeking out new problems to solve.
At the moment it’s as much about understanding measurement as it is about reduction, because we can’t be sure of the impact we’re having until we’ve accounted for all the various elements of embodied carbon.
It’s this changing landscape that motivated us to produce ‘Shining a light on net zero’, because sustainability, energy and lighting have proven to be far from static.
Those faced with balancing quality lighting with carbon and cost reduction should be raising the bar, so that whatever systems they install are resilient to changes in cost, standards and technology.
For example, who could have foreseen the impact of recent international developments on the cost of energy, and energy efficiency and self-sufficiency now becoming a national security as well as a sustainability issue?
The five key areas covered in the guide are:
There’s no point securing a 50% energy saving if you create an environment nobody wants to work in.
Understanding all the different impacts of lighting design – control system and emergency lighting, and impact on architectural decisions such as wall and ceiling colours.
Better carbon measurement through the likes of EPDs.
How to start linking lighting circularity with reducing the whole life carbon, and the benefits that can bring.
There’s little point having an energy efficient lighting system on paper, you need to be able to prove it each year.
Download a free copy of the ‘Shining a Light on Net Zero’ report.
I’m Tm Bowes the Head of Lighting Application at Whitecroft Lighting. I lead the development of Whitecroft Lighting’s Cradle to Cradle Certified product range, including the delivery of our first third party verified EPDs.
Get in touch at Tim.Bowes@whitecroftlight.com