05/12/2007 - 22:00

Illuminating a sustainability issue

05/12/2007 - 22:00

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Sustainability and energy efficiency concerns are starting to have an impact on lighting design in Western Australia, according to architectural lighting firms.

Illuminating a sustainability issue

Sustainability and energy efficiency concerns are starting to have an impact on lighting design in Western Australia, according to architectural lighting firms.

Engineering Technology Consultants Pty Ltd associate director Kurt McRae, whose firm recently won an Illuminating Engineering Society award for its lighting design in the assembly chamber of Parliament House, said although it was early days for green design, more companies were inquiring about lighting solutions.

“It’s very much at the forefront of developers’ minds at the moment,” Mr McRae said.

“Most developers of big projects, in order to attract the best tenants, are looking carefully at their energy credentials.”

Mr McRae said that, while companies were willing to explore green solutions in lighting design, cost remained a big factor.

He said WA was falling behind other states in terms of innovation in the sector.

“Perth is probably lagging a bit and part of that is the government is not providing enough subsidies. The eastern states governments are more proactive,” Mr McRae said.

One of the areas where innovative design is being used is in the workplace, where vertical lighting and colour are being adopted to improve productivity.

“If a workplace doesn’t have natural lighting, we’re looking at colour change throughout the day to simulate that,” Mr McRae said.

West Perth-based DesignInc has been involved in a number of projects to improve office lighting.

The company is currently involved in designing the Melbourne City Council building, which will be the first building in Australia to have a green star rating of six.

Managing director Ron Jee said simple techniques were being used, such as task lighting rather than uniform lighting.

Task lighting provides a low level of general light but increases in areas of peak demand, such as around desk spaces.

“By doing that, you do reduce energy costs,” Mr Jee said.

He said environmentally sustainable lighting was being incorporated in buildings across the board, including hospitals and health care centres, science and research buildings and educational institutions.

“It does cost a little bit more, but what we say is sustainable design is not a bolt-on thing, it’s actually all encompassing,” Mr Jee said.

“We can achieve a high degree of sustainability using passive design concepts, like the proper orientation of the building to maximise daylight and solar access.”

He said there was a growing trend towards building atriums, which allowed light to be bounced from outside the building to inside.

Computerised, managed lighting systems are also in high demand, as are motion sensors in under-utilised areas like toilet blocks and stairwells, to allow lights to be switched off when not in use.

KBR principal electrical engineer Neil Zanich said that, while the firm’s clients tended to spend the same amount on lighting, the company was expected to deliver more in terms of efficiency.

He said light fittings were one area where efficiency gains could be made, with many companies moving from T5 fluorescent lamps to the energy-efficient T8 lamps, which had become more affordable. 

He said manufacturers were also looking at ways to create more efficient light sources, through changing the use of phosphorus in fluorescent lamps.

Mr Zanich said there was also a move to amend Appendix J6 of the Building Code of Australia, which addresses the use of artificial lighting and power, to stipulate wattage per metre in new buildings.

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