Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Lightening the Costs of Lighting

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Lightening the Costs of Lighting

Article excerpt

Even though the enormously inflated fuel prices of the 1970s behind us, energy conservation should by no means be considered "old hat" today.

In fact, electricity costs, which comprise the costs of energy used for tenant lighting, public areas, elevators, and other related purposes, account for 16 percent of the total operating expenses for office buildings, according to IREM's 1991 Income/Expense Analysis: Office Buildings. Only property taxes presented a higher expense. Thus, lighting remains a significant expense for managers.

An array of energy conservation Office opportunities, or ECOs, are available to property managers today. By carefully evaluating their buildings' lighting needs and existing systems, managers can determine which ECOs could be implemented in their buildings to reduce the energy consumption while maintain comfort and productivity levels for the building's tenants.

One popular ECO involves retrofitting existing fluorescent fixtures. This allows a substantial reduction in electrical costs and the cost of lamps and ballast while maintaining or enhancing existing light levels.

for example, our company decided to improve indoor energy efficiency in one building by retrofitting existing 40-watt fixtures. We removed the two inner lamps (and their corresponding ballasts) from four-lamp fluorescent fixtures and added a high-quality metal reflector. Socket attachments were added to control the two remaining lamps, and the outer tubes were relocated to the socket attachments--exactly in line with the parabolic reflectors, which maximize the light output and produce uniform lighting levels.

This strategy was employed at a 44,974-square-foot office building in Oak Park, Michigan. What follows is a description of the retrofit and the measures taken to determine that this procedure would in fact be the most beneficial to the building--and it lighting bills.


The building, which utilizes an electric and natural gas forced-air heating HVAC system, was constructed in 1964. It houses hospital support and administrative services, and actually comprises two separate three-story structures of 22,487 square feet each. Each building incorporates individual office and floor controls, the majority of which utilize recessed fixtures.

The retrofit followed the procedures listed in the Architect's and Engineer Guide to Energy Conservation in Existing Buildings, published by the U.S. Department of Energy and compiled by Pacific Northwest Library. These procedures can be adapted for use in a variety of building types.

The first step in the procedure involves an investigation of the building's existing lighting system.

Managers should obtain architectural and lighting layouts, and blueprints of the office space-and make extra copies, as they will get marked up--and tour the building to become familiar with the lighting and verify the accuracy of the blueprints. Tour both typical and atypical spaces (computer rooms, kitchens, storage areas, and mechanical rooms), and note each area's lighting requirements.

Existing light levels must be measured in all spaces that are being considered for retrofit. Required lighting levels by task type can be found in lighting or electrical handbooks such as the IES Lighting Handbook, published by the Illuminating Society of America. In our case, the actual light meter readings conducted by a lighting contractor confirmed our initial suspicion that the office spaces were being overlit.


Next, managers "zone" the building by categorizing each space according to its illumination requirements.

Once the data and the task have been entered for each zone, the property manager may want to outline the different zones by color code or letter. For instance, category "A" may comprise office areas, drafting rooms, kitchens, clerical units, etc., and category "B" may be restrooms, enclosed mall concourse areas, stairways, active storage areas, and so on. …

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