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Getting back to basics

How many FMs does it take to change a lightbulb? A lot less, if energy efficient lamps are used says Marie Johnston of Johnston Lighting.

Fact. When FMs think about energy consumption the first thing that springs to mind is the cooling. However, although small in comparison, lighting is the secondary energy consumer.

With Dubai’s brightly lit skyline being one of enchanting visual effects creating a beautiful and picturesque scene, it is easy to assume that it’s these millions of lamps that increase electricity bills and burn excess Watts.

But it’s true to say that lamps left on in rooms when they are empty and energy inefficient lamps being installed, are what’s causing consumers to dread receiving their electricity bills.

Marie Johnston, managing director of Johnston Lighting says: “People always focus on the cooling when thinking about saving energy. What people don’t realise is if they changed their outdated lighting systems, they can reduce energy consumption by over half.”

With technology changing all the time, there really is no excuse for companies not to use energy-efficient lamps.

“Philips is about to launch a new lamp and the motion sensor is built into the lamp so it operates automatically. Why do you need the lights on all the time? You don’t.

“So you walk in, the light will come on. There’s no big ugly sensor, it’s built into the lamp. It’s really, really interesting and amazing technology,” explains Johnston.

Yes, lighting plays an important part in creating a pleasant and comfortable ambiance in a building but this is still possible to do while cutting electricity bills and using technology to save carbon emissions.

Because the lamps last around 10,000 hours and operate on a sensor, the need for maintenance is decreased meaning less man hours spent changing lamps.

Johnston also says there will be less disruption to customers as the lamps are not needing to be changed as much.

Even though the lamps are slightly more expensive than the current ones available, the 80% electricity saving more than compensates. “They’re about 10% more expensive than an ordinary lamp so if you change to the new ones, you’re still saving 70% electricity costs and you’re saving all that maintenance,” explains Johnston.

There are many lamps on the market, all claiming they save between 40 and 80% energy consumption.

But Johnston thinks the lamp is going to become extremely popular. “If I open my door and walk in the lights are going to jump on. We’re desperate to get them out here because we know the hotel, and other sectors will get them. They don’t have to do any separate wiring, they don’t have to do anything. All they’ve got to do is take the old lamp out and put the new one in. It’s such an easy process.

“We’ve done a survey in one of the major hotels and we worked out that if they changed to all these motion sensors they would save 80% electricity in their toilets alone. If the place isn’t that busy, why are all the lights on? Why are they wasting electricity? It’s better for all these businesses to save money.”

If Johnston’s predictions are right, how does she expect to cope with the demand for these bulbs?

“Even though we’ve only been here a year, the company is constantly growing. We pride ourselves on quick and professional customer service. We’re honest with our customers and I think that’s why we’ve ended up getting so much new business. If we say we’re going to do it, we’ll do it and if we can’t, we’ll tell you we can’t do it.”

While on the subject of customer service, Johnston also thinks that companies employing a facilities managemenet company can reap the benefits.

“Even though the concept is not yet fully understood in the region, I know FM is going to be really, really big here. FM companies are there to help provide a service. People still want to look after things themselves but why bother with all the hassle when you can get an FM company to do it all for you?

“That’s why they’re an FM company, they have the expertise and they know how to get something done and they know where to get staff from. While they are dealing with the day-to-day problems and operations you can concentrate on your next project,” she says.

“For example, as a person owning a shopping centre your time must with worth more to you than anything else so it makes sense to free it up. Why do you want to accept a phone call at midnight telling you there’s something wrong? You don’t.”

Johnston thinks using FM companies is a step in the right direction for Middle East companies. Because the region is currently in the process of understanding what FM is and the benefits it can bring, it’s impossible to adapt advanced and mature FM concepts from around the world.

However, the Middle East can definitely learn from places like Australia and the UK. Instead of adopting concepts, they can be adapted to fit around the business needs that are important in this region.

As the market develops and starts to become more FM savvy, Johnston thinks people will start to listen to FM professionals and care about energy saving initiatives.

“We are committed to using energy efficient lamps and will keep promoting the benefits to our customers. The Middle East is waking up to energy conservation and lighting plays a part in this.”

"People don't realise if they changed their outdated lighting systems, they could reduce energy consumption by over half."

"The lamps last around 10,000 hours and operate on a sensor so the need for maintenance is decreased."
Name: Marie Johnston

Job Title: Managing partner

Company: Johnston Lighting

Core services/products: Lighting and accessories distribution

Number of staff: 42

Largest contract: Just under $300,000 (AED1,100 000) in street lighting

Based in: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain

Your background: I�m a lighting designer in terms of look and feel, we started Johnston Lighting 13 years ago

Memberships: British Business Group

Most enjoyable part of job: Customer satisfaction – seeing the job completed and finding unusual products for our clients

Least enjoyable part: The hardest part is importing the stock because it�s so time consuming!


Johnston Lighting has been in the Middle East for a year, has offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and plans to open two in Bahrain and Oman. It stocks over 3,000 products ready for 24-hour delivery and is known for its approach to the supply of integrated lighting systems, lighting control gears, lamps, tubes and all of the associated accessories.


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