LED there be light

LED Technology is developing fast, architects may find it a useful way

Elevated highways are illuminated by LED lights in Shanghai, China
Elevated highways are illuminated by LED lights in Shanghai, China

LED technology is developing fast, and architects mayfind it a useful way of reducing a development’s carbon footprint

As a number of countries in the Middle East struggle to boost their green credentials on the world stage, it is inevitable that lighting will become a hot topic.

Architects tasked with producing truly sustainable buildings for a new generation of environmentally-conscious clients will be aware that lighting represents 22% of electricity usage in the Middle East. In markets like the UAE – where new regulations will rank buildings on their efficiency both in the design phase and at full capacity – lighting is a big factor in securing a high environmental ranking.

And it is not just about saving face, it’s also about saving clients money. According to RWN Trading marketing director Carol Prince, GCC consumers could save US$400 million and 5.1 megatons of carbon dioxide emissions annually if they switched to more efficient lighting solutions. With the bottom line at stake, designers will be forced to look at the lighting they are specifying more and more.

Prince believes the solution lies in Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), which have a substantially longer life than incandescent bulbs and use a fraction of the energy. The operational life of white LED lamps is 50,000 hours, which is more than 10 years of continuous operation, or 20 years of 50% operation. This is a stark contrast to the average life of an incandescent bulb, which is approximately 5,000 hours.

And LEDs are no longer limited to the bright, bluish white spotlights that they were some years ago. The technology has come a long way from the days when LEDs were strictly only used for exterior lighting displays.

“ LEDs are available as small solid light bulbs or in cluster form with diffuser lenses, which are ideal for the home environment. These cluster beams can use as many as 180 bulbs per cluster and the light is spread evenly,” Prince explained.

Another new product on the market is dimmable LEDs, which offer extra savings in energy because when they are dimmed to the zero position they emit no energy, unlike their traditional counterpart that still emits energy loss at zero.

Louis Hakim, VP of Royal Philips Electronics and CEO of Philips Middle East, points out that the problem is even worse in non-residential developments. In Europe, 75% of non-residential buildings like public offices and schools use old 1940s technology, and only 1% is using lighting controls.

Even if all new developments switched to environmentally-friendly lighting now the current rate of renovation in offices is only about 7% per year, and street lighting is not more than 3%. At this pace it will take 30 years to be able to reap the environmental and economic benefits

“It is not enough to only switch to energy-saving lights at home or create new, low-energy buildings. In fact, municipalities and companies can also make a difference right now, being able to significantly reduce energy consumption and carbon emission, in addition to overall costs.”

To its credit Philips is taking steps to encourage the change of mindset. This month the global lighting manufacturer will begin phasing out incandescent lamps in the GCC, a step that the firm hopes will draw attention to energy efficiency in the lighting world.

RWN’s Prince believes the solution lies in Light Emitting Diodes (LED’s), which have a substantially longer life than incandescent bulbs and use a fraction of the energy. The operational life of white LED lamps is 50,000 hours, which is more than 10 years of continuous operation, or 20 years of 50% operation. This is a stark contrast to the average life of an incandescent bulb, which is approximately 5000 hours.

Some companies in the Middle East are starting to take notice. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) properties at Dubai Festival City is in the process of replacing all of their interior lighting with LED solutions. A total of 35,000 light points – in hotel rooms, suites and public areas – will be replaced with sustainable alternatives. This is phase two of a project that has already seen the InterContinental and Crowne Plaza hotels replace all of their exterior façade lighting with LED solutions.

As a result of this initiative, the hotels will reduce their carbon emissions by two million kg per year, and will minimize their energy costs by some 50%, explained Tom Lord, hotel manager, InterContinental Dubai Festival City.

“We have done this for a number of reasons – one is to become a market leader in the field of green. Secondly, to be honest, the lighting that we had on the outside of the building was failing in certain areas and the existing lighting solution just didn’t have any longevity. But mainly, we did this because we thought it was the right thing to do. We are on a big drive to be a more responsible business and lighting was one area that we could really start with,” said Lord.

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