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The forgotten elements of sustainable lighting design

City of Lights

Sustainable lighting design is more than achieving a watts per metre square target.

It should consider the entire lighting system - from the materials used to the location of the manufacturers and the ongoing maintenance. The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has provided the construction industry with a series of tools1 for sustainable new and existing buildings, in both design and construction.

These are known as Green Star tools and their application provides the building with a Green Star rating (four to six stars, with six being the highest possible rating).

On average, lighting contributes to approximately 10 per cent of the overall points that are required to obtain a Green Star rating. The criteria target lighting energy use, however there is no consideration for the whole of life, maintenance or recycling opportunities of the lighting installation.

Case Study

The case study project is the new Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Creative Industries Precinct Phase 2 (CIP2) building at QUT's Kelvin Grove Campus.

The CIP2 building is a 12 000 square metre teaching building for Creative Industries Faculty designed by the Richard Kirk Architecture - Hassell, Architects in Association, with engineering provided by Aurecon. The CIP2 building incorporates dance, drama, music, theatre and visual arts facilities and has a strong focus on cutting edge architecture. QUT's desire is to achieve a 5 Star Design and Built Green Star Rating for this building; construction is due to be completed December 2013.

This report focuses on the luminaire selection component of the design process (Figure 2).

Figure 2 - The lighting design process

Figure 3 shows the technical innovations for the lighting design. Long life lamps have additional selection components and Figure 4 shows those for selection of LEDs.

Figure 3: Lamp & luminaire selction criteria


Figure 4: Additional selection criteria for LEDs


Minimising lamp selections

CIP2 case study

The lighting design of CIP2 uses a minimum of lamp types: 28W T5 3 000k (warm white) fluorescent lamps and LEDs. There are 2 340 28W T5 fluorescents lamps and 1 170 LED luminaires. The 28W T5 fluorescent lamp is the most common of the TS fluorescent lamps.

The reduction in lamp types was achieved by using three 28W T5 luminaires for cove lighting instead of two 54W T5, for ‘low bay’ workshop lighting (instead of 100W metal halide) and by using one 28W T5 luminaires for office lighting at a closer spacing than is typically used for office lighting.

The remaining CIP2 spaces not illuminated with fluorescent utilise LED. The LEDs have been selected carefully to ensure that life is maximised and replacements are available. To assist in future maintenance, all LEDs used will be warm white (3000K ±200K) and records of LED binning and batch will be recorded in the O&M manual so that replacement LEDs will match the colour and appearance of the original LEDs. LED lighting has been used in lieu of halogen and high intensity discharge (metal halide) lighting in areas where accent and architectural lighting is required.

One lamp colour temperature has been used for all spaces, including offices – 3 000K was selected because its warm tone compliments the extensive use of timber and concrete finishes.

There are many different lamps types available in a range of wattages, colour temperatures and colour rendering properties - for fluorescent lamps these come to about 250 (see Figure 5).

Figure 5: Fluorescent lamp variations


For every type of lamp installed in a building a spare lamp(s) has to be kept in reserve to allow replacement, if required, to be undertaken quickly and with minimum disruption. If a building has 50 different lamp types and two spare lamps are kept for each lamp type, this equates to 100 lamps. If a project has had lamps carefully selected with the goal of reducing lamps and has a total of 10 different lamp types and two spares are kept for each lamp, that project will have 20 spare lamps.

A review of various projects completed in Brisbane within the last five years (2008-2012) found the following lamp variations (shown in Table 1). The data indicates that reducing lamp variations is often overlooked - most designers focus on the lamps required to achieve maximum energy efficiency and illuminance.

Table 1: varies projects completed in Brisbane


Locally manufactured luminaires

To minimise the overall carbon footprint of the lighting, consideration should be given to where the luminaire is manufactured in relation to the project site. For projects located in capital cities, it is possible for 25 per cent of luminaires to be sourced from local manufacturing facilities within 100 kilometres of the site. These luminaires should be bulk packaged to reduce the amount of cardboard packaging required for transport and transported directly to the site from the manufacturer's facility.

While it is acknowledged that the majority of the world's luminaires are manufactured in Asia or Europe, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide have local luminaire manufacturers producing a variety of luminaries. Where appropriate, these manufacturers should be considered before imported luminaires. Examples of local luminaire manufacturers by city include: Brisbane (Frend Lighting, Spectra Lighting, Mega bay Lighting, Zenith Lighting and Intra lux), Sydney (3S Lighting, Pierlite, Thorn and Harcroft), Adelaide (Moonlighting) and Melbourne (Eagle Lighting, Darkon).

An example of the potential carbon savings by using local manufacturers follows. A typical one 28W fluorescent batten weighs 2 kilograms - a project may require 200 battens at a total weight of 400 kilograms. The carbon to transport 200 fluorescent battens 100 kilometres from local manufacturer to site is 0.079 tonne of carbon while the carbon created transporting 200 fluorescent battens from China via sea freight is 1.039 tonne and 1.092 tonne for air freight3 (see www.log-net.com/sustainability/index.php).

CIP2 case study

In selecting luminaires for the CIP2 building, a selection hierarchy of manufacturers was derived to utilise local (Queensland based) and Australian manufacturers where appropriate. The hierarchy was as follows: local manufacturers within 100 kilometres of the site, then Australian manufacturers and finally international manufacturers.

As a result of this careful selection 32 per cent of the luminaires specified were manufactured within 100 kilometres of the CIP2 site. These manufacturers were Frend Lighting, 14 kilometres from site, and Megabay Lighting, at 14 kilometres, saving about 960 kilograms of carbon or six trees grown for 70 years4. Further, 39 per cent of luminaires specified for the project are manufactured in Australia. These manufacturers are Darkon Lighting (Melbourne) and 3S lighting (Sydney), with the remaining from European manufacturers. This has saved approximately 1 739 kilograms of carbon or eleven trees grown for 70 years.

Reduced maintenance through the use of long life lamps

Often lighting designers give limited thought to this beyond selecting typical lamp types with appropriate lamp life, efficiency and colour. The lighting design can be optimised and future maintenance can be reduced by the careful selection and specification of lamps. There have been many advances in lamps in the past decade and this has not been limited to just LEDs. Tubular fluorescent lamps with 50 000 hours rated life are available (but at an additional cost). Table 2 compares long life and generic 28W T5 fluorescent lamps.

Table 2: long life vs 28W T5 lamp data & costs


The long life lamp will last 2.5 times the generic lamp at 2.5 times the cost. If the lamp is installed in an easily accessible location and has a total replacement time of 15 minutes (including getting ladder and lamp from spares store and returning ladder and discarding old lamp) at per hour for maintenance staff, the generic lamp has additional cost in replacement, giving the generic lamp a total cost of to the for the long life lamp. The 28W T5 fluorescent lamp contains three milligrams of mercury, the disposal of two generic lamps will see six milligrams of mercury in landfill or at recycling stations before the long life lamp reaches it rated life.

A responsible designer should consider the lamp type with the same importance placed on the luminaire and other components of the lighting system. The lamp has a considerable impact on the sustainability of the lighting installation.

LED lamps are often promoted as green, long life and sustainable. In fact, LEDs are subject to the same flaws as traditional lamps - they have lumen depreciation and mortality facts to consider5.

LEDs: Myths about Performance, Maintenance-Facility Management Lighting Feature6 claims: “Some manufacturers tout a life cycle of up to 50,000 hours. In fact, while manufacturers are improving product performance with each generation, testing by the US Department of Energy (DOE) found that about one-quarter of the solid-state lighting (SSL) products would not pass a 1,000-hour operational test, meaning they do not last as long as a traditional incandescent lamp ... Efficiency of LEDs can vary with some LEDs being only as efficient as a halogen lamp with the best white LEDs having a similar efficiency to fluorescent lamps ... Some fluorescent, metal halide, and halogen products offer efficiency levels equal to those of LEDs, for example, while some LEDs offer 40,000 hours of useful life, some fluorescent products offer a similar performance life at a fraction of the cost”.

With the above in mind when designing using LEDs, care should be taken to select luminaires where the LED light source or lamp can be replaced. This often requires a commitment from the manufacturer that the LED (lamp, module, light engine) will be available for the life of the installation.

CIP2 case study

A minimum of 95 per cent of fluorescent lamps specified for the CIP2 building have a rated life of 50 000 hours with a 90 per cent lamp survival rate and 85 per cent lumen maintenance at rated life. A minimum of 90 per cent of LED lamps/luminaries specified for CIP2 have a rated life of 50 000 hours with a 90 per cent lamp survival rate and 85 per cent lumen depreciation at rated life. Test reports, in accordance with the IESNA LM80 test method for the LED lamps/luminaires, are to be provided.

Use of lamp and luminaire manufacturers committed to environmentally responsible manufacturing techniques

It is the responsibility of the lighting designer when selecting luminaires and lamps to consider how they are manufactured. Luminaire and lamp manufacturers should have a corporate sustainability policy demonstrating their commitment to minimising their environmental impact. These policies should be able to be provided upon request and contain some or all the following:

Resource and energy management

Optimisation in the use of electrical and heating/cooling energy by implementation of energy saving measures. Water consumption reduction by recycling and installation of photovoltaic systems

Recycling program

A range of waste products arise during the production of luminaires. Therefore, it is desirable to reduce the overall amount of waste for disposal and to raise the proportion of recyclable waste. Use certified waste disposal companies to be sure that waste is transported and treated correctly when it leaves the factory.

Use of materials and processing

Where process materials are used for production, the intention should be to limit the impact on people and the environment throughout the entire product life cycle. For example, use of water based paints and innovative, mild cleaning agents, instead of aggressive solvents, while avoiding the use of chromium based coatings. As this is not always possible, the impact on people and the environment is kept as low as possible through technological and organisational measures7.

CIP2 case study

Of luminaire manufacturers selected for use on the CIP2 project, 98 per cent have corporate sustainability policies that address the above factors.


In summary, the lighting design for the CIP2 project has set a new benchmark for sustainable design opportunities for new/future projects. Sustainable achievements are:

  • carbon saved using local manufacturers: 960 kilograms or six trees grown for 70 years
  • one fluorescent lamp type, 28W T5 fluorescent and only 24 spare lamps with 75 milligrams of stored mercury
  • one electronic control gear type used for fluorescent lamps 
  • 100 per cent of lamps used have a rated life of 50 000 hours, saving 14 grams or mercury from landfill

A summary of the sustainable benchmarks achieved is shown in Table 3.

Table 3: summary of sustainable benchmarks



This paper outlines sustainable and best practice guidelines for luminaire selection applicable to a variety of projects across many markets. Sustainable lighting goes beyond achieving target energy efficiency and Green Star credits and should extend not only to the luminaire selection process but the entire lighting design process. The CIP2 case study demonstrates that luminaire selection can be a critical component of the building design and that sustainable innovations beyond existing guidelines are possible.

Article courtesy of Lighting magazine, Vol 32, issue 4, August/September 2012.

Darin Schreier

About Darrin
Darrin is an experienced electrical technical officer at Aurecon, with ten years of experience in the lighting industry. He has particular expertise in educational facilities, exterior lighting and architectural lighting in general. Darrin is also the Vice President of the Queensland Chapter of the Illuminating Engineers Society. 


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