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Sustainable Lighting Design


Lighting accounts for around 15% of the energy bill in most homes. Electricity is typcially provided by fossil fuel driven power plants, which emit significant levels off carbon dioxide, known to be a leading cause of global climate change.

Building industries in most developed countries are seeking improved design and building technolgies towards developing eco-friendly buildings, which are highly self sustainable.

A key element in sustainable design is lighting. Sustainable lighting options include:

  • Natural daylight
  • Sunlight transportation systems
  • Energy efficient light bulbs - Compact fluorescent lights and LED [Light Emitting Diodes]


Natural Daylight Design

Use of natural daylight is the most sustainable lighting design option. Daylight is a free, renewable resource that also has proven health benefits. The use of natural daylight must factor in the requirements to control temperature and glare. This requires strategic placement of windows, skylights, light shafts, atriums and translucent panels. Daylighting design harmony ensures that these elements blend with other building components to reflext light evenly thorughout internal spaces, taking into consideration the normal daily tasks performed in each space.

Sunlight Transportation Systems

Sunlight transportation systems are a new technology where natural sunlight is collected on roof panels and transported into a building using fibre optic cables. These piping systems can be up to 15 meters, allowing for piping of sunlight to lower floor levels or across to sides of building removed from a sufficient degree of natural lighting. These systems can be used in combination with solar panels to integrate natural and artificial light systems, to provide an even spread and availability of light in the home.

Energy Efficient Light Bulbs

Most countries are sponsoring the conversion of standard [incandescent] household light bulbs to more energy efficient bulbs. Incandescent bulbs are only 10% energy efficient, that is, 90% of the energy used is wasted as heat during the conversion to light. More efficient lighting options include:

Halogen bulbs - burn brighter, use less electricity and last twice as long as a standard bulb, but are still inefficient compared with other forms of bulbs.


Spiral Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb

Compact Fluorescent Lights [CFL] - provide the same amount of light as incandescent bulbs, but utlise a vastly more efficient technology, making them 4 times more energy efficient and 80% cooler.

Hence, to replace a 60-watt incandescent bulb, use a 15-watt CFL. These bulbs last 10 times longer [up to 20,000 hours], and emit 70% less carbon dioxide. Although more expensive to purchase, their long life and energy efficiency provides a fast payback and long term energy savings.

CFL's are available in many different configurations and wattages, suitable for all lighting purposes.


NOTE: these bulbs contain trace amounts of mercury, which is hazardous to health and the environment. Care should be taken in handling broken bulbs and that they are disposed of safely.

Light Emitting Diodes [LED] - small, solid light bulbs producing light from the movement of electrons when electricity is passed through the solid semi-conductor material. This is also called 'solid state lighting', because it uses a solid material, as opposed to gas (CFL) or filament (incandescent). LEDs are the most energy efficient; lasting over 100 times longer than incandescent bulbs, and up to 10 times longer than CFLs. They are also more durable. LED's are most suited to track and recessed lighting, providing a pointed, rather than radiated light. LED's are more expensive than CFLs, but is returned quickly in energy savings. They readily combine with solar panels to provide reliable, energy efficient lighting.


Energy Saving Lighting Practices

Use of low energy lighting systems is only one part of the savings combination. The other factor is in the use of lights. Energy savings can be made by:

  • Turning lights off when not required
  • Using dimmers and timing switches

Unfortunately these practices have yet to be incorporated with all energy efficient bulbs.


Environmental Impact

The presence of mercury in CFL bulbs raises concern for disposal. albeit the amount used in each bulb is tiny. Regardless, lighting manufacturers are seeking new technologies that consider the complete lifecycle of the bulb - manufacture, storage and handling, use and destruction and disposal.

Whilst initial advancements are encouraging, sustainable lighting design is still in its infancy.

Next: Sustainable Water Management Systems

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