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One of the most important aspects to Synergy’s building and engineering services consultancy is lighting: which type of lighting to use in which circumstance, cost vs practicality, cost vs aesthetics, the specifics of certain types of lighting necessary for certain environments, and so on.

Over the last 20 years, we have built up expertise around the use and implementation of lighting, always making sure that what we’re recommending to our clients conforms to their requirements as well as to SIBSE and British standards.

LED lighting has become increasingly popular in both residential and commercial environments as an efficient, cost-effective lighting system. Equally, though, its popularity throws ‘light’ on the variables and uncertainties of this relatively new form of illuminating technology.

We are all aware of the statistics that are quoted around LED lights: that they last ‘forever’ or several years before bulbs need changing, that they are eco-friendly and have zero carbon emissions. But we need to look beyond this to evaluate both their true effectiveness in any given situation and their safety standards.

LED lighting does not currently have to conform to the known British standards. This is because the technology behind it is completely different from what went before; this in turn means that some statistics around the longevity and cost per usage of LED lighting can become skewed as the lack of standardisation means that some manipulate the figures to suit their product.

Where LED lighting outperforms its rivals to ‘beat’ the lighting standards, these are the figures that you will see published in the media. What you have to search hard to find, though, are the statistics where LED lighting doesn’t comply or compete with ‘conventional’ light sources.

Where is Lighting Crucial?

Commercial lighting accounts for a significant percentage of a business’s electricity bill. In a commercial environment it is crucial to have an effective lighting system installed; whether you are a retailer (particularly in food or fashion), run offices or a manufacturing facility, the need for good lighting can not be underestimated.

For retailers, a properly designed lighting system can emphasise your products and help create the right look and feel for your retail space. For manufacturing environments, good lighting allows your employees to carry out their jobs safely, reducing fatigue in a well lit space.

Colour Rendering

It was recently announced by the US body, the Illuminating Engineering Society, that they had developed a new method to replace the old standard of measuring colour rendering (the way that objects appear under a certain light source). Backed by the US government, the new TM-30 standard is based on colour samples that more reflect the real world. Under the current colour rendering standards, an LED might score a high CRI (Colour Rendering Index) metric but reds render particularly badly using this standard.

Take this particular image of a salad, where red is the dominant colour:

colour rendering

LED lighting can be the right choice if reds are not prevalent in the surfaces and objects being illuminated. In these situations, we recommend not taking unnecessary risks, and using lights (they can be high performance LEDs) where the individual CRI values can be adjusted for each colour individually.

The TM-30 standard is not going to have a smooth ride in being accepted worldwide. It is quite possible that the international lighting body, the CIE, may not endorse it and many manufacturers are hesitant to sign up, too.

Regulating LEDs

This leaves us in a period of unregulation, a dangerous position to be in from the point of true performance and health & safety. There are various organisations directly connected to the lighting industry wanting some form of globally-recognised regulation but it’s not happening quite yet.

As consultants, we are best placed to look at how best to advise our clients for their lighting requirements – this may be LED lights, but sometimes they are not the best fit.