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In search of the green light

Hits:  Date:2012-11-18

There is more to sustainability than the energy consumption of the lamp, but how easy is it to get hold of data on the embodied energy of the luminaries itself, the transport energy of importing from abroad and the recyclability of components? Andrew Brister reports. Sometimes it¡¯s not easy being a lighting designer. Your client wants the scheme to be truly sustainable. You can boast about the lighting scheme¡¯s low energy consumption, but what can you tell the client about the energy used in manufacture of the luminaries you want to specify? There¡¯s so little information out there. And even less about issues such as the transport energy involved in importing from abroad, how much of the luminaire is made from recycled materials, or how much could be recycled at the end of its life.


¡°The sustainable lighting product is still a pretty empty field,¡± says Kevan Shaw, design director at KSLD and director of sustainability at the Professional Lighting Designers¡¯ Association (PLDA). ¡°I think manufacturers need to be pressed to give more information on embodied energy and materials sourced in manufacture.¡±
Iain Ruxton, associate at Speirs and Major, knows firsthand just how hard it is to gather this kind of information. ¡°We advised on the public realm lighting for the Masdar City development out in Abu Dhabi and had to justify all of our equipment choices in terms of materials, their life cycle analysis, could they be made locally and so on. That information was very hard to compile within the lighting industry.


Some lighting manufacturers make use of the EIME (Environmental Improvement Made Easy) software to evaluate products. For example, the software, developed about ten years ago for the electrical and electronic product sector, is used by Thorn Lighting¡¯s designers to evaluate the environmental profile of its exterior products.

Of course sustainable product designs must make use of source reduction or waste prevention techniques. These cover any changes in the design, manufacture, purchase, or use of materials or products (including their packaging) to reduce their amount or toxicity. Source reduction also includes the reuse of products or materials. Thorn is achieving this in a number of ways:

Marking products - for easy identification and removal
Using fewer different materials and less material (lightweighting)
Avoiding toxic substances
Selecting better environmental or recycled/recyclable materials (eg pre-painted steel)
Designing for disassembly and dematerialisation - making products simpler to take apart (e.g. using snap-fit connections rather than screws and quick dismantling of batteries) and making parts multifunctional
Cannibalising reuseable parts and recycling returned goods
Minimising energy in production, use and disposal
Certifying manufacturing sites to ISO14001


Philips has just announced that it will allocate €2 billion for investments in green innovation by 2015 to accelerate sustainable business across the company. In terms of materials, it aims to double global collection, recycling amounts and recycled materials in products by 2015 compared to 2009.Osram has carried out a revealing life cycle assessment (LCA) of LED lamps. This study involved a close look at their entire life-cycle - how much energy and raw materials the lamp consumes in terms of production, use and disposal, and the environmental impact involved in the process. The result was that today¡¯s LED lamps achieve the LCA values of compact fluorescent lights and are, unsurprisingly, far superior to conventional incandescent lamps.

Life cycle

WE-EF Lighting is looking at conducting a pilot study focusing on the life cycle of a standard WE-EF streetlighting luminaire package. WE-EF believes that the measurement and assessment of energy and environmental impacts of product manufacture will be mandatory for many countries within a few years. It sees the benefits of an LCA study as follows:

quantified environmental footprint - knowing the full environmental impact over the entire production chain
environmental hotspot analysis - identifying where in the product¡¯s life cycle the greatest environmental improvements can be made
comparison - an LCA model would enable comparison of alternative production methods or products
environmental production declaration - developing a product-specific environmental score card

So good news for designers then. It seems that some in the lighting industry are hearing specifiers loud and clear. It may soon be as easy to compare a product¡¯s overall sustainability credentials as it is to analyse energy consumption.

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