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The power of lighting control system data insights in smart buildings

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Andy Nolan works as a Product Manager for Helvar’s Digital Services solution. He has 30 years of experience in the Building Services Industry and holds a degree in Building Services Engineering from the University of Hertfordshire.

The development and density of IoT devices in smart buildings enable the creation of valuable cloud services that go far beyond lighting control. In a typical building, the lighting control system has an extensive network of PIR sensors installed for movement detection. In basic operation, these sensors already efficiently control the luminaires, but by running analytics on this data and integrating the sensor data to other building systems, there are considerable opportunities to increase overall building efficiency, increase staff efficiency and improve staff wellbeing. The power of analytics means that data collected from lighting control systems can be used for so much more than just lighting control.

Helvar’s cloud-based suite of digital services — Helvar Insights, is a suite of tools that provide insights based on lighting control system data. There is so much data available in a building and while it is useful to monitor and record data, there is a lot of value left on the table if analytics are not used to gain insights that help the business.

Increasing building efficiency

Measuring lighting energy usage at a luminaire level allows detailed monitoring, but this is not enough. For example, increasing building efficiency by integrating occupancy data with BMS controls or even predictive occupancy data can save hundreds of hours of HVAC energy per year. Self-learning lighting controls optimise time outs to gain more savings. For the last 20 years or more, there has been an increased focus on energy savings. While most of the easy savings have been made, we need these automated tools and analytics to gain further savings.

After energy and other utility costs, rent is generally the second most significant building related business cost. Before COVID-19, there was already a shift to a hybrid way of working, splitting time between the home, office and co-working spaces. COVID-19 has dramatically speeded up this change in work culture. As people return to the office, data gathered from occupancy sensors allows building owners and employers to spot trends and optimise workspace. Analysing space utilisation factors could raise an alert that more space is needed or a different space type is required or warn that a tenant no longer needs the same amount of space. All of this is possible without the need for additional sensors and infrastructure.

Increasing staff efficiency and wellbeing

The highest cost and most valuable asset in a building is the staff. For this reason, any service or insight that increases productivity and wellbeing has the highest return, despite possibly being the hardest to measure.

As employees spend almost a quarter of their lives at work, workplace environments are a significant part of their lives. Personal lighting that tunes the lighting rhythms around a workspace and optimum environmental conditions can help keep staff energised all day.

Indoor environmental conditions have also been put in the spotlight due to COVID-19. Combining occupancy sensing and environmental data integrated into the BMS can ensure that air quality inside the building is well maintained.

Building services system integration varies so much from building to building that Helvar Insights has been developed as a stand-alone solution and with full API integration capabilities to third-party services. The full potential of smart buildings will only be fully realised when any sensor or data point in a building can be accessed and used by any service provider. Until this becomes the norm, we need to provide both options.

It’s clear that lighting control networks are growing in importance and are a vital source of data in modern smart buildings.

Understand how your building is used and how you could optimise the space by registering for our upcoming Helvar Insights webinar on 28th September at 10am BST.

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