Strategies for Achieving User-Friendly Lighting Controls

With energy codes pushing for more complex lighting controls in buildings, it’s no wonder Owners can feel overwhelmed when faced with questions about how they want their lighting to function. To make this subject feel less daunting, below are strategies to keep the systems simple and easy to use from an Owner’s perspective.

Strategy #1: Communication, Education, and Demonstration
Conversations about the lighting control system should begin early in the design process and continue through construction. Once the intended function is defined and documented (see Strategy #3), then the implementation of the lighting control system becomes easier for the contractor and vendor to ensure success.

Knowing the difference between an occupancy sensor, a vacancy sensor, and a daylight responsive sensor may not be at the top of an Owner’s priority list when engaging in the design of their project. However, this information is extremely valuable when trying to create an enjoyable user experience.

To better understand the proposed lighting control system operation and its components, Owners need the opportunity to participate in hands-on demonstrations with the design team and vendor.

Strategy #2: Sequence of Operations
The Lighting Control System’s Sequence of Operations is a concise, organized way of communicating functional requirements and design intent for every space type in a project. It is developed by the design team using Owner input and takes the form of a narrative or matrix located within the construction documents. The Sequence of Operations often supplements lighting control device layouts shown on plan and specifications outlining technical details about acceptable manufacturers, component parameters, and system installation requirements. The Sequence is considered a vital link between a control system’s design and implementation. Energy codes recognize its importance by requiring it to be included in the Operations & Maintenance Manual given to an Owner at the end of a project for future reference.

Strategy #3: Field Testing
Since lighting control systems offer many benefits including energy savings, tools for tracking maintenance, and unlimited functionality, it is important that they operate as intended. Recent energy codes have begun requiring field testing of components to ensure the design intent is fulfilled and the Owner inherits a fully operational lighting control system. The results of the field testing must be reviewed by the Engineer of Record and submitted to the Owner for their records.

Although toggle switches may be a thing of the past and lighting control systems are here to stay, controls can still be simple and user-friendly. When followed, the strategies above can make the difference between a great lighting control system and one that you’d like to just turn ‘off’. If you have questions about lighting controls systems, please do not hesitate to contact Jennifer L. Harrington, PE, LC, LEED AP at 814-237-2180 or Learn more about our Lighting Design Services.

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