Lighting: Considering Codes, Cost, Maintenance, Performance


Illuminart’s Stefan R. Graf gave a comprehensive overview of lighting issues that retailers face today.

Lighting a retail space is no easy feat, as retailers struggle to balance overall performance with cost and maintenance concerns and stringent energy codes. Two sessions at SPECS/2008 were devoted to lighting, both of which stressed the critical impact lighting has on retail sales.

More light doesn’t always mean better sight. That was one of the key points made during the “Lighting Technologies Will Improve Your Bottom Line” workshop. The session drove home the point that retail is a visual experience and, as such, lighting can have a direct impact on retail sales.

“Good lighting programs will provide a substantial return on investment,” said Stefan R. Graf, principal, Illuminart, Ypsilanti, Mich.

Graf noted that good lighting design involves putting an emphasis on lighting quality.

“Improvements in the quality of light—or illumination—will improve visibility while reducing initial construction costs and operation costs of the lighting system,” he explained.

Color quality, as represented in a lamp’s color rendering index (CRI), plays a key role in lighting quality.

“Higher CRI lamps improve the color perception of products, depth of field, visual acuity and enable a reduction of the overall light load,” Graf said.

Graf also addressed the subject of daylighting. He noted some of the advantages, including increased sales and reduced operations costs—with under a five-year payback if the daylight is integrated with the existing lighting system.

“People love natural light,” Graf added. “Daylighting really offers huge benefits to retailers, but the real benefit comes from the integration of the electric and daylighting systems.”

Effective daylighting begins with the orientation of the building on site.

“On-site integration, the placement of the sky and windows, is very important,” Graf said. “Daylight integration enables a reduction of up to 30% KWh below ASHRAE 90.I.”

With regard to specifications, Graf urged attendees to obtain the IALD/ LIRC Specification Integrity Guide lines and adopt the language/provisions into their specification documents. Among his specific recommendations:

  • Be sure that lamp specification catalog numbers are provided with the equipment submittals;

  • Require that unit pricing support be provided with submittals or provide pricing with you specifications; and

  •  Require the supplier/contractor to sign a claim of responsibility for design changes that may adversely affect the lighting quality.

LEDs: While great improvements have been made in LED technology, such lamps are not quite ready for general lighting at normal levels, according to Graf. He cautioned attendees to be very cautious about exaggerated claims regarding LEDs.

“LEDs are great for special effects,” he added, “and for showcases and coolers. And they may be considered in some cases for general and accent lighting at low levels.”

In the session, “Lighting the Way to Sales and Profit—Lighting Effects on the Retail Environment,” Randy Burkett, president, Randy Burkett Lighting Design, St. Louis, discussed the effects of different lighting types within a variety of retail environments.

Burkett discussed the six drivers in retail lighting design:

  • Cost: Involves using the least expensive luminaires and/or lowest installed first-cost lighting systems.  This driver tends to move a lot of costs to the operating budget, and often reduces the value of “qualitative” design;


  • Maintenance: Tends to emphasize using lamps with a long operating life and a minimal number of lamp types, locating luminaries where they can be readily relamped, and employing simplified controls. The result is that sometimes lighting quality is sacrificed;

  • Energy: This driver, which emphasizes using the most efficient luminaires lamps and controls, often will move higher cost to the initial installation. It too can result in the sacrifice of lighting quality. However, it can save money over the life of the store and also promote a “green halo”;

  • Codes: Involves reviewing codes  to determine allowable wattage, and adjusting store design to take advantage of code extras. It requires coordination from all design professionals. It too can come at the expense of lighting quality;

  • Product: In this driver, lighting is a more active participant in product presentation. It often requires more accent lighting than ambient lighting, and flexible or adjustable lighting equipment. It also requires a commitment to maintain and complete knowledge of product and placement as it emphasizes visual presentation; and

  • Design: Places an emphasis on design in the store as a complete visual environment, establishing the lighting in an active role in enhancing the entire shopping experience. It seeks to present product through visual reinforcement and may compromise some other less esoteric goals.

Burkett stressed the importance of finding the right balance in retail lighting, one that involves factoring in the six drivers to come up with a solution that best fits a retailer’s individual needs.

Although many retailers have expressed interest in the concept of daylighting, some still question whether stores can get high-quality consistent lighting, Burkett said.

“There isn’t a simple yes or no answer here, but if daylighting is executed properly, it can certainly work for retail stores,” he said.

The retail space has been slow to take on daylighting compared to other industries, according to Burkett, but now major retailers are catching on.

Recent statistics have also shown that energy can be saved on an ROI cycle, making it more of an “incentive for retailers to jump on board,” Burkett said.

“Overall, retailers just need to give lighting the time it deserves,” Burkett added. “Lighting decisions should be integrated with architecture and store-planning design decisions from the beginning as an intrical part of the building process from the beginning for the most efficient results.”

As to where lighting is headed in the future, Burkett predicted there would be:

  • Continued pressure to reduce energy consumption;


  • Lighting-design strategies that emphasize sustainability and reduce environmental impact;

  • Higher-use expectations of the visual environment;

  • Bottom-line return on lighting investment;

  • Continued maturity in LED systems; and

  • Refinements in proven technologies, including halogen, fluorescent and metal halide.

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