•  Carrier

Illuminating Energy Savings

By harnessing big data, facility managers can measure, analyze and reduce their energy use—and incorporating lighting control solutions can increase energy efficiency and even transform buildings into Net Zero energy consumers.
By Andy Wakefield, M.SAME

Photos courtesy Lutron Electronics

The era of “big data” is here, and the industry is ready to harness its power.

More than a digital downpour, big data refers to the next generation of technical analysis and interpretation. Big data transcends conventional, large-scale analytics to forge more meaningful connections between data sets derived from distinct, but related sources. Three “V’s” distinguish the big-data approach from conventional analytics: volume, velocity and variety of data.

Big-data solutions promise big impact. Harnessing the consistent and massive flow of real-time, content-based information has the power to change the way we identify trends and predict new opportunities. Practical examples range from the 2002 transformation of baseball’s most unlikely-to-succeed team, the Oakland A’s (proselytized in the book, and later movie, Moneyball), to spot-on recommendations from Amazon.com. There also are effective, new energy-saving options for building owners, including military facilities and government buildings.

Facility managers in the government sector need specific insight into how energy is being used and how it can be reduced. They now have access to more data points but demand solutions to contextualize this big data so it is actionable.


Virtually every government department and all branches of the military are committed to achieving sustainability goals in line with the U.S. General Service Administration’s guiding principles for energy efficiency. The principles require that all new building projects and retrofits, as well as a larger percentage of existing buildings, increase energy efficiency by 20 percent with the use of advanced energy-management strategies, such as lighting controls. In addition, signed executive orders by both the Obama and the Bush administrations are mandating improved energy efficiency for government buildings, and requiring a 30 percent total reduction in energy use by 2015 from a 2003 baseline.

Measuring energy consumption is the first step to controlling it. Big-data solutions are unlocking more robust measurement options by providing comprehensive, real-time, relevant energy data. This information can be readily mined to offer predictive insights, providing the federal government and the U.S. military with better rationale for setting benchmarks and monitoring progress against goals. Obtaining detailed data measurements of energy use validates governmental energy-efficiency goals—from the macro level down to the individual building or facility.

Software solutions based on this new breed of data analysis use precise algorithms to analyze complex data sets for buildings. They identify prime energy-saving opportunities in many areas, including lighting. That is important because lighting typically accounts for about 40 percent of a commercial building’s total energy use.


The private sector has been taking advantage of such solutions for several years. Glumac, a West Coast-based sustainable engineering firm, retrofitted its Portland, Ore., offices using a Lutron Electronics wireless lighting control solution to take advantage of natural light and keep the building energy efficient. Wireless vacancy sensors ensure that lights are off when the space is unoccupied but can be turned on when employees need more light. The Quantum Total Light Management system controls all the lights, shades, daylight, and vacancy sensors throughout the space. It integrate seamlessly with the building’s management system so lighting energy usage can be tracked, monitored and adjusted to ensure maximum efficiencies are achieved.

The building was designed with a connected load of .68-W psf. Within the first two months, the connected load was reduced to .25-W psf.

In fact, it has been shown that using big-data solutions as part of an energy-efficient lighting control strategy can help reduce lighting electricity use by up to 60 percent, generating significant energy savings and contributing to lower cooling loads. For example, Lutron’s Quantum total lighting management system offers energy reporting software and advanced energy-monitoring technology to effectively aggregate and communicate relevant energy-use and other metered data. Building managers can easily access this information to identify how and where electricity is being used, make recommendations on how to adjust lighting control schematics, and quickly implement the changes via the Quantum software. The system also integrates seamlessly with larger, building management systems to facilitate comprehensive, centralized energy management protocols.

To advance energy-saving efforts, real-time and historical lighting energy data can be displayed on an LCD screen or computer monitor to clearly communicate vital information to building managers, financial managers and tenants. Moreover, the information demonstrates energy consumption trends in terms of KWh saved, dollars saved, as well as CO2 and coal-use reductions. Green Glance software also produces intelligible energy reports comparing cumulative energy use over a period of time in one or more building areas. Facility managers and tenants can then work together to set energy goals and provide actionable information to help transform building occupants into conscientious, engaged participants in the energy-conservation process.


Lighting control systems can utilize various strategies that can directly contribute to savings beyond lighting electricity. Occupancy sensors, for example, that are tied to the light system can communicate with the HVAC system and also provide information on room usage, security and life safety. Control systems and reporting software can store data over time to provide more information on occupancy patterns, daylight harvesting savings and daylight availability. It can even provide building managers with the tools to enhance occupant comfort by tracking how and when people are turning lights off, on, up or down.

Image courtesy Lutron Electronics

With occupancy data, building managers can do more than save lighting energy. They can plan future building layouts to reduce the number of unused rooms. Security personnel can use patterns of occupancy to set up auto-reports when rooms have unexpected occupancy. Managers can correlate occupancy status, lighting, heat output and the position of shades with HVAC peaks to minimize the use of heating and cooling when unnecessary, and ultimately, maximize energy savings.

To achieve those energy savings, the Latham Square office building in downtown Oakland, Calif., installed Lutron adaptive lighting control solutions on 12 floors. After 30 days, the building manager saw that occupancy rates across all 23 floors averaged just 8 percent. Based on this and other data, project engineers calculated that the new lighting system reduces energy use 86 percent, saving 113,724-kWh annually and resulting in $23,803 in energy and maintenance costs over the life of the fixtures.

At many governmental and military facilities—including the Pentagon and the U.S. Department of State’s Harry S. Truman Building —energy reduction is now a priority. Lighting control solutions can help save government resources and tax-payer dollars while improving work environments.

The National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., also is using energy-saving lighting control technologies, including GreenGlance, in half a dozen buildings. This is cutting lighting energy use by more than 35 percent. Further implementations of the software are now planned across the base. GreenGlance allows the U.S. Army to closely monitor energy use at Fort Irwin so it can track its energy and financial savings as it works toward the overall objective of transforming the base into a Net Zero energy consumer.

Data—even big data—doesn’t equal information by itself. And information alone doesn’t equal knowledge. Neither one can affect the attitudinal nor cultural changes needed to shrink operating expenses or reduce our carbon footprint. But the best of today’s big data solutions are proving surprisingly effective at translating energy data into meaningful, actionable information. When facility managers and engineers can transform complex data into easily digestible information, the result can be a real light bulb moment—and the effect is energy and cost savings for building owners.

Andy Wakefield, M.SAME, is Director-Government Solutions, Lutron Electronics Co. Inc.; 610-282-7361, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..