What I learned from my £100 million LED roll-out

Simon Waldron was part of the team which delivered an award-winning £100 million LED lighting roll-out at UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's. Here he shares what he learned from the experience. 

Before any specification work can begin on a major retro-fit project, there are a number of issues that have to be investigated before the project design can be developed:

 

UNDERSTAND the client’s priorities

It’s important to know what the client is hoping to achieve from the refurbishment and how the building will function as a consequence of the works. Don’t assume that life post-refurbishment will be the same as it was beforehand.

The design may be led by any number of issues, so ascertain the project priorities:

  • Aesthetics It may simply be about improving the appearance of the building for its occupants
  • Performance Many lighting refurbishments are undertaken just to reduce running costs
  • Welfare Clients are expressing an interest in ‘human-centric ‘lighting to improve occupant wellbeing 
  • New technologies The Internet of Things is on the cusp of breaking into estate management

 

There is a difference between a turnkey project with a confirmed design-and-build contractor, where time and cost delivery are the priority, and a bespoke project specification that’s tailored to a more nuanced client brief. Time and cost will be important, but may not be the absolute priority if aesthetics is the primary focus.  

There will always be a priority – it's vital to understand what it is.

 

Sainsbury’s first all-LED store was a hypermarket in Leek, Staffordshire, which consumes about 60 per cent less energy for lighting than comparable stores. A distinctive fitting is GE's Blade.

INVOLVE the client

It’s also vital to appreciate the way that a client intends to be involved in the project. Some clients are happy to leave the working details to the project team and leave the professionals to deliver a total solution. Other clients will expect to sit down regularly with the project table and sign off on all aspects of the project. 

Clients with a long-term management viewpoint of the estate will want to know more about the reliability of the specification and will expect to see more detail on issues such as product warranties and guarantees of life-term performance.

On the other hand, clients taking a short-termist approach will more likely concentrate their attention on the immediate project costs and have little regard for what might be happening 10 years down the line. 

Knowing where the client is coming from helps you know where the project is being taken to.

 

 

In most buildings there will be some legacy from alterations and services additions, and ‘temporary works’ lurking in the walls and ceilings.  

DO AN ASSESSMENT of the entire building

By definition, retrofit projects do not start from a clean sheet. There will be some legacy from building alterations and services additions, and ‘temporary works’ lurking in the walls and ceilings.  Knowledge of how the existing building functions will help to inform the new specification. An assessment will be needed to understand the extent of recoverable infrastructure (power distribution, for example) and what will have to be scrapped or replaced.

Like any project, a refurbishment will require a return on investment statement. The result of a detailed survey can mean that anticipated savings and projected expenditure levels may have to be reassessed once better information  on the building becomes available.

There may be information, detailed or anecdotal, available from people and organisations who know how the building performs. Maintenance records can inform the project team on the way that the building – and its occupants – perform in the real world. 

There is no such thing as a building that hasn't been interfered with by someone at some time.

 

 

A tender-based specification may require a far more complex procedure to deliver that information because of the number of manufacturers involved, whereas the turnkey approach of using a small number of manufacturers should be simpler, though there may well be an aesthetic price to pay for that simplicity.

WRITE a robust specification

The type of luminaire specification that is built for the project will be determined by the client intentions as described above. A project that has aesthetics as its primary driver will contain a very different mixture of fixtures than one that has been constructed purely to satisfy an energy or performance brief, for example.

The route to product selection will also be defined by the intended project model. A turnkey project will have a particular kind of specification, often using a single supplier or manufacturer. A project that follows a conventional tender route will likely comprise a greater number of suppliers/ and manufacturers within the specification.

The specification will also be influenced by the way that the return on investment has been calculated. Specifications may be driven from the front end, concentrating on capital purchases, or by emphasis on improved in-use efficiencies leading to reduced energy bills. It’s important to develop a specification that matches the return-on-investment model.
The type of contract will inform the rules for the supply chain which will, in turn, require a detailed validation method to assess supplier warranties. These will need to cover issues such as guaranteed life-term, failures and replacements, and maintenance requirements. A tender-based specification may require a far more complex procedure to deliver that information because of the number of manufacturers involved, whereas the turnkey approach of using a small number of manufacturers should be simpler, though there may well be an aesthetic price to pay for that simplicity.

Always leave the client with a robust supply chain agreement, regardless of the nature of the contract. 

 

 

The decision to retrofit an existing installation can bring control headaches with it but it is an issue that has to be resolved. Over-specification of controls can be as burdensome as under-specification, so it's essential to get it right. 

CONFIRM the control methodology
    
The controls specification is a vital part of a major lighting refurbishment. The decision to retrofit an existing installation can bring control headaches with it but it is an issue that has to be resolved. Over-specification of controls can be as burdensome as under-specification, so it's essential to get it right. 

The kind of controls that are required will be influenced by what is to be retained and what is to be replaced. There are options:

  • Introduce a lighting control system that links physically to an existing installation, using existing power and data distribution
  • Leave the existing wiring in place, but link lighting controls to luminaires using wireless controls
  • Introduce a 100 per cent new power and distribution system that incorporates a new lighting control system.

And because of the retrofit nature of the project, it’s not unknown for a piecemeal approach to be taken, combining all three of the above. And that kind of jigsaw puzzle calls for a very careful eye and a steady hand when it comes to developing a control specficiation.

Be absolutely clear on what the lighting controls are there for and what they are intended to do.

 

 

Not every contractor has the appropriate skillset for undertaking complex projects, especially if sophisticated control strategies are to be implemented.

GET the work done

Once the project methodology has been agreed and approved the next step is to make sure that the design can be properly realised. Not every contractor has the appropriate skillset for undertaking complex projects, especially if sophisticated control strategies are to be implemented.

The procurement route and contract model will also influence the choice of contractor and early engagement with contracting organisations is always helpful in ascertaining which companies can provide the best project delivery.

On a practical point, an analysis of contractors’ supply cost models and labour rates can provide very useful benchmarks when it comes time to review tender returns.

The construction and installation phase will also bring other factors to the table:

  • Site surveys need to look out for asbestos on site
  • Some projects will need to engage with local conservation planners, archaeologists and even nature conservationists
  • Health and Safety legislation and Contract Design Management (CDM) issues need to be discussed and confirmed before any work begins on site
  • It may be necessary to consider the appointment of a specialist consultant if it’s difficult to locate a ‘responsibleperson’ within the client body

It's not just about installing the lighting.

 

 

If the return on investment depends on guaranteed savings as an integral part of the financial design of the project, then data needs to be harvested and analysed.

REVIEW the project post-completion

So, did everything go to plan? Unexpected costs can come about because of site unknowns, despite the detailed survey, and there’s always the chance of unplanned client interventions impacting on the final costs. Additional costs disrupt the financial planning, so ongoing financial analysis is needed to see what effect any 'unexpecteds' may have on the projected Return on Investment, reporting back as soon as possible once the likelihood of additional costs have been identified.

If the return on investment depends on guaranteed savings as an integral part of the financial design of the project, then data needs to be harvested and analysed so that ongoing expenditure in the form of energy costs and installation maintenance can be assessed against the cost of the project works. This kind of analysis can go on for some years, depending on the anticipated payback time, so the methodology needs to be known and, importantly, in place as soon as the contract works are complete.

And on a final practical note, make sure that the lighting control system has been properly commissioned, that time switches have been set and that the protective covers have been taken off the daylight sensors. This is all simple stuff that can wreck the best-laid plans.

It ain't over 'til it's over.

 

 

Now watch the video...

 

 

 

 

  • Simon Waldron is speaking at a special Lighting for Logistics and Warehousing conference in Amsterdam on Thursday 29 September and Friday 30 September. Organised by Lux, t's free for all those involved with the management of storage and distribution.
  • To view the details and register for a free place, click on the conference logo here

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