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Contractor’s Corner: It’s Not Easy Being Green

Since there was a lot of good feedback on both sides of the fence regarding the lighting rep column, I thought it would be good to write another controversial column.

So, U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy & Environment Design (LEED) is the topic of this column, and I would appreciate your comments for or against it. If you are not already aware USGBC is not a government agency, but a non-profit corporation. www.usgbc.org

One example of issues with the USGBC is Henry Gifford’s 2010 lawsuit, which argued that the USGBC fraudulently misled consumers and fraudulently misrepresented energy performance of buildings certified under its LEED rating systems. Read more.

That $100 million lawsuit was dismissed on certain grounds, but the energy efficiency issues have continued. Read more.

The LEED process can be considered complex and expensive, so some entities do not want to deal with it. Some building owners choose to be LEED equivalent or semi-equivalent, which is much easier and less expensive.

Here are some things that good distributors can do for contractors and others.

  • Explain key points about LEED certifications to contractors
  • Assist with energy efficient lighting and other products
  • Help with less shipping waste and more recyclable materials

Another issue, and one that I have had for a long time with LEED, is the points for dimming and complex controls.

Dimming fluorescent ballasts are not only quite expensive, but also energy hogs. When they are dimmed below .70 ballast factor they need to heat lamp cathodes, so lamps do not flicker, spiral or turn off. Cathode heating consumes wattage. For example dimming ballasts to 50% light level consumes 20 – 30% more wattage than turning off every other equivalent fixed output ballast. If you are going to dim, please go with LED, because LED is much more efficient when dimming, but make sure you get LED systems which do not provide visual or nonvisual flicker.

It is quite easy to get to about .5 watts per square foot with good lighting, and when the power density is that low, the electric bill for lighting is so low, that many controls, even basic wall occupancy sensors can have over a ten-year payback.

Architectural Products Magazine is publishing my second article on Human Centric Lighting article this January. You can get this magazine free paper and/or electronically. You may find it a good magazine in addition to NAED’s offerings.

Also, I do not make back east very often, but I will speak in Connecticut and Vermont in early February about lighting. If you are interested, let me know, and I will provide details. I often speak on the west coast and can provide details on that as well.

As mentioned at the end of all of my columns, contractors, please send me feedback and input for new columns. My email is stan@lightingwizards.com.

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