By Sonya M. Pouncy, CEM, CMVP, LEED-AP. Sonya is a senior engineering consultant with Energy Sciences. The firm helps clients meet energy challenges with practical solutions that reduce waste and increase net operating income.

Lighting upgrades are more than simply replacing lamps. Getting the right type, quantity, and quality of light delivered to the right location at the right time can require a team of practitioners from architects, interior designers, and electrical engineers to lighting designers, product representatives, energy consultants, electricians, and commissioning agents.

Why so many people? Because just like other building systems, facility lighting is designed to meet exacting criteria. It is an engineered system and any upgrades to it should consider all the things it was designed to do and make sure that the upgraded system will be able to deliver those same things, if they are still required.

For example, architects and interior designers have input on luminaire selection to make sure they complement the overall programming and décor. The electrical engineer is concerned with power requirements and energy efficiency. They make sure that the building’s electrical system can handle the load of the new lighting plus any controls that may be added.  They are also responsible for making sure the new equipment complies with electrical and energy codes.

The lighting designer is tasked with ensuring that the proper quantity and quality of luminance are available where needed. According to Michigan’s Building Code, every artificially lit space intended for human occupancy must provide an average illumination of at least 10 lumens per square foot at a height 30 inches above the finished floor. In addition to that, the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) has very detailed recommendations for area light levels that account for:

  • the tasks being performed, as well as their required speed and accuracy;
  • the age range and typical eyesight of the space occupants; and
  • reflectance from the room surfaces and the task background.

Lighting designers are also concerned with eliminating the undesirable effects of glare and shadows while providing contrast so work objects can be adequately seen. To help ensure the proper amount of light falls on the work surface, in addition to specifying the luminaire and its output, they specify mounting heights and thoughtfully plan the layout of lighting fixtures.

The contractor puts it all together. They make sure the equipment and ancillary items are ordered and arrive on time; and her team of electricians installs the equipment while following all quality control and safety protocols. After the commissioning agent makes sure everything’s tested and working properly, the contractor trains the owner’s facility management team on how to properly operate and maintain the upgraded system. (If you think training for lighting systems isn’t necessary, check out the lighting control schemes in the new Michigan Energy Code.)

And, if you think there’s a lot to juggle here, you’re right. To be successful and completed on time and within budget, lighting upgrades require answering a lot of technical questions, doing a lot of planning and communicating, and employing multiple disciplines. That means they require a project implementation and management team. And, all teams require a team manager.

Some businesses have in-house staff that can handle such projects; but many do not. Whether your company is large or small, you may prefer to focus in-house resources on your core business activities and leave the intricacies of lighting upgrades to industry professionals. Consulting firms that offer turnkey services allow you the flexibility to manage the aspects of your project that you want to and leave the rest to subject matter experts. Using a turnkey consultant removes the challenges of managing multiple service providers and offers single-point-accountability. It also helps ensure that your project is planned, designed, and implemented with considerations for state-of-the-art technologies and industry best practices. In a word, turnkey consultants help ensure project success.

So, how many people does it take to upgrade your lighting system? Many. But, how many turnkey consultants does it take? Just one.


Luminaire layout should never be overlooked when designing a lighting upgrade.

Changes in space function or in the arrangement of furniture and equipment impact where light falls in the space. Also, many lighting upgrades use LED technologies which have much lower performance drift over time, so they often require fewer lamps than fluorescent systems.

To make sure that light still lands where it is needed, luminaire layout should be a key consideration of every lighting system upgrade.

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