Victorian LED lighting upgrade a community and sustainability silver lining amidst the disruptive impacts of COVID-19.
Upgrading old lighting technology with light emitting diodes or LEDs is a given for the overwhelming majority of commercial retrofits or upgrades. Using as little as 10 per cent of the energy of older lighting products, LEDs are a more environmentally acceptable and cost-effective choice. They also last longer and can be fitted with sensors and control technologies. Together, these factors put them high up on the wishlist of most facilities managers.
This was certainly the case for Scentre Group Regional Facilities Manager in Victoria, Oliver Madden. He says he has long wanted to replace the halogen lighting of car parks, loading docks and back-of-house areas in centres, but because it is a challenging task while the centres are fully operational, the timing had never been right.
“While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented so many challenges for us all and is not what any of us would have wanted. Yet, when the government and health restrictions were first announced we saw a unique opportunity to undertake a largescale LED upgrade project. It was a proactive improvement our team could be working on while our centres were quieter than usual,” he explains.
“We worked closely with key decision-makers in the business to make sure the proposed fixtures and fittings provided the right lux levels for the upgrade,” he says.
Westfield Doncaster was the first centre selected for the LED upgrade. “Over the course of a few weeks we successfully replaced around 2,800 fixtures and fittings at Doncaster and had initiated similar projects at Westfield Geelong and Westfield Airport West. Those two have now been completed and Westfield Fountain Gate is currently underway,” Oliver continues.
Previously, the lighting in these areas only had two settings: on or off. Now it is fully responsive.
“Due to their in-built motion sensors, the lighting only comes on fully when it’s needed. We have programmed the lights to drop to between 30 per cent and 50 per cent after 10 minutes of no movement, depending on their location. Then, after 30 minutes of no movement, they either drop down to 10 per cent or turn off completely.”
Current modelling shows that when all projects are complete, the energy saving will be around six million kw/h per year or equivalent to the energy required to run over 1,000 four-person family households in Victoria for a year .
Given the projected energy savings, the cost savings are also expected to be significant and thanks to the Victorian Government’s Energy Efficiency Target (VEET) scheme, the upgrades have come at little cost to the business.
Feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive. Retailers at Westfield Airport West have commented that the centre is much lighter and brighter; a more appealing place to be.
But the most notable feedback doesn’t come from employees, retailers or customers, it comes from the broader community.
Antony Roberts is the Retail Manager at Westfield Doncaster. He says the LED upgrade of the centre’s car park has helped address concerns of local residents.
“The always-on lighting in our five-storey car park has been the subject of complaints by some residents in a nearby residential tower block,” he says.
“Although the tower block was built after the car park, we have been looking for a cost-effective solution that would allow us to address the residents’ concerns while still providing adequate and safe lighting in our car park.”
To address this, Oliver sourced lights that were individually controlled by a motion sensor and timer. These lights are only illuminated when needed, and for the ones closest to the residential tower, they have been programmed to switch off completely when not being used.
“Feedback from the tower owners’ corporation has been overwhelmingly positive and has confirmed this has solved the problem completely. It's a win-win-win, we’ve fixed a community issue, the car parks present better than ever and the efficiencies are exactly what we need to reduce our costs and environmental footprint,” says Antony.
Both Antony and Oliver are very proud of the LED upgrades and are keen to credit the whole team. “It’s always wonderful to see everyone pulling together to get a huge project like this across the line,” he says.