Understanding Block Lighting

Every year more blocks appear on the skyline. Apartment living is the future for many, especially Londoners, and the quality of design has lead to some really exciting living spaces. However, isn’t it time to overhaul both strategies and attitudes towards block lighting. It may sound like a minor aspect, in the architectural game plan, until something goes wrong, then block managers have to deal with the consequences. Time and again poorly specified fittings and controls installed by developers fail far too soon and are typical starting points for discussion.
Some might say ‘lights are lights’ and why should lighting be any different in a block?
It’s quite simple, block lighting runs through a system and they should be set up very differently compared to domestic lighting. That might be considered common sense but that’s often not the case in blocks large and small. Common faults cost money, use excess energy and cause massive inconvenience to both block managers and tenants. Have you ever worked out how much it costs in time, money and person-power to deal with weekly light failure lists? Well, here’s a list of things that could change the way block managers can eliminate their weekly lighting ‘to do’ lists forever.
6 things you should know about your block lighting
1. Real attention needs to be paid to the commissioning of lighting system controls. Without this, light fittings fail, not once but over and over again. PIR occupancy sensors can damage fittings if they are incorrectly commissioned and installed from the outset. This can be costly because both the fitting and lamp are being damaged. If this happens regularly count up the money spent on replacement and repair, time and hassle and not to mention tenant complaints and poor aesthetic qualities throughout the building.
2. Contractors can sometimes be recalled to a site to fix problems. Ever checked whether they have simply investigated the settings on the control method rather than just reactively repairing the light or replacing the lamp?  There is always a reason and it’s not just the fitting or lamp that’s to blame. Bear in mind that compact 2D Fluorescent Lamps do NOT like being switched frequently, especially from cold. Lighting controls that switch 2D lamps should be set up with a hold time of at least 20minutes as a minimum. This should have been highlighted within the lighting manufactures specification sheets but is often ignored by non-specialist installation teams.
3. Light fittings for communal areas should always be commercially rated types with a minimum of two years’ warranty. The block manager (if taking on a new build) should always request copies of guarantees from manufactures.
4. A professional lighting system design will always save money and energy use. The appropriate number of lights, correct wattage, PIR sensors etc. will ensure systems are not compromised in any way.
5. Combining a lighting design, installation and maintenance package can definitely revolutionise your block lighting and save in every aspect. It will definitely be one less thing to think about as a block manager.
6. Legally every block or building needs emergency lighting. The appropriate standards must be followed. What often gets overlooked is the month-to-month testing and reporting.
Finally, simple common sense will prevent excess energy use.
Why are lights without controls set to stay on all day in naturally lit glazed areas? Why not start to think about lighting systems as an entity that requires a strategy? It’s time to stop taking a ‘fingers crossed’ approach and coping with weekly ‘fail’ lists and rising energy bills.
Failing to plan definitely means planning to fail
That’s true in every sense when it comes to block lighting. With so many new and innovative lighting products available it pays to bring in the experts and sort out troublesome block lighting once and for all.
Jamie Willsdon is Managing Director at Future Lighting 


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