What’s Wrong With This Picture?

A whole lotta lights that don’t need to be on, perhaps?

This photo of the ex-WaMu tower in downtown Seattle was taken as the blazing early afternoon sun flooded through all those floor-to-ceiling windows.   The row of overhead fluorescents nearest the windows can’t possibly be making much difference in the office light levels.  But nevertheless, there they are, uselessly sucking down electricity all day long.  And furthermore, given the current economic climate and recent history of that building, it seems safe to assume that many of those offices are empty anyway.

Meanwhile, all that glass intensifies solar heat gain, which then leads to more energy sucking by air conditioning.  Worst of both worlds.

In the U.S, buildings consume between about 40 to 50 percent of total energy (depending on how the beans are counted), and account for 43 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.    While lighting may not seem like it would use much energy, it acounts for 21 percent of consumption in commercial buildings.  In other words, turning off the lights matters.

The technology for lighting control systems that intelligently monitor ambient light and occupancy is available, relatively inexpensive, and can save significant energy.  How is it that, knowing all that we know, we are still putting up buildings with dumb lighting controls? 

Well, at least one guy was hard at work:

9 Responses to “What’s Wrong With This Picture?”

  1. wes kirkman

    I always wondered why my office can’t have a day without lights. I find it a lot more pleasant for some reason when working on the weekends and I can turn off all the lights and just rely on the sun. Then again, many in the office throw down the blinds and block out that lovely rare sun (not sure why they can’t see the computer screen; I can see mine just fine).

  2. ksb

    Here here… turn those things off.

  3. JoshMahar

    I blame Chase.

  4. dang

    I blame Alan Greenspan…

  5. Lance

    I blame exceptionalism

  6. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    You clearly haven’t seen Chase’s tasteful ads about the future being “brighter” now that they’ve taken over.

  7. yay me

    I’m currently sitting in an office with the lights off… but only on the half of the office closest to the windows.

    What’s really retarded is that we leave our lobby computers on 24/7. Hello?! I started turning them off at night and was told “that’s not what we do.”


  8. Matt the Engineer

    At least the color indicates they’re spectrally selective. Probably something like PPG’s Solarban product. That’s good in that it reflects much of the UV spectrum, keeping much of the heat out. But then spectrally selective glass was designed to let in visible light – something far less useful if you don’t add to it light dimming controls.

  9. RP

    Matt’s right about electric lighting controls – daylighting strategies only save (lighting) energy if the electric lights have good controls that turn off or dim the lights when there’s plenty of daylight, or allow occupants to effectively control the lights.

    Reflecting the “solar” Infrared portion of the spectrum, not so much the UV portion, is what spectrally selective glass (for commercial/air conditioned buildings) is good for.

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