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: