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New York Times Building Reduces Lighting Energy by 70 Percent

The New York Times building uses an approach called "total light management" to shave 70 percent off its lighting energy use. Here's how they decided on that approach, how it works, and how it's working. Denis Du Bois interviews Glenn Hughes about the project.

This is a highlight from the Building Priorities Briefing.


Denis Du Bois: On the Building Priorities Briefing program from Greenbuild 2009 in November we talked about three strategies to reduce the cost of lighting. I told you about products for two of those strategies -- more energy-efficient lighting,and natural daylighting.

The third strategy has to do not with the light sources, but with how you control them.

Lighting control systems are certainly not new, but they've been slow to get adopted in mainstream buildings. They do add to the first cost of a building, with the payback coming from energy savings -- from not having lights on when they don't need to be on.

The new New York Times Building (background) in Manhattan, the one that opened in 2007, has 18,000 individually-dimmable fluorescent fixtures and an automated system to control them.

I had a chance to meet with Glenn Hughes, the Director of Construction for The New York Times Company when the paper was building its new headquarters. After two years, there's actual data on the energy savings from a "total light management" approach that controls the electric lights and optimizes the available daylight.

Glenn Hughes: ...We actually built a mock-up. This is back in 2004, before total light management systems were large-scale enough that you could go to other buildings and talk to the owners and find out what was going on. In other words, there weren't any real results or performance statistics out there at that time, so we actually built a mock-up on the southwest corner of our building--4,300 square feet.

And in it, we put their system, other systems from other companies, and when we found out that they could be 99 percent reliable, that's when we made the decision to go with total light management.

Denis: What sort of savings have you realized?

Glenn: In terms of savings, the energy savings that we're talking about are in the range of $1 to $1.50 a square foot every year, so that's the kind of target you can imagine if you use these types of systems, and we're driving it pretty much to the limit because we've pretty much picked every layer of control, every possible control algorithm you can come up with to get more energy savings. We took them all and put them into this system.

And that's one of the nice things about these is, they have--you have choices. You can pick the ones that are right for your building. You don't have to take every single module in the program. We went for everything, and we achieved 72 percent below code--72 percent below code, which I don't know anybody else that's done that yet. But, there'll be others now.

If you understand that you have an opportunity of $1 to $1.50, that affects the relationship between a landlord and whoever is leasing, because the cost of their utilities is going to be significantly less.

So, you put that into play, and if you think about the people in the space--which we did at the "New York Times," because we did a lot of...we read a lot of research -- we didn't do the research ourselves, but we read research like Carnegie-Mellon Institute, Volker Hartkopf and his wife, and they write as the results of their research that four to seven percent improvement and productivity is what you get with systems like this.

Just give me one percent. You give me one of those four to seven percent and our job pays back in six months. It isn't even a year. So, you add energy, you add people, productivity, and there's no job that it won't pay back in under a year.


Does the Government give companies tax credits to people who install lighting controll systems, to possibly recoup some of the initial costs