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Carnegie Mellon Lab Studies Lighting Control and Behavior

Jan. 24, 2018
As part of a project funded by the Department of Energy, CMU installed a networked lighting management system in a research lab that studies the integration of different technologies and their impact on human comfort and performance.

Carnegie Mellon University, as a major research university based in Pittsburgh, has long cultivated a leadership role in bringing new ideas to the market and solving societal challenges. The university’s power is provided entirely by green sources and now it’s working with advanced lighting systems to study the effects of lighting on people’s comfort and performance.

As part of a research project funded by the Department of Energy, CMU worked with Osram Sylvania to install the company’s Encelium networked lighting management system to control the lighting in a 7,000 square foot Robert L. Preger Intelligent Workplace, a research lab that studies the integration of different technologies and their impact on human comfort. In the lab, approximately ten students, seven faculty and staff, and 50 master’s students look at the integration of different technologies and their impact on occupant comfort. The lab uses primarily fluorescent lighting but relies a lot on natural daylight and does not use much artificial lighting during the day.

“In the lab, we look at user behavior and what type of mechanical systems and technologies are needed to maximize performance. We create computer models of a building’s thermal behavior and lighting consumption and how occupants in the structure can be expected to perform,” said Bertrand Lasternas, senior research scientist at Carnegie Mellon University and manager of the lighting system in the lab. “The flexibility of the Encellium system enables us to efficiently support research in the lab while reducing energy consumption.”

CMU uses Encelium to learn about how people use lighting. One interesting early insight came from touch screens installed on the walls to set up scenes and control the lighting in different areas. Typically, with three-button wall controls, the top button provides the highest light output while the middle and bottom buttons control lower light levels. CMU researchers recognized that users automatically push the top button and are satisfied with the full light output, without even trying the lower light levels. CMU used the system to re-program the buttons so that the top button controlled the lower illumination. This one change resulted in energy savings of around 70%, with no decrease in user satisfaction and task performance.

CMU also uses occupancy sensors, timers and daylight sensors to tailor lighting to occupants’ actual needs and is working with user-control such as a new app that allows users to control the lighting from their mobile devices and additional user interfaces like voice recognition for controlling the lights and window blinds.