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Lutron Quantum

Issue 57 Oct / Nov 2010

Lutron’s Quantum light management system was designed for the 52-storey New York Times building. David Morgan takes a closer look at the technical details

Lutron is a company with a proud heritage. Under their founder, Joel Spira, an ex-military engineer they became the first company to introduce a thyristor based dimmer in 1962 and have since become synonymous with lighting control.

Ever since Lutron has continued to lead the way in the control of artificial light to create mood and atmosphere within interiors. However, their systems were not perceived to be particularly geared towards energy saving. In fact, until fairly recently some of the US energy codes precluded the use of wall dimmers as an energy saving device.

With the introduction of the Lutron Quantum system this situation has changed and Lutron seem well placed to benefit from an increasing awareness amongst lighting specifiers that the most cost-effective and sustainable way to save energy used for lighting may be to control light levels and burning hours of conventional light sources rather than to rip out the existing lighting system and change it to a complete LED solution.

The use of daylight is the other key element in any energy-saving interior lighting scheme and Lutron has also become well placed to control the amount of daylight entering a building.

Intriguingly, Lutron had already added window blinds and blind controls to their range many years ago with their Savoia range of mechanised blinds and controls and these have now been integrated with luminaire controls in the Quantum system thus bringing control of daylight together with that of artificial light.

The Quantum system grew out of a single huge project – The New York Times building – a 52-storey office in Manhattan designed by Renzo Piano.

The Vice President of Operations for the New York Times, David Thurm, expressed the organisation’s vision for an extremely energy-efficient new building that would use as much natural light as possible to give a very high quality of working environment and maximum flexibility in the use of space. Glenn Hughes, the Director of Construction for The New York Times building was responsible for turning this vision into a workable solution.

Gensler designed the interior and SBLD was responsible for the lighting design. The project was researched in great detail and even a working mock-up of a corner of the building was constructed under the guidance of the National Laboratory at the University of California to test lighting equipment and controls. Lutron were able to bring together their existing systems with various new developments to provide the complete lighting and energy control system for the building and won the contract. From this project the Quantum system was created.
The New York Times building was designed to use 1.28 watts per sq ft for lighting but after optimising the system actual power levels have now been reduced to 0.38 watts per square foot, a remarkable reduction of 70 per cent.

These savings have been achieved by integrating the use of daylight with artificial light into the same control system. Lutron’s Savoia blinds are controlled by sensors, time clocks and the Lutron Hyperion sun movement mapping system which was developed so that the Quantum system will know the sun’s position relative to the building on any day of the year. This enables blinds to be set at the correct height to effectively manage daylight entering the building thus reducing energy use by lowering solar gain, reducing air conditioning load and glare while maximising comfort and productivity.

In The New York Times project the Quantum system controls the artificial lighting in the building by continuously monitoring light levels with sensors and adjusts dimming levels on more than 18,000 digital ballasts to optimise lighting levels. Individual control of luminaires and blinds is achieved with IR personal controllers.

To develop the Quantum system work meant upgrading a wide variety of existing Lutron products including the familiar Graphic Eye scene setting controllers, Savoia blind controls, wall panels as well as introducing a new proprietary control system that could address the huge number of devices in a large office building while integrating with other building management systems.

New hardware for the system includes the quaintly named Energi Savr Node QS which is a one box DIN rail mountable contoller linking a wide variety of sensors with wall panels and luminaires. An iPhone app is, of course, available so that the system can be set up from your iPhone.
Apparently existing Lutron lighting control systems can now be upgraded to work with the Quantum system without disturbing the installation – a new card is added to the controller rack to make the change.

New software and servers have also been introduced that allow facility managers to monitor and adjust energy use, lighting levels, lighting hours and blind controls directly. This ensures that maximum energy savings can be achieved by fine tuning all the lighting details in the building.

The world of lighting controls has come a long way since that first wall dimmer was invented but it is notable that Lutron has been a leading player in this sector over the whole period. It is intriguing to ponder what they will come up with next.


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