Bright Ideas

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BrightIdeasIn this column we try to bring facility-centric ideas to the forefront that are generally off the radar, but that can have a positive return on investment, customer loyalty and employee morale.

From the time we started doing facility consulting, there is one area in particular that has evolved exponentially over the past 10 to 15 years.

My hope is to shed some “light” on this topic.

As you no doubt guessed, the topic is lighting. Lighting has a considerable impact on both capital expenditures and yearly operating expenses. It also has an impact on the showroom.

Lighting can also be one of the most complicated construction items for dealers to understand. There are so many different descriptions and acronyms, including HID, Metal Halide, fluorescent, T5, T8, LED, Housings, fixtures, bulbs, CRI, and Foot Candles — it is enough to make your head spin.

The good news is that the leap in LED technology (Light Emitting Diode) may actually simplify how lighting is presented and understood.

If you are considering a new build or renovation in the next few years, it is very likely that you will be looking at LED technology.

LED has come a long way in the last 18 months alone. Two years ago we could not spec LED’s in a showroom with a ceiling height of 20 feet, as the overall quality of light was only effective and efficient to around 12 feet.

Only now, our first two-story showrooms are being built with LED, and dealers, suppliers, investors and the maintenance personnel all seem pretty happy about the technology. Of course, this assumes the lighting package was specified and implemented properly.

My objective is to arm you with a roadmap and a list of questions that you can ask your electrical engineer, lighting consultant and electrician.

The basic fundamentals of lighting are actually quite similar to those of a diamond: colour, clarity, carat and cut.

The ultimate goal of lighting in a showroom environment is to replicate natural daylight. Not only does it show off the paint colour of the product, but also it reduces the chances that your customer will see a different colour after the vehicle has been purchased and is driven outside.

There is a colour spectrum in lighting that is called “CRI,” which stands for Colour Rendition Index. CRI uses a benchmark of 100 to represent the colour as it would be seen by the human eye in natural daylight.

Up until recently, it was not possible to get a CRI of 90 with LED fixtures in a two-storey showroom.

We are now seeing these numbers as being obtainable, and we estimate that fixture prices will continue to drop in the 80 – 85+ CRI range.

In our experience, we recommend a CRI factor of at least 80 or higher for the right quality of light in a showroom environment.

I like to think of the ‘carat’ as the output of the light. This is where you will get into the power of the light fixture in terms of watts and the reading of light OUTPUT in terms of Lumens and “Foot Candles.”

Foot candles are akin to “horsepower.” Think of Foot Candles as the number of candles required to provide a level of light.
Also, think of foot candles in three dimensions. The output differs as you move further away from the fixture. Ideally, you want to read and understand the level of light at vehicle height, not at the ceiling height.

Our recommendation is to have 60-80 foot candles at vehicle (+/- three feet high) and possibly up to 100 of them for feature car displays.

Generally speaking, there are two ways to light a room. Ambient lighting is used to provide the base light levels over the entire area. Meanwhile, directional lighting (or spotlighting) is used to illuminate the vehicles.

Directional lighting is best focused on the side of the vehicles to specifically highlighting attractive curves and angles in the unique design of each car. In our experience, using a combination of ambient and spotlighting works well to limit hot spots and shadows in a showroom.

Beyond understanding the terms above, it is important you have the right combination of consultants and plans provided to ensure successful lighting implementation.

We recommend you commission a lighting study and have all of your stakeholders look at it and provide comments and approvals.

A lighting study is like a heat map. The lighting layout is overlaid on your floor plans and shows how bright (or dark) the various areas of your showroom will be. This is an important check and balance to ensure what was designed by your consultants will function the way the design intends, and maximize the display of your vehicles in the showroom.

Lastly, we recommend running multiple circuits. This gives you more flexibility when it comes to shutting off different lights. Depending on the time of day and orientation of your showroom, you may not require all of the lights.

Conversely, at night you may want to have more lights on, but not so many that your electricity costs are more than you would like.

There is a cost premium to adding more circuits, and it does add to the complexity of your project. However, electronic monitoring systems are making it more manageable to observe, assess and adjust which lights are on and off at any given time.

There are even apps that allow you to adjust lights remotely. We also recommend you check with your local electrical authority for potential rebates or subsidies.

Lighting has a profound impact on people, as well as upfront and ongoing costs. It is definitely something to keep a close eye on throughout the construction or renovation process.

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