Monthly Archives: April 2017

Changes to Lights: You Won’t Recognize Them!

Lights as we know them are changing radically and probably quite fast.
In many technological upgrades, the upgrade is introduced first, but is slowly implemented as it is expensive. But as more competitors get into the business, both raw materials and the manufacturing process drop in cost, so that the upgrade becomes more affordable and with its advantages, takes over the market. This is exactly what we are seeing with LED lights. Initially, many people and companies while recognizing the steep drop in electricity usage, put off purchasing them because the upfront price was so expensive, even with government and utility rebates. But now raw material costs and global competition have forced prices downward, shortening the payback. So much so that many government and utility LED incentive programs are being slashed or even eliminated. Why provide a rebate when the technology is affordable? The payback is shortening so much and LEDs are so useful and reliable that it is a real “no-brainer”.

Similarly, occupancy sensors and other controls will be fairly standard, too. They have become more reliable since the days when sitting still in a room would lead to lights turning off. And, now due to “Alexa”, the whole concept of lighting control has changed.

Which leads me to my main point. Not only is lighting control changing, but the concept of lights is changing. For a century, lights were these bulbs that emit lumens of light after an external signal (electricity) turns on and off the mechanism of burning (in tungsten in an incandescent). A physical effect causing the ability of the bare bulb to produce light. But now, lights are no longer items that just produce light. Lights in a ceiling or outdoors are now becoming little computers that can both do many things and be controlled easily through the internet. Besides being turned on and off, they can be dimmed or made into strobes or other waves, or emit different color light over time, such as dimming or making a warmer tone close to bedtime. The miniaturization that allows a whole host of functions on an easy-to-hold cell phone can allow a simple “light bulb” in a high hat in a ceiling to perform many functions – even outside of lighting, such as being a sensor with a loud alarm or projecting onto a screen.

These functions can be controlled (turned on and off or made more or less intense and timed) using a cell phone or another computer hooked up to the Internet. You have probably already seen how Amazon’s “Alexa” can turn on and off lights (and other appliances and devices) with simple verbal instructions. There may be a day very soon where light switches on the wall are obsolete and no longer designed in buildings, as all lights will be controlled by a human voice. Apple’s “Siri” and Google’s “Home” are moving in this direction, as well.

The major LED light manufacturers (Philips, Cree, Lutron) already sell “smart” bulbs that can be wirelessly controlled though your home’s Wi-Fi. You are probably familiar with those circular timers that are plugged into an outlet and the lamp plug goes into it. When the time is a certain time, the raised portion turns on or off the electricity turning on or off the lamp. This same effect can now be done wirelessly. You can program into your PC or cell phone the times to turn on and off lights (for example, on at sunset, off at bedtime). You can program them to turn on or off groups or individual lights in a room or change their brightness to create the atmosphere you want (for doing desk work, for cooking, for eating, for watching TV) when you want.

The voice-activated systems, like “Alexa”, allow quick changes from programmed timers. Alexa does not have to be in the room with the lights whose timing needs to be changed. Certainly an advantage of any of the voice-activated system is to turn on lights in the dark when one is concerned about falling or tripping. Alexa, of course, operates through Google’s “Echo” voice system, a physically standing system in one or several rooms. Apple does not operate such a system for Siri. One would need to speak into a cell phone to give Siri directions which it could use to control lights. Cell phones are often forgotten or misplaced. A standard Echo system always in a particular room may – for some – be more reliable.

Smart lights can also be used for commercial purposes. Imagine a retail store changing the lighting patterns to emphasize certain products on shelves or mannequins based on the outdoor light and customers present and other factors. Imagine a manufacturing facility adjusting lights to the needs at a particular phase of the manufacturing process.

And – here’s a scary thought after we have spent so much time educating the public on LEDs – may they soon be obsolete? Growing research shows that lasers can be used in many lighting applications successfully and using less energy. Stay tuned.

CCES has the experts to help you evaluate, design, and install the most efficient, sturdy, and flexible lights for your building and usage, while maximizing the financial benefits. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Simple Step To Make Your Workplace (and Home) More Safe and Sustainable

A very simple step you can do to make your workplace more sustainable, healthier, and, ultimately save money is to purchase and use less toxic cleaning supplies. Such a move does not involve great technical planning or effort nor upfront payments. It is simply changing Purchasing policy to regularly purchase only less toxic cleaning supplies.

Cleaning itself is a critical part of any warehouse or industrial facility – or, even a paper-pushing office. Removal of bacteria, fungi, spilled chemicals, etc. rarely occurred in history, as it was not until the 19th century we knew of the “germ” theory that many diseases were caused by microorganisms. Cleaning of any surface, room, carpeting, walls, etc. is important in the maintenance of a well-functioning workplace, and thus, it is important to purchase and use effective cleaning solutions, which also reduces odors, which can be annoying and distracting for workers, and, in some cases, toxic.

The problem is that cleaning detergents, antibacterial cleaning agents, and chemical fragrances used regularly for these functions leave chemicals behind on surfaces, such as walls, floors, desks, equipment, toilets, and countertops. Many of these chemicals are volatile, evaporating into the indoor air we breathe, entering our lungs and blood stream which transport them around our body. Remember, these are effective cleaning solutions because they kill microorganisms; these same compounds can easily get inside us, possibly harming cells and organs and can stay in our bodies for some time. Growing public health literature links some of these compounds to cancer and other diseases. Given the amount of time we stay home, exposure at home to such compounds lead to many calls into poison control centers or emergency rooms.

And if that is not enough of a worry, the USEPA, which is supposed to address and regulate the use of toxic compounds in our environment, has not done a good job overall. TSCA, the main applicable regulation, has only tested and regulated about 1% of the estimated 80,000 potentially toxic compounds in cleaning solutions. States and consumer groups have tried to pick up the slack, but there are still many compounds common in home and office cleaners whose potential effects are not clearly understood.

Fortunately, growing demand has resulted in new alternative products that do a fine job of cleaning surfaces, while using less or non-toxic compounds. It is worth researching what is available, how well they work, and on what surfaces or problem areas. Once acceptable cleaning solutions are found, maintain the list and implement a Purchasing policy that only those brands are procured and used in the future. No hassle, no planning or major expenditure. It all becomes a part of your company’s everyday policy.

And a good way to improve the health, productivity and attendance of your workers, which always makes economic and sustainability sense.

CCES has the experts to help your firm develop and implement policies that will improve your local environment, reduce energy use, and improve productivity. Contact us to discuss today at 914-584-6720 or at

Improving Worker Health And Productivity Through Office Design

Sometimes building owners and managers resist an opportunity to save energy and water costs using the thinking that it’s not worth the hassle, given savings of only hundreds of dollars per month of costs. However, a growing body of research demonstrates that upgrades, such as improving lighting, temperature control, and ventilation will improve workers’ productivity, reduce sick time, and even put them in a better mood. Since most companies are what their workers produce, this can mean cost savings orders of magnitude greater than the direct utility cost savings, and increases in revenue and reputation, too.

A science has been started by engineers and architects on how to incorporate improvements to the office that will improve the health, alertness, and productivity of workers. In fact, this past January, the International Well Building Institute issued its first set of standards for a healthy building, called the Well Building Standard. See

These initial WELL standards for a “healthy” building overlaps with several LEED standards, although LEED standards cover more than healthy, productive workers.

The WELL Building Standards includes many requirements to improve the air, water, light, noise, temperature, nutrition, and other factors in a building. WELL has 100 standards for new and existing buildings with listed “optimizations” for them. Like LEED, one can be Silver, Gold, or Platinum, and must meet certain pre-requisite, as well achieve a certain percentage of the standard optimizations.

Demonstrating this is different from LEED, there standards focus on worker health and comfort only and not on reducing environmental impacts, although many will result in that. For example, there is a WELL standard of having lighting mimic the color and intensity of sunlight and change as the day progresses to imitate circadian rhythms. Not found in LEED, another WELL standard covers only healthy foods in vending machines.

According to the IWBI, there are currently over 300 ongoing projects of buildings trying to reach a WELL certification around the world. Their estimate is that the cost of a typical upgrade meeting WELL certification in office buildings costs about $100 per employee. Given projected improvements in productivity as a result of the changes, reducing sick days and stress in the office and improving alertness and comfort, this is a bargain compared to the likely financial gain these improvements would bring. This being version 1 of the WELL standards, it is likely that in the future standards will be modified and methods to achieve made more efficient to bring down this cost.

Based on research, WELL standards encourage the use of indirect lighting, reducing stress from glare, and using lights that are more blue-enriched which mimics sunlight and results in better sleep quality, improving performance in cognitive tests.

WELL standards encourage greater ventilation of outdoor air based on research that shows reduces both absenteeism and the minor complaints that affect work efficiency (headaches, fatigue, “sick building” syndrome) and improves productivity on tasks.

These are just a couple of the many WELL standards, which have these positive results, but may also upset the office culture, such as taking away the “candy jar”. In addition, some workers have remarked upon entering a new or refurbished building meeting WELL standards that it does not have that “new building smell”, which many people are used to or expect. This means that the carpeting, paint, and furniture that typically create these smells were produced VOC-free.

In addition, WELL standards call for space to be used for items, not typically found in an office, such as showers to encourage people to bike to work or exercise at lunchtime. This raises the cost of space in dollars/employee. In addition, normal procedures are modified, such as the way the office is cleaned, raising costs. However, WELL argues that these changes cause greater financial gains in productivity.

It will be interesting as the first buildings meet WELL certification, exactly how much productivity and worker health will improve.

CCES has the experts to assist you in designing an office upgrade project to meet LEED or WELL standards or just to improve your workers’ productivity and reduce your environmental footprint. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Out-of-the-Box Approaches To Saving Energy

Many articles in this blog/newsletter have been written with conventional approaches to save energy: mainly on new technologies, or applications of old technologies, or behavioral or operational changes. I hope you have taken them seriously, implemented some, and reaped the benefits. If you haven’t, it’s never too late!
But there are other, unconventional approaches – some you have thought about in other contexts – that can successfully save energy, as well. One is using advanced scheduling and resource planning applications and software. This may be relevant to you in order to better utilize resources and staff, to better distribute inventory, to better produce product. But improved scheduling and organization can also save energy. An excellent article in a recent Chemical Engineering Progress discusses this concept well:

Advanced production scheduling (APS) software uses mathematical algorithms and logic to optimize the use of inputs (resources, equipment, and labor) to develop schedules to optimize production or inventory given constraints. By improving equipment effectiveness, reducing changeover and startup timing, and improving supply chain utilization, not only can a facility schedule more effectively and predictably, but it can also save resources. And among the resources saved by more efficient scheduling of processes is energy and, as an extension, energy costs, as well.

Therefore, look into upgrading your scheduling processes, including obtaining the best APS software available for maximum benefits.

Another newer technology that can save energy and costs, but not thought of that way, is the driverless car, something that will likely soon be implemented. Of course, a lot of publicity about driverless cars centers on safety. Can one be driven safely in one’s neighborhood or across the country without an accident (or very few)? One thing that is forgotten is that with software and algorithms, controlling a car (and not a human with limitations and performing actions based on emotions) becomes more direct. The software can determine the true route of the shortest distance travelled, not the guess of a person. The software can control the movement of the car so that it is consistent and has fewer stops and starts. All this should lead to improved gasoline mileage and with that, gasoline costs saved, not to mention air pollution impacts reduced, too. Multiply this by millions of cars driven this way, it could lead to a great savings in overall gasoline or diesel usage worldwide (and improved air quality on the ground level). This is of particular interest in the trucking industry, which would look favorably of reducing labor and fuel usage.

CCES has the experts to help your entity find ways to save energy and energy costs, whether through conventional, proven technical upgrades of existing systems, changes in behavior, or “out-of-the-box” approaches. Contact us for more information today at 914-584-6720 or at