Energy Savers: Richard Nelson, Residential Building Manager

Released: 15 May, 2014

Sydney Building Manager, Richard Nelson, runs his own building management company servicing premium strata titled apartment complexes in Sydney's inner city. Having a solid understanding of  running costs, he was able to capitalise on the energy & maintenance savings and attractive payback of an LED lighting upgrade in common areas. 

Richard talks to enLighten Australia


How did you hear about the Chamaeleon LED light?

The Strata Manager of one property I manage forwarded me an invitation to join the City of Sydney's Smart Green Apartments program, which offered a free audit by an independent consultant to assess the building's energy & water performance and outline retrofit activities to reduce consumption with an indication of project payback periods.

I signed on with the consent of the Executive Committees of two inner City properties, who were supportive of any measures to reduce their running costs.

What did the environmental audit report show?

The comprehensive report listed LED lighting upgrades of common areas as the most cost effective energy reduction activity to pursue, with payback periods of under 3 years, which was roughly 1/4 the figure for solar PV installation.

Common area lighting accounts for roughly 20% of our electricity consumption, and a higher proportion of our maintenance budget due to the servicing, testing and replacement of failed emergency lighting in the fire stairs and underground car park.

What action did you take next?

We went to market to assess LED lighting product performance. The audit report listed the Chamaeleon multi mode light, manufactured & supplied by Enlighten Australia, as a high performing light with inbuilt microwave sensor that provides two levels of light according to occupancy in the area.

I approached Enlighten & had NSW Business Development Manager Andrew Blundell conduct a lighting audit of the underground car park, fire stairs and garbage rooms, which had fluorescent tube lighting with no controls. The car park and emergency lighting operated 24/7. Andrew specified a range of Chamaeleon models for the selected areas to meet Australian Building Code compliance. Andrew also produced a return on investment analysis which outlined product supply costs, energy and maintenance cost savings out to 5 years and projected payback.

We also looked at 5W LED down lights to replace the 50W halogen down lights in the front of house corridors and lift lobbies. Energy Service Company, Ecovantage supplied the downlights and prepared the documentation for both projects to claim a financial rebate via the sale of Energy Savings Certificates (ESCs) under the NSW Government's Energy Savings Scheme.

What were your key decision factors in selecting LED lighting products

The Executive Committees found assurance in the fact that the Chamaeleon light had been selected for the City of Sydney's own operations in both Council run car parks and their offices at Town Hall House.

We looked at warranty, as the call-out costs to replace emergency lights are high. The 3 year warranty for the Chamaeleon light was 3 times that offered for LED tubes, which only offered 12 months.

The reduction in ongoing maintenance due to the serviceability of the Chamaeleon light was another key factor. The light's design enables a simple removal of the luminaire from the base via a snap lock, which can be done by an onsite handyman and does not require an electrician's service call.

For emergency lights, any failed batteries can be simply replaced via an externally accessible drawer & reconnected back to the base, which is either ceiling or wall mounted. We were paying over $100 per light to replace the battery, which often was stretched to $140 to replace the whole fluorescent luminaire.

What has the residents' response been?

We ran a trial Chamaeleon light in the car park of one property and asked all residents for feedback.  The initial concern of security with the lower level of light in the car park was overcome when it was pointed out that the light's operation aids security by instantaneously switching up to full power on detection of any movement in the space, thereby making it easier to assess who is in the area.

The Executive Committee treasurers have been delighted by the reduction in operating costs. An average 20- 25% reduction for the combined house light & power of the property was achieved by the combination of internal corridor 50W halogen downlight replacements with 5W LED downlights and the Chamaeleon LED replacement of fluorescent tube lighting (including emergency) in the fire stairs and car park.

What drove you to advocate LED lighting upgrades to other properties that you manage?

The energy and maintenance cost savings and project paybacks, pure & simple. With only a 5 minute presentation window at Executive Committee meetings, I let the numbers speak for themselves. As all the buildings that I manage have a minimum of 50 apartments, there was capacity to finance the upfront cost for the lights, which simplified the project approval without the need for external finance. 

From the initial two Smart Green Apartment program most of my other buildings have now also decided to install Chamaeleon light upgrades of fire stairs and underground car parks.

Another key factor was emergency light repair costs, we were paying $8,000-11,000pa to replace emergency lights when trying to achieve the AFSS (Annual Fire Safety Statement) certification. The Chameleons have removed 80% of those costs and will continue to do so because off the three year warranty.

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