Sam Woodward of Lutron believes we've come to a point where we can do 'just about anything' with controls, but manufacturers need to think of the user when designing control systems.

For lighting controls to fulfil their potential, they need to be simpler and better designed, lighting experts and end users have said.

Speaking at the Smart Lighting Controls Europe conference in London today, Sam Woodward of Lutron said: ‘We need to design the control system such that it can save energy without the user noticing. The whole process needs to be user-centric. The first thought needs to be, “How is this going to benefit people inside my building,” not, “How can I annoy the user the most?”’

David Mason, senior sustainability manager at engineering firm Skanska, said that when he started looking into lighting upgrades with controls, the available systems ‘seemed difficult and expensive to install, requiring specialist engineers,’ and had ‘cumbersome interfaces’.

Mason added: ‘It’s not just the user but also the occupier or the facility manager in a building who needs to be able to change the system easily. The facility manager might have a million other things to get their head around, so they might start developing their own approach if it’s not simple.’ He added: ‘Occupiers like something shiny and new, but they’re very quick to dump it if it doesn’t work.

Woodward said: ‘There is a lot of fear and doubt out there about compatibility, and a lot of education is needed. But we’re at an exciting time where we can do just about anything with controls.’

Jeremy Turner of FAB controls pointed out that the requirement for simplicity goes all the way down the installation chain. ‘The guy you’re dealing with isn’t necessarily the guy who’s fitting it, and he might not even be dealing with the guy who’s fitting it. So the system has to be simple to fit.’

Mason added that the increasingly connected and intelligent nature of lighting and other building services can bring new challenges. ‘If everything is joined up, who controls it? I don’t want delays because of this,’ he said.