Comment, IoT/Smart Lighting, Office

The property rule that could transform lighting

Gordon Routedge says that the 3-30-300 ratio developed by property giant JLL could be the key to getting lighting taken seriously in a building project.

BIRMINGHAM has more canals than Venice and you’re never more than six feet from a rat.

Where these clichés originate is lost in the mists of time. Are they accurate? Who knows? But they’re often served up if someone brings up Birmingham – or rats – in a conversation. I’m not suggesting the numerous canals in Birmingham are swollen by a plague of rats.

The adage I’m rather fond of at the moment is the 3 – 30 – 300 rule, which I believe originated from the US property giant JLL

The 3 is $3 the cost per square foot of utilities – lighting, power, heating and cooling – to run a typical commercial office in the US. $30 sq/ft is the cost of the space: rent and property taxes. $300 is the cost of the people employed and occupying the space.

On reflection I’m sure the ratios are probably right and they could easily be calibrated to suit geography and industry. For instance, I’m sure a New York office crammed full of lawyers will be much more expensive than a call centre in India, but the ratios are broadly the same.

It’s no wonder that prime office space is one of the few sectors which has still to witness the mass adoption of LED lighting.

Partly this is due to the landlord and tenant issues. In rented offices the landlord pays for the the lights and the tenant pays for the energy, either directly through metering or mopped up in a wider service charge.

Of course the real reason is, that despite offering a quick return on investment, lighting is part of the 3 and as such is a tiny part in the cost of running a business and is therefore relegated to the bottom of the action pile.

Lighting professionals will argue, and rightly so, that good lighting can improve the wellness of the employees and the perception of the business.

The same can probably be said about plants, chairs and great coffee. This soft stuff is difficult to justify to a hard-nosed financial director and hence, for the vast majority offices remain some of the most depressing spaces on the planet. Unfortunately, these are the spaces in which we spend huge amounts of our time.

What if the lighting could be part of the equation? Does that sound crazy?

But what if the lighting could be part of the 30 and even the 300 equation? A key business tool used to inform decisions about people and places. Does this sound crazy ?

It’s already becoming a reality and potentially one of the most exciting applications for smart lighting.

This is where lighting equipped with sensors and connected as part of the internet of things (IoT) could revolutionise office lighting.

It has the capability to become a system capable of measuring how efficiently a space is being used (the 30) and how productive people in the space are (the 300). 

Early trials with lighting are being conducted on specific areas such as meeting rooms, and are providing useful insights for immediate action. For instance, are any meeting rooms available? What days are meeting rooms not being used? And even, do we have enough meetings rooms?

Use cases can extend to many different applications. For instance, take security. Information from lighting could raise the question why is someone in the accounting office at 1am? Why is a visitor walking around the building unaccompanied? Is everyone out of the building in an emergency situation?

Do you smell a rat here? I’m sure at this point many of you will be thinking about the big brother of privacy. Unfortunately, you’re too late; the privacy train has left the station and the applications described – and many more – are already being deployed, just not through the lighting but also through standalone sensors.

An interview in The Times last month with the founders of commercial office unicorn company We Work revealed that the company has deployed sensors in desks which it claims can measure how engaged with the business an employee is.

However, in return for this kind of monitoring you get a cool hipster space in which to work and free beer. 


  • Learn more about internet-connected lighting and data at Property Technology Live 2018, a self-contained conference and exhibition within LuxLive 2018. The two events take place at London ExCeL on Wednesday 14 November and Thursday 15 November 2018. Entry is free if you pre-register. See more information about Property Technology Live 2018, including the programme, by clicking HERE.