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Building Manager Green Tip

February 2012

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Another Look at LEDs

New CREE LED lighting at 46 Blackstone Street

Though we covered LED technology in the Green Building Tip as recently as last April, rapid changes in the pricing for both LED and fluorescent lighting as well as significant changes to the way incentives are being applied warrant further discussion.

This month's tip also coincides with the re-launch of the O&M Managers' Forum by the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences Green Program.  The bi-monthly meetings are designed to engage building managers, Harvard Office for Sustainability and Green Building Services staff in discussions around a topic relevant to sustainable facilities at Harvard, including sharing of best practices and experiences implementing specific technologies.  Future Green Building Tips will recap lessons learned from these forums as they occur.

A New Path to Incentives

Mass Save Lighting Website

In September 2011 MassSave launched a new upstream incentive program called Bright Opportunities. Oringially this program allowed end users to aquire certain LED downlighting lamps and high efficiency fluorescent fixtures at no cost.  In its current form end-users must pay a minimum of $5 per lamp, and on March 1st, 2012 there will be an adjustment to the incentives offered to the vendors that may affect pricing for some lamps.  

Purchases in the Bright Opportunities program must be made through qualified vendors, a full list of which can be accessed here. They are available only for commercial projects in Massachusetts.

This process differs from more traditional downstream incentive programs where the end-users must pay the full cost of the lamp, submit an application, and then wait for a check from the participating utility.  Upstream programs remove the burden from the end-user, in this case Harvard, and provide incentives upfront without requiring any paperwork and reducing the upfront capital required.

Costs Shifting Rapidly

Not only are the costs of LEDs continuing to decline as many anticipated, the costs of fluorescent lamps are rising due to constraints on rare earth metals used to convert energy into visible light in those lamps.  To cite a few examples, a 5 watt, 250 lumen LED replacement lamp (roughly comparable to a 25W incandescent) has recently been reported below $5 before incentives for the first time. Anecdotal evidence suggests LED replacements for the more typical 60 watt incadescent have dropped roughly 30-35% in the past six months.

The result is that projects that may have been "too expensive" even within the last year may need to be revisited using updated pricing. Green Building Services strongly recommends using the Harvard Life Cycle Costing tool to ensure that the full cost of ownership is considered before making any decisions about lamp replacement.

Green Building Services provides consulting services to ensure that the design, construction and operation of Harvard's built environment has minimal environmental and human health impacts, maximizes occupant comfort and generates an awareness of sustainable design and building operations. To learn more about our work and services, visit http://green.harvard.edu/gbs.