Keeping the occupants of your interior safe is a critical concern to lighting designers as well as architects. Illuminating escape routes and specifying the correct fixtures that can withstand fire and smoke is the concern of the designer through to the electrician. Of course there are fire officers and building inspectors on hand to check our work; however, a collective responsibility still remains.
In the past, emergency lighting was ugly and bulky units, mainly due to the need to incorporate lead batteries and to drive power hungry halogen lights. Of course, as with all things lighting LED is bringing a major change to the category – at last! Here we look at the opportunity that solid state lighting provides and we include a short refresher of the regulations that apply to fire safety and lighting schemes.
Emergency Lighting Regulations in Brief
Emergency lighting should illuminate paths to all exits of a building. In particular, emergency lights should give light to any building feature that would be difficult to navigate in the dark, such as stairs and ramps.
• The Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997 require where necessary: Emergency routes and exits must be indicated by signs and emergency routes and exits requiring illumination shall be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity in the case of failure of their normal lighting.
• BS 5266 part 1 is the ‘Code of practice for the emergency lighting of premises other than cinemas and certain other specified premises used for entertainment’. Compliance with this standard is a requirement of various Government documents such as the Building Regulations.
• The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations require that: Permanent signboards must be used to indicate the location and direction of emergency escape routes..… and clarifies: “Signboard” means a sign which is rendered visible by lighting of a sufficient intensity. Signs requiring a power source must be provided with a guaranteed emergency supply …..
The Future of Emergency Lighting with LED
When we talk of Emergency lighting we are primarily concerned with battery life rather than how many Watts are taken from the grid. Energy efficient LED is the perfect partner for batteries and lifetimes have been extended substantially. Recent developments in power cell technology, including Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) units, will continue to deliver increases in storage capacity in ever decreasing packages. Therefore, we have a major opportunity to reduce the physical size of emergency lighting units overall, as well as to enable emergency features to be incorporated within existing retrofit lamps and luminaires. In the future – all LED luminaires may become emergency lights with onboard batteries. That will be one way of making these systems invisible when not operational. Certainly, moves are afoot to redesign the bug-eyed double spotlight unit in a steel box that offends the eye in most public buildings!
With the advent of LED has arrived miniaturisation. Small fittings that conceal the source of light are widely used in aesthetic interiors. Emergency lighting units will also gain from a reduction in size. For example, tiny downlights have the capacity to provide sufficient illumination to light emergency exit routes when activated and can be installed discretely within the fabric of a room.
Emergency systems must be maintained and checked regularly to ensure that they are fully operational. This process can be laborious, especially in buildings that have many sensors like hotels and office buildings. The perfect partnership between LED and digital control components points the way to onboard “self-testing” features that will become increasingly available as an option across emergency ranges soon. A simple indicator light will confirm healthy battery pack and sensor functionality at a glance, with all the necessary tests undertaken seamlessly by the unit itself.
Obviously, hiding an emergency exit sign would defeat the object! However, some clever LED sidelit signage is available that is less cumbersome and installs neatly within a scheme. Emergencies are not meant to be glamorous – the challenge is to gear the emergency scheme up behind the scenes as an invisible detail – ready for when danger strikes. LED is certainly delivering designs that do not conflict with the aesthetics of a scheme.
Call us to enquire on any aspect of an emergency scheme and advice on how to remain compliant in your next public space or work environment.
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