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Seamless & Scalable Emergency Lighting Ecosystems

Andy Davies, Mackwell’s Commercial Director, looks at emergency lighting ecosystems and the future of integration with smart building management systems.

Emergency lighting has moved away from manual testing to become a more automated and efficient process. Automated lighting appears as standard in new buildings, yet 80% of the buildings that will exist in 2050 have already been built, meaning that only implementing automation into new buildings limits the ability to produce an automated management system for existing buildings.

Landlords and facilities management teams, who are responsible for the compliance of an entire estate, have a desire for this automation to be reportable remotely and to be scalable both within a building and across estates.

This is what Mackwell is looking to address with the N-Light ecosystem.

The Scalability of N-Light

Originally launched in 2014, the N-Light CONNECT system was seen, at the time, as a breakthrough in emergency lighting automation, thanks to its intuitive interface and ease of installation. Following its success, this product has now evolved into an ecosystem of options, designed for scaling both within large buildings and across entire estates.

The N-Light CONNECT+ DALI emergency lighting test and monitoring system has developed from the original product for 128 devices into a system where a single touch panel can test and monitor up to 1,024 emergency luminaires, making it a suitable and desirable option for very large buildings across a large square metre footprint or many storeys.

To complement this, Mackwell has launched a wireless version of the system, known as N-Light AIR, which provides the ability to more easily retrofit the N-Light functionality into existing buildings, where rewiring may prove challenging. This may be especially desirable in older housing blocks, offices, retail units and heritage buildings, especially where challenges such as asbestos tend to exist.

Finally, both wired and wireless versions of N-Light can be brought together via remote reporting to the N-Light Cloud. This allows facilities management teams to access reports from the system and to see the status of emergency lighting from wherever they are. The cloud system, and the wireless retrofit, can run alongside a wired new build and be visible on a single portal, offering a complete, scalable and integrated monitoring solution that allows wired and wireless monitoring as well as cloud connectivity all in one system.

This innovative emergency lighting system provides ease of monitoring and maintenance, real-time system updates and online test reporting, and multi-site support for monitoring larger buildings and multiple estates. The need for continuous automated safety checks is removed, creating a more efficient and accurate data set. Thus, the N-Light ecosystem removes complexity and focuses on safety, providing a significant benefit that was not available before.

This system has been installed successfully in a recent project for Wealden District Council, a local government district in East Sussex, England. As part of the road to Net Zero, the council is committed to minimising its carbon emissions output. In order to achieve this, as well as create a more streamlined approach to managing council-owned properties throughout the region, Mackwell, along with sister company Energy, Lighting & Compliance (EL&C) installed a cloud-based automatic test system for emergency lighting within 106 blocks of General Needs flats within the district. Across the 106 locations, there is a range of larger blocks, as well as multiple smaller blocks, each consisting of 5-7 emergency lights, situated in corridors, stairwells, and front and rear exits.

Each building had previously relied on traditional emergency lighting, whereby Estate Wardens would have to physically visit each block and manually test that they were working correctly. Given that the 106 blocks span across five postcode areas it was a large geographical area to cover and an extensive process for the monthly testing, in addition to the driving required between sites.

With this new solution, the onsite testing and scope for human error have been completely removed. This has improved the council’s compliance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 as well as allowing smarter use of the system to detect lighting faults and ensuring swift repair or replacement is undertaken to strengthen compliance further.

Looking to the future – how emergency lighting systems can enable smart buildings

Emergency lighting is a fundamental component for all commercial structures, and one that is strategically placed throughout entire buildings and estates. As demand for smart buildings has become increasingly popular, it is becoming more and more apparent that emergency lighting compliance has been an area that has not been easily integrated into the construction and fit-out of multiple smart buildings.

Integrating smart emergency lighting systems with building automation systems can enable a new level and quality of building controls, making facilities safer, more efficient, and easier to manage. This helps buildings to meet energy, safety, and economic goals. Not only is this solution ideal for new buildings, but the wireless systems offer the flexibility for a simplified and less costly solution when retrofitting existing buildings.

As go-to emergency lighting specialists within this broader ecosystem, we believe that safety-critical emergency lighting compliance is paramount to the future of smart buildings, and it begins with emergency lighting systems. At Mackwell, we are successfully integrating our systems within alternative building management systems to create future automation in both existing and new buildings.