Fluorescent lights too bright? It’s a common problem

Fluorescent lights too bright? It’s a common problem
A temporary solution for too-bright lights at the Josephine Mills Centre might be on its way out soon: LED ceiling troffer incentives are now available.

In Burnaby, foundation rethinks big, bright overhead fluorescent lights

The sound of kids laughing is the first thing you hear when you walk in to the Josephine Mills Centre, home of the Down Syndrome Research Foundation.

Named in memory of the woman who started it all, the Josephine Mills Centre is an inviting, two-storey, 11,000-square foot building that sits on a quiet, tree-lined street at the base of Burnaby Mountain. Over the years, it has become a precious resource for children and families in B.C. living with Down syndrome.

Josephine Mills was a passionate supporter of people living with Down syndrome. Under her leadership and guidance, the foundation has become a leading centre of excellence in this field, benefiting thousands of families and children annually through its programs and services. The centre was named in honour of Mills when she passed away in 2008. Soon after, Dawn McKenna — Mills' close friend and colleague — assumed the role of the foundation's executive director, a role she still occupies today.

"I was here in 2001 when the concrete foundation was poured, when the drywall went up, when the electrician wired the building," recalls McKenna. "I know the building intimately." Knowing the building as well as she does, she also knows the woes of working under its big, bright overhead fluorescent lights.

Intensity of light, humming and flickering, distract kids and teachers

Recessed ceiling troffers using T12 fluorescent lamps dot the ceiling in the centre's classrooms, meeting rooms, and offices.

One of the known disadvantages of ceiling troffers using T12 fluorescent lamps is the intensity of light they emit. The light comes straight down from the fixture with very little light angled to the side. There's no lens between the fixture and the human eye, which can, in some cases, cause overhead glare and eyestrain. And then there's their constant humming and flickering, "distractions for even a typical child," says McKenna.

As a work around, teachers at the foundation have hung red and white drapes over the existing ceiling troffers in the centre's playroom and in a few classrooms. Temporary solutions, like the one in place at the foundation, are common.

"When we retrofitted our track lighting last fall [from halogen MR16s to LED MR16s], LED ceiling troffers weren't eligible for a BC Hydro incentive yet," says Sarah Parker, who oversees the foundation's finances. "They are now, so we're going to reach out to our lighting contractor to learn a little bit more about the technology, and the money it could save us on our power bill."

Today, as it strives to provide services to more people with Down syndrome, the foundation is working hard to balance its operating expenses. In the last six years the foundation has doubled the number of programs it provides and more than doubled the number of spaces available for students. And, while the increase in occupancy is a good thing, McKenna and Parker know they'll need to find new ways to save money because their lights will be on longer.

Looking into the money-saving potential of LED ceiling troffers is a great start.