Shook, Wickham, Bishop and Field

Law firm's huge savings from lighting upgrade land Excellence Award

Mary Frances Hill

Just days after accepting honours at the BC Hydro Power Smart Excellence Awards, Pat Field admitted to feeling a little embarrassed.

"I am feeling a little sheepish about winning the award," says Field, a partner in the Campbell River law firm of Shook, Wickham, Bishop and Field.

The Campbell River firm took a Power Smart Excellence Award for the firm's feat of saving a whopping 69% on their monthly lighting costs – the highest percentage of energy savings of all projects by small and medium-sized businesses in the the Product Incentive Program.

"So many businesses I saw at that award ceremony did much more work than we did," Field says. "We did not initiate this. We were just lucky and serendipitous."

Though he's being modest, Field is right, in a way. The luck came to him in the form of Lee Mac Electric, a Campbell River company active in the Power Smart and Product Incentive Programs.

The transformation

Up to the day they welcomed electricians from Lee Mac Electric to conduct an upgrade, everything was business as usual at the firm.

Shook, Wickham, Bishop and Field is the biggest and most comprehensive law firm in its area, with lawyers specializing in everything from wills and estates to criminal matters.

With so much business, and so little time, they could be forgiven for keeping some things off their professional radar.

Their lighting, for instance. At 5,000 square feet, the building, constructed in the early 1970s, served their clients needs as much as their own. Sure, they updated the office with more contemporary fixtures, such as pot lights, over the years, but they weren't aware of just how much they could save if they changed products altogether.

"We were as energy-conscious as a lot of outfits, but in terms of a systematic foundation to roof energy savings program, we didn't have that at all," said Field.

It took Lee Mac's owner Dave McMuldroch to show the partners what they were missing. A quick look around told him the building could do for an upgrade.

The layout is typical for a professional space. Individual offices line the perimeter of each of the two floors. Staff members work in the centre of the floor, with dividers for privacy.

The office has a dropped ceiling with suspended panels, and each light fixture took four fluorescent tubes. Recessed pot lamps over the reception area and accent lighting were functional and attractive.

But they wasted energy and gave off heat, says McMuldroch.

Enter the Product Incentive Program

With rebated products included in the Product Incentive Program, McMuldroch and crew replaced the energy-wasting T-12 bulbs lighting 83 four-lamp fixtures, and nine two-lamp fixtures with efficient lamps.

Those pesky pot lights glowed – and warmed – the space with 150-watt bulbs. With new 23-watt, compact fluorescent bulbs replacing them, "some of the staff there asked for some lights to be removed permanently, it was that bright," McMuldroch says.

Business wise, it was win-win, says Field. "Dave McMuldroch knew about the [Product Incentive Program] and he wanted to get involved. Good for him – he gets the electrical work and good for us, because we cut our electricity bill by a lot.

"But no one had any idea it would be that much."

Surprising air-conditioning savings

The job of replacing the pot lights became a benefit no one could have anticipated.

It took the early June heat wave to notice that they didn't have to use as much air-conditioning power as they usually did in summer. The reason? The new, recessed pot lights haven't been giving off heat.

"Those recessed incandescents put out a lot of heat. Even the fluorescent would put out less heat than they did. That's one thing that did help that we didn't see at all."

The boost that came with the award energized Field and his colleagues, he said.

"We're doing more in terms of our overall commitment to conserving energy, to be more proactive than we have in the past," he said.

Field says the working atmosphere at the law firm is much more pleasant these days, as staff have all noticed a difference in the light quality.

"There's much less glare. It's a nicer light, it's warmer, it's brighter," he said. "We have such a long winter and it's good for morale to have a better quality light."

By the numbers

  • Energy savings (for lighting), annually: 60%
  • Estimated annual savings: $1,085 based on five cents per kilowatt, and based on 3,800 hours of use per year
  • Calculated maintenance savings (on longer-life lamps, and exit signs): $455
  • Total rebate under the Product Incentive Program: $2,643