The fast-growing practice of modular building, paired with increasingly versatile, intelligent lighting control solutions, can bring huge benefits to the healthcare services, explains Martyn Frear, Business Development Manager at CP Electronics.

It’s no secret that the UK’s healthcare industry is in a crisis. Nursing shortages; a lack of hospital beds; long waiting times; services and facilities in decline; government cuts – these are just some of the headlines that hit the newspapers daily.
The root cause, if you haven’t guessed it already, is money, or a lack of it. While the debate rumbles on about whether government austerity is right or wrong for the good of the country, it is a reality that must be dealt with.

Thankfully, it can be said that different industries are pulling together in times of hardship. One such example is modular building and lighting controls. This relationship is not only bringing costs of construction down but adding further operational benefits to facilities and staff throughout the country.

Why Modular Buildings?
The practice of modular building refers to structures made up of pre-manufactured sectional units, which are subsequently installed together on-site. While not new, this method of construction has really taken off in the past few years with the Government bringing huge frameworks online for public buildings.

Speed, quality and ease of construction are the three key factors to the growth of modular building. With building sections being manufactured in factory conditions, there is less risk of weather conditions affecting construction schedules and impacting on budgets. The quality is improved, and the sections are delivered to site only when needed. Therefore, materials are not waiting on site and then left to the elements or being susceptible to theft.
The true beauty however is with the ease that they can be put together. The pre-assembled nature of modular buildings mean they can be constructed easier and quicker than traditional bricks and mortar. This then reduces overall time on site and subsequently brings down the cost of construction.
Modular building is not just about the floors, walls and ceilings. The parts that go into the buildings themselves must equally be as fast to fit, install and commission. This includes the lighting control solutions.

Lighting the Way
Traditionally, installing lighting controls meant having to hardwire the controls and lighting control modules (LCMs) into the building. This is a labour and time-intensive task that needs cables to be fed through buildings, up trunking, into riser cupboards and access panels, and requires skilled electricians.
With modular buildings however, hardwiring is not necessary. They are designed to accommodate wiring and LCMs and make it easier to install electrical components into the building fabric. In tandem, modular lighting controls have been honed and developed with this in mind, ensuring they can be installed as quickly as possible.
Most controls are now based on a ‘plug and play’ format, allowing installers to simply take the luminaire and detector leads and plug them straight into the module. Modules can also be supplied with four pole connections or six pole connections to work with switching or dimming controls respectively.

For example, solutions like the Vitesse Modular and Vitesse Plus systems from CP Electronics have been designed to fit with the modular building practice. Extendable and adaptable, these lighting control modules lend themselves better to the fast-fit nature that is demanded from modular construction.

They are also fit for the future, as modular lighting solutions can be easily re-programmed through handsets. This is particularly beneficial as healthcare buildings and units may have different uses over their lifetime, especially as modular buildings have a lifespan of typically 50 years, if not longer.

Lifesaving Technology
Although lighting may not traditionally be considered ‘life-saving’ equipment, when in a hospital scenario, reliable lighting is vital.
For obvious reasons, surgeries cannot be plunged into darkness while in operation. Loss of light also impacts on other hospital functions, leading to patients having to re-book appointments, procedures being put back, and ultimately, more strain on staff and budgets.

To prevent this, lighting in hospitals tend to be divided into essential and non-essential supply (commonly known as 2-circuit), so that even if an outage occurs on one of the circuits, 50 per cent of the lights will still be on.
The difficulty of this, however, is that the number of LCMs is effectively doubled, due to the need for them to be run on different circuits. This then impacts on wiring space and installation times. To this end, Vitesse Modular & Vitesse Plus overcomes this challenge by incorporating a 2-circuit supply in its two-channel switching modules, removing the need for two separate LCMs when used in presence detection or manual only switching. By using the Vitesse Plus you can combine absence switching with manual dimming and daylight linking covering several rooms easily.

Lighting Controls and Modular Buildings – The Miracle Drug?
Ultimately, the continuing drive to save money is likely to continue for some time in the healthcare industry.
A humble lighting control system that switches lights on and off may seem insignificant in comparison to the crisis of nursing shortages, lack of beds, facilities and equipment. However, it is no less important to the future delivery of healthcare services.

With the right planning, modular buildings and controls can easily transform into a significant reduction in energy bills related to lighting. Installation times can be cut down by as much as thirty to fifty per cent, ongoing energy savings can be achieved, and the systems provide a better user experience overall.

For more about CP Electronics, lighting controls and modular building, please visit www.cpelectronics.co.uk.