The educational sector has never had to be more adaptable and resilient in order to succeed. Amidst the tides of restricting budgets and rising expectations, schools and universities have to provide high standards of education whilst attending to broader objectives such as social inclusion, eradicating poverty, contributing to economic growth, and nurturing sustainable culture and communities. All these issues inevitably require the funds to tackle them appropriately.

The educational sector has never had to be more adaptable and resilient in order to succeed. Amidst the tides of restricting budgets and rising expectations, schools and universities have to provide high standards of education whilst attending to broader objectives such as social inclusion, eradicating poverty, contributing to economic growth, and nurturing sustainable culture and communities. All these issues inevitably require the funds to tackle them appropriately.

What has this got to do with lighting? Well, the answer, quite simply comes down to money. Energy-efficient lighting upgrades have become increasingly popular with schools and colleges, as they can generate significant financial savings through one simple, affordable and immediate solution.

With lighting amounting to roughly 40% of an average school’s utility bill, high-quality LED sources such as the latest LM80-verified Lumileds LEDs utilised by Dextra Group, can offer energy savings of approximately 70% compared to conventional HID or fluorescent sources. Add intelligent sensor control to the equation, and both the financial and environmental viability of a building will drastically improve, with new systems offering clients extremely fast payback rates and prolonged returns on investment.

The durability and long-life of these LED chips also guarantees a significant reduction in maintenance costs, as not only do they have a lower failure rate compared to conventional lamps, but also offer a lumen maintenance (measure of sustained brightness) of up to 90% for the first 60,000 hours. Luminaires can therefore perform as they were originally intended, for longer, without the expense and disruption of frequently servicing them.

With the government constantly setting new targets towards achieving a low-carbon economy, investments into LED upgrades in all sectors, are often encouraged through a number of sponsored funding programmes and tax incentives. Dextra Group for example, has been supplying educational establishments around the UK with ECA compliant luminaires and control technology, which are eligible to a 100% tax levy upon purchase. In addition, energy-efficient lighting also enhances an establishment’s performance in the nationwide Carbon Reduction Commitment scheme, leading to further financial benefits.

For the public sector, efficiency measures such as these are a godsend, as they allow for taxpayer money to be used more effectively to deliver the best education possible to the UK population.

Coleg Gwent and the “Invest to Save” fund

Coleg Gwent, one of the largest and best performing colleges in Wales, recently signed up for the “Invest to Save – Green Growth” funding programme, offering a flexible, interest-free loan to transform its estate and infrastructure. The programme, developed in a collaboration between Salix Finance and the Welsh Government, is largely modelled on the existing SEELS (Salix Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme), whose precept is to repay loans with the energy savings of a proposed efficiency scheme. Successful applications require well-defined and researched procurement strategies and design proposals, showing a clear prospect for both financial and environmental sustainability in the long-run whilst involving reputable consultants and suppliers.

As the contract was tendered against an open market, many lighting manufacturers and suppliers flooded in to be involved in the project. As Coleg Gwent boasts a number of green credentials, including being the only Further Education organisation in Wales to achieve ISO 9001, ISO 14001, BS OHSAS 18001 and Level 5 of the Green Dragon Environmental Management Standards, it ran a meticulous selection process, requiring all candidates to be on the same page with regards to sustainability and present a long list of documentation to demonstrate their competence. Coleg Gwent has also been an EAUC (Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges) member since 2011, taking an extra step towards achieving the collective goal of a zero carbon economy.

Dextra Group’s international and British standard certifications, ample insurance and liability covers, and multiple industry awards were instrumental in securing the contract, as was the ability to produce this information promptly and efficiently. However, this would’ve meant very little if the products did not meet the college’s high standards and specific needs. By producing a range of sample products, Coleg Gwent were able to perform a thorough inspection, scrutinising each luminaire for their performance, energy-efficiency and look.

Successfully clearing this stage, Dextra Group’s design and specification team and LDD’s appointed consultants, surveyed the five campuses in question on multiple occasions, to design the most efficient, cost-effective bespoke solution possible for Coleg Gwent. and Camelot Electrical’s technicians were responsible for installing Dextra’s new lighting systems in a diverse set of locations including: engineering and construction workshops, an equestrian centre, dressing rooms, fashion studios, corridors and stairwells. The new lighting was destined to work alongside existing biomass boilers, solar panels, voltage optimisation transformers, and natural ventilation systems to minimise the estate’s carbon footprint.

From design, manufacture, payback calculations, insurances and delivery right through to commissioning support and legal disposal of old fixtures, Dextra Group worked quickly and efficiently within the tight schedules common to the educational sector. During this time, staff and students alike were offered an induction session on the system’s sensor control functions features.

“From design, manufacture, payback calculations, insurances and delivery right through to commissioning support and legal disposal of old fixtures, Dextra Group worked quickly and efficiently within the tight schedules common to the educational sector.”


To provide the most efficient and cost-effective solution for each area, a wide spectrum of luminaires and lighting controls were carefully selected from Dexeco, Dextra Lighting and Dexsor product ranges.

Eco Impervia LED – Construction Centre / Equestrian Centre (Manége) / Auto Tech Assessment Centre / Engineering and Carpentry Workshop

Various versions of the Eco Impervia LED were specified for high-level areas requiring additional protection, premium performance and integral sensor control. The luminaire’s IP65-rated glass reinforced polyester (GRP) construction and polycarbonate diffuser are ideal for both interior and exterior applications, offering increased protection for dirty, dusty and potentially wet areas such as the construction, engineering and carpentry workshops. The luminaire’s cover is also secured by sturdy stainless steel clips with screw fixings to provide tooled access as per regulations. As the name suggest, the luminaire is designed to be eco-friendly, minimising energy consumption by using the latest Lumileds LEDs and Tridonic control gear. This technology, paired with efficient optic design, allows the

luminaire to offer an LOR of 90% while performing at an average efficiency of 140 luminaire lumens per circuit watt, making it an ideal choice for low energy projects. To add to these energy saving properties, a number of integral sensor control and dimming options are made available with this range.

In all the designated areas, luminaires were assembled with integral sensors from Dexsor’s Reacta range, including the R25E microwave sensor, which offers accurate presence detection when paired with the system’s digital dimming function. In other locations requiring both daylight and presence detection, luminaires were installed with the R44 sensor; maximising savings by responding to occupancy patterns and harvesting daylight savings simultaneously.

LED technology has also allowed the luminaire to be manufactured in a wide range of output packages, starting from a 2464llm, to as high as 18,630llm, without compromising full compliance to ECA energy-efficiency criteria. With multiple lumen outputs, body sizes and configurations (twin or single), the ECO Impervia can be tailored to the exact requirements of each design brief, maximising efficiency and performance whilst adapting to the building’s architecture.

Ecopack LED – Engineering & Carpentry Workshop

The Ecopack LED was selected to minimise energy and maintenance costs, raise light levels and perform a cost-effective installation in the technical workshops. The luminaire features a matching footprint to a typical fluorescent batten, enabling a quick one-to-one replacement of existing fittings. A practical rear spine with an incorporated gear tray and diffuser with quick release push buttons also allowed for hassle-free electrical connection and mounting onto the ceiling beams. Compatible with a range of integral sensors and dimming options, the Ecopack brought the functionality of Dexsor’s R44 sensor, which includes presence detection, daylight regulation and remote control programming, without incurring the cost of extra modifications to the external wiring needed for standalone sensors. Camelot Electrical’s technicians were therefore able to mount and commission the entire system quickly and easily to satisfy the clients exact needs.

In terms of performance, the ECA and L2 compliant luminaire combines a high-transmission curved opal diffuser with industry leading Lumileds LED sources to offer high LORs at an average efficiency of 130llm. With lumen outputs of up to 7992llm and a range of optics across three luminaire sizes, designers have the flexibility to tailor this product to a variety of room sizes and ceiling heights. Due to the workshop’s high ceilings of over 5m, a high-rack optic was supplied to provide a more directional light distribution at the desired lux level and uniform coverage. Sensor lenses were also adapted to offer the most suitable detection range for each area.

Graduate Recessed and Graduate Linear LED – Admin Offices, Circulation Areas, Fashion Department

The Graduate family of LED luminaries has become increasingly popular amongst educational establishments across the UK, combining versatility and aesthetic appeal with the premium performance, low-maintenance and efficiency of LED in a single affordable package.

With high-efficiency polycarbonate diffusers and a steel gear-tray secured by screw-retained end caps, the Graduate LED extracts the most out of its high-quality Lumileds LED chipboard and provides the durability needed to withstand the rigours of a busy college environment. Its robust construction, high LORs and extended lumen maintenance ensure that the luminaire performs with minimal maintenance whilst operating at an average efficiency of 130llm/W. For further protection, IP40-rated gaskets are also available, helping reduce maintenance costs over the luminaire’s lifetime. The Graduate LED is not engineered purely for functionality however, it also offers an attractive minimalist aesthetic, designed with modern educational establishments in mind.

With a wide range of lumen outputs of up to 11,734llm across four body sizes and a choice of installation formats, the Graduate LED was easily adapted to a variety of ceiling of types and different sized rooms. Surface mount options were utilised in the concrete and wooden ceilings in certain stairwells and corridors respectively, whilst others were mounted onto a network of metal tracks and beams in the dressing rooms and corridors. To maximise returns on investment, the Graduate Led was also delivered fully assembled, and features a removable gear-tray for quick, simple and cost-effective installation. For further flexibility, four-point suspension kits are also available upon request.

Integral sensors with varying detection ranges and functions with integral sensors, were provided in each area depending on the ceiling height and the expected daylight and occupancy levels. The Reacta 25 microwave sensor was specified to offer a combination of digitally controlled functions including a bi-level corridor mode which dims output to a minimum of 10% when the corridors are left unoccupied and bright-out sensor which switches the luminaire on when there is sufficient light in the area or when no presence is detected. As all the sensors are incorporated within the luminaire, further returns on investments were made by avoiding the need to install additional BUS cabling with standalone alternatives.

For the offices with suspended ceiling grid systems, the Graduate Recessed LED was installed offering BSEN 12464 compliant glare control for maximum visual comfort for staff using computers and other VDUs. Available in a wide range of output packages, sizes and installation formats (lay-in or pull-up), the luminaire can be customised to suit the exact requirements of the application. A practical air-handling option is also available with this product, allowing for installations to integrate lighting and ventilation systems with minimal modifications to the ceiling.

Amenity Decorative LED – Lobby, Seating Areas, Learner Services Reception & Corridors

The Amenity Decorative LED is designed to combine aesthetic appeal with the low energy and maintenance benefits of LED. This highly versatile bulkhead can be tailored to suit the practical and decorative requirements of each application, with output packages between 1234llm and 3271llm, a selection of angled optics in different finishes, and various colour rendering and temperature options.

For flexibility at the point installation, the luminaire can be either surface mounted or semi-recessed depending on the wall or ceiling in question. The AMED LED also offers a range of control options by combining integral R25 microwave presence sensors and photocells with compatibility to all mainstream dimming functions.

Comtec LED – Canteen

The Comtec LED is engineered to enable fast and cost-effective replacement of existing fluorescent/HID down lights. With a larger sized diameter of 210mm, matching that of conventional fittings, this LED alternative allowed for a one-to-one upgrade of the previous fittings in the canteen, avoiding the costs of modifying the ceiling to accommodate the new installation. Adaptor rings, custom bezels and a range of coloured attachments can also be supplied with this product for larger cut-outs in both plasterboard ceilings and ceiling tiles, as well as to harmonise with the interior design. Premium performance, energy-efficiency and low-maintenance are exemplified in this ECA compliant luminaire, with the latest Lumileds LEDs and highly efficient optic design delivering LORs of over 90% at an efficiency of up to 118llm depending on the output chosen. Available with Touch Dim and DALI dimming options and compatibility with a selection of standalone sensors, the Comtec LED can also offer intelligent lighting control for a wide range of applications.

Other products used in this project include the versatile and efficient MODLED Slim recessed luminaire for reception and circulation areas and the sturdy and reliable Hydra LED weatherproof batten luminaire, which was surface-mounted in storage and utility areas requiring minimal maintenance and full IP65 protection from dirt, dust and water ingress.

All luminaires featured in this project are available with multiple emergency lighting options. Integral 3-hour, self-test monitoring versions were installed in strategic locations, avoiding the extra time and expense of fitting additional standalone emergency units where required. Auto-test versions can also be supplied to reduce the maintenance costs of ensuring the batteries are fully-charged and emergency drivers are fully functional on a periodic basis.

Dexreco – Award-winning WEEE disposal and recycling service

Among its many ecological efforts, Coleg Gwen is also known for going the extra mile with its waste management. With a thorough tendering process and consolidation of its waste contracts, it now holds an impressive recycle rate of 86.6%, far exceeding the Welsh Government’s requirement of 70% by 2025. To fulfil this ongoing commitment to the environment, the college made full of use of Dexreco Ltd – Dextra Group plc’s AATF registered luminaire recycling subsidiary who quickly and conveniently collected and recycled obsolete light fixtures from the premises in accordance to WEEE regulations.

Dexreco is a vital node in Dextra Group’s sustainable network of operations. In 2014 alone, it recycled a total of 189,989 light fittings and the number is rising, regularly adopting measures such as using the “back load” of Dextra’s vehicles returning from deliveries, to minimise pollution on our roads. Dexreco has proved a valuable resource in making waste management as efficient and hassle-free as possible for clients across the UK, whilst reducing the overall carbon footprint in the final step of the supply chain.

The Results

Since the completion of the project, Dextra Group has stayed in close contact with Mr Maddox from Coleg Gwent’s Electrical Engineer Estates & Facilities Department, to ensure the new systems are smoothly running and for any extra support. Due to the success of this partnership, Mr Maddox asked Dextra’s team to join him in a follow-up ‘Invest to Save’ renovation project scheduled for later this year.

Having an energy fund from the Carbon Trust Advanced Metering Monitoring and Targeting (AMM&T) equipment, the college will be able to track resulting energy savings generated by the new lighting accurately and in real time. The estimated energy savings for the upgrade are comfortably between 60 and 70% compared to the previous system, which will allow the college to repay the interest free loan within 5 years from the date of completion and look forward to continued financial benefits in the long-term.

Content correct at time of writing.

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