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Sustainable Lighting Solutions for Social Landlords

With the built environment producing almost a third of the UK’s carbon emissions, the social housing sector faces increasing pressure to decarbonise rapidly to meet the government’s 2035 and 2050 targets. With lighting a major contributor to emissions, more energy-efficient lighting solutions, such as modern, LED lighting systems, are essential to reduce environmental impact.

Eight out of ten homes that people will live in by 2050 are already built and it is estimated that by mid-century, these will be responsible for 95 percent of built environment emissions. To reduce this impact, the government is now proposing legislation that will make it compulsory for all rented homes to have an EPC rating of C by 2035. This is in addition to the Building Regulations ‘Conservation of Fuel and Power’ Approved Document L Series, which also puts statutory requirements on the development of domestic properties to reduce their environmental impact.  

As a result, social housing organisations and local authorities are tasked with carrying out large scale retrofit projects to their four million properties – an undertaking estimated to cost over £100 billion. Not only do these retrofit projects need to improve areas such as insulation, domestic heating and lighting for the homes; they also need to consider the housing estates, including communal areas, external lighting and the need to install EV chargers to encourage more residents to adopt electric vehicles. Two vital areas of consideration here will be the need to find alternative heating systems for gas boilers and installing LED lighting.  

How LEDs help sustainability 

One way that social housing organisations and local authorities can substantially reduce their carbon footprint is to replace traditional lighting with LEDs and smart LED lighting systems that use far less energy. The incandescent and fluorescent bulbs traditionally found in individual homes and the communal areas of flats and maisonettes are notorious for wasting energy. By converting most of the energy used into heat instead of light, they are highly inefficient and costly to run for both the organisation and its many low-income residents. From an environmental and financial perspective, they are a poor choice for social housing estates. 

LED bulbs, on the other hand, are designed to be far more energy-efficient. Compared to traditional bulbs, their ability to convert the majority of the power they use into light can reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions by as much as 80 percent. If an organisation installed LEDs across its entire housing stock, internally and externally, including communal areas, the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be significant. It would also help individual properties to achieve an EPC rating of C and, by cutting lighting bills, make them more affordable for the tenants to live in. 

Advantages of LED systems

While LED bulbs improve sustainability on their own; the latest LED lighting control systems can have an even more dramatic impact. One major benefit is that they can use sensors to automate the lighting of communal areas, such as foyers, corridors, stairwells, car parks, outdoor play areas and even street lighting. 

A system that incorporates daylight sensors, for instance, can measure the levels of natural daylight within an area and can adjust the lighting of individual bulbs constantly throughout the day to ensure adequate illumination. As a result, safe lighting is provided at the minimal possible cost. On a long corridor, for example, the bulbs farthest away from a natural light source will be brighter than those nearer the window. 

For areas used less frequently, occupancy sensors can be used to ensure that lights are turned off completely when no one is using a space and will come on automatically as soon as someone enters. Again, this ensures safe illumination is provided when needed but that energy costs and CO2 emissions are kept to an absolute minimum. 

LED systems can also be used for emergency lighting, with the added benefit that newer systems have self-testing capabilities. Not only does this reduce the maintenance and testing burden; more advanced systems can relay that information to a remote, centralised control system so that maintenance staff are immediately informed and issues can be rectified promptly. 

LEDs also benefit from a much longer lifespan than other forms of bulbs, lasting over 50,000 hours, on average. On their own, they work continuously for over five and a half years without needing replacement. When used with sensors in an LED system, this can be much longer: by comparison, LEDs used from 9 am to 5 pm in offices can last up to 17 years. This cuts the cost of replacement and the carbon footprint caused through the manufacture, transport and installation of new bulbs. 

Although not carbon-related, the other environmental advantage of LEDs is that, unlike the fluorescent tubes used in many communal areas of social housing, they do not contain harmful materials like mercury.  


Social housing organisations and local authorities face increasing pressure to reduce the environmental impact of the UK’s 4.4 million social homes and housing estates. A key part of that challenge is to cut carbon emissions due to lighting. The most effective solution available today is that LED bulbs and LED lighting systems. Together they can drastically reduce the energy consumption of individual homes and communal areas of flats, maisonettes and housing estates.  

For more information, visit our Industrial and Commercial Lighting page.  

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