SL Green Sustainability Director Jason Black on Building a Better Light Bulb

In January, SL Green purchased just over 5,000 four-foot LED tubes from Tristate LED to install throughout its suburban portfolio of 15 buildings in Westchester and Fairfield counties. Jason Black, the Real Estate Investment Trust’s director of sustainability, oversaw the process of choosing the best bulb from literally hundreds of vendors. He spoke to The Commercial Observer last week about how his light bulb selection will save 1.1-megawatt hours and $300,000 worth of electricity annually.

jason black SL Green Sustainability Director Jason Black on Building a Better Light Bulb

Jason Black. Illustration by Paul Kisselev

The Commercial Observer: In only the past five years, the number of LED light bulb vendors has ballooned. How did you determine that Tristate LED’s Seesmart lamp was the best for outfitting common areas like stairwells and mechanical rooms in your suburban portfolio?
Mr. Black: We settled on this product because I worked with the operations team to vet a variety of manufacturers to make a decision based on quality, warranty, where it was manufactured, and price versus energy savings. And, ultimately, we determined that this was the best solution for us.

How many vendors are selling wares? How many did you deal with?

It’s hard to say. It’s easily in the hundreds. You go to the trade show fairs and there’s dozens of start-up companies offering various LED products, and you have to be very careful in what you choose because not only can a lot of products be of poor quality in terms of how it’s manufactured but also the quality of the components within it. But also, what is the stability of the company itself, and trying to be sure that you’re working with companies that have at least a longstanding history and other viable programs that they’ve been successful with over the years, so that if a bulb burns out fours years from now and it’s under warranty I know this company will still exist.

In regard to sustainability, how crucial is finding the right light bulb?

Well, lighting can make up anywhere from, on average, 20 to 25 percent of a building’s annual energy cost, so lighting also tends to be your quickest payback opportunity, particularly when you’re able to combine it with available incentives on the market. So it’s something that you can implement quickly and it’s not technically complex.

What makes one bulb better than another?

If you’re talking about the components itself there’s a couple things: The driver within the device, which is probably the most crucial element, and ensuring that you have a quality component. This is the piece that delivers the energy to create the light within the lamp itself. And different products utilize different quality drivers.

Outside your area of expertise, most people don’t know very much about light bulbs. But they do recognize General Electric. How do they fare with LED technology?

GE definitely is a competing manufacturer who has a lot of product that’s coming out onto the marketplace. But, predominantly, for the type of product that we’ve implemented and are implementing into our buildings, they actually did not have a solution available at this point. So, they are a frontrunner. They’re definitely helping create this market and drive the market, but there are a lot of companies that are also bringing a lot of great things to the table.

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