Design Lab Sheds Light on Energy Conservation
by Randy Smith
By the time a building is constructed - and its lighting found wanting - it us usually to late to go "back to the drawing board." Some architects solve this problem by simulating light in space through computer visualizations or physical models. In Seattle's Lighting Design Lab, designers and building operators can mock up an architectural space in its full size. These realistic mockups lead to qualitatively better lighting design and quantitatively superior energy conservation.
The Pacific Northwest is in the throes of the biggest population and construction boom in its history, and energy use is skyrocketing. Electric utility companies are constantly searching for new sources of energy. A rich resource is the energy wasted by inefficient equipment in our buildings. It is usually far less expensive to make efficiency improvements than build new power plants.
Lighting is a large part of the energy equation, especially in commercial buildings. The cost of lighting and removing the heat the lights produce in a typical office building could account for 40 percent of the utility bill. The Lighting Design Lab is often able to show how savings of 30 percent or more are possible, simply by making better design choices. The bonus is that the choices for greater efficiency usually mean better color, lower maintenance, and less flicker and glare.
The Mockup Studio
A 1,200-square-foot (110 square-meter) mockup studio with movable ceilings is the heart of the Lighting Design Lab. A design team can create the final design of a space, down to the last detail, and critically evaluate the success of each component. Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, Nike, and others have saved millions of dollars and thousands of headaches by using this studio. There is no cost for simple mockups, and the charge for complex studies is based on the additional time and materials. Experienced stage technicians and electricians are on call to make sure every detail of the mockup is expertly installed.
NikeTown in Miami won lighting design awards for Candela, an architectural lighting consulting firm in Seattle.
But to test NikeTown's lighting effectiveness, all the Lighting Design Lab's mockup studio needed was a minimal wall, ceiling, and light fixture configuration.
Photo: Lighting Design Lab
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