Seattle local business news and data – Architecture and Engineering

February 24, 2022

Holistic Heroes: Lighting Designers Use Efficiency and Modeling

  • When it comes to holistic building design solutions, lighting design is often the best place to implement aggressive energy efficiency measures.






    We don’t think of ourselves as superheroes. But sometimes that’s the underlying job description of a lighting designer.

    How? ‘Or’ What?

    When it comes to holistic building design solutions, lighting design is often the best place to implement aggressive energy efficiency measures – this is our chance to be the hero. Code compliance (the bad guy) often limits what the building envelope and HVAC design can deliver. Lighting is where you get the most savings. Both lighting power density and control sequencing factor into savings.

    Traditional energy codes focus on lighting power density and controls in a prescriptive way. However, more and more jurisdictions are replacing these requirements with performance-based energy modeling simulations.

    That’s why our lighting design and sustainability teams are like the Avengers of building design. (Independently, we are strong. Together, we are nearly unstoppable.)

    Our lighting team and our sustainability team work closely together. We share knowledge gained from energy modeling best practices and use it on all projects whether or not an energy model is provided. Using these details for every project results in lower lighting power densities and beautiful design.

    Basically, a holistic approach makes us stronger designers and results in less energy consumption.

    Reviewing an overview of over 60 projects over the past five years, our lighting design team has produced designs that average 35% better than code-mandated performance (2015 or newer codes). These projects perform well from an energy perspective, and many are award-winning for providing lighting design solutions that focus on occupancy comfort and spatial experience.

    In the adaptive reuse of the Chicago Post Office, the design team was challenged to ensure that interior spaces that lack daylight were always bright and vibrant. The highlights of the continuous linear wall washers feature murals and define “neighborhoods”.
    Lighting throughout the Denver Water campus was designed to withstand dark skies and limit light pollution with fully shielded fixtures that create a safe environment for after-hours use.


    Take, for example, our work for Denver Water. A recently completed renovation of its historic 35-acre campus included eight buildings. One was a new 186,000 square foot administration building.

    The resort embodies environmental stewardship at every level, applying sustainable and biophilic design principles. It has received several LEED certifications, including LEED Platinum for the administrative building. The design supports Denver Water if it chooses to pursue WELL Building and Net Zero Energy certification. It’s clear that Denver Water wants to lead by example when it comes to sustainability and workplace wellness.

    With LEED and WELL standards to balance, campus lighting systems have been designed for productivity, user comfort and energy efficiency, adding to the ebb and flow of architectural elements. The shape of the building maximizes daylight and views. Lighting controls include perimeter and skylight daylight harvesting, occupancy sensors, local dimming and task setting. The Administration Building lighting load is 0.53 watts per square foot – 36% better than required by local code and the entire campus is 39% better. Using task lights to improve ambient lighting reduces overall usage.


    Similarly, during tenant improvement work for Delta Dental’s new 55,000 square foot office space, our team focused on both performance and reinforcing the solid biophilic design.

    The natural lighting strategy was the driving force behind this project. In fact, Delta Dental’s system is programmed to give it double the depth of its daylight penetration floor plate as the minimum code dictates. Welcoming and bright offices and conference rooms have glass walls that create transparency and allow light to penetrate between spaces. Occupancy controls and manual dimming give the Delta team the flexibility to customize their lighting experience to meet a variety of needs.

    To increase the daylight, we used multiple shapes and layers of lighting to create warmth and visual interest. Higher wattage doesn’t necessarily equate to a bright space (or a comfortable space, for that matter). We worked closely with the interior design team to optimize the feeling of light in each space.

    Our efforts resulted in a lighting load that was 45% higher than needed, but the spaces are comfortable. The design blends seamlessly into the overall interior design aesthetic.

    Open office workspaces are highlighted with specialty lighting elements, adding warmth and visual interest at Delta Dental in Denver.

    Electric light completes the daylight-lit space of the new Delta Dental practice.


    One of our biggest lighting design challenges came from the adaptive reuse of the historic Chicago Post Office building. Transforming this huge 130,000 square foot floor into a modern and welcoming corporate office required an incredible level of collaboration with the interior design team and creativity from our lighting designers. Adaptive reuse for energy efficiency is a challenge even under the best of circumstances, but the size and layout of this project has taken those challenges to a new level. The huge building did not allow us to add daylight. So instead we used electric light to enhance the space.

    From the start, we knew that the walls would be essential to our strategy. We used them to reflect light back into the space and create a sense of brightness that would make interior spaces feel as light as the daylight-lit perimeter. But continuous linear lighting eats up an energy budget quickly, so we also had to be strategic about where we used it.

    The design team created a concept inspired by local Chicago neighborhoods. Each area is defined by murals and furnishings, including decorative light fixtures, that reflect that area of ​​the city. Linear lighting is focused on vibrant murals. Where there were no murals or accents, the walls were finished in white to reflect light into the space.

    Lighting in open offices and meeting rooms has been carefully placed to provide the highest output on desktops. Intermediate lower levels modulated light over large areas by reducing light levels in areas with no visual tasks, such as hallways and circulation areas. By selecting decorative fixtures with screw sockets, we found LED lights that still met the client’s strict standards.

    In the end, our efforts resulted in a lighting load of 0.38 watts per square foot, 53% better than needed while illuminating the space in an exciting and energetic way that was perfect for the needs of our client company.


    Each of these projects was approached with the performance of the entire space in mind. It was essential that the team take into account the unique needs of each client to achieve the perfect balance between sustainability, well-being and ambiance.

    By doing so, we could exceed energy efficiency expectations, create the best possible work environment, and wear our superhero capes once again.

    Lauren MacLeod is a Principal in the Seattle office of Stantec; Rachel Fitzgerald is Director and Lighting Discipline Manager for Stantec; and Vannessa Pederson is a senior lighting designer at Stantec.

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