In Houston, an urban lighting scheme encourages people to look at the moon and stars

New York–based consultancy L’Observatoire International has taken an unusual approach to designing a lighting scheme for a public park in Houston, Texas: Rather than illuminate what’s below, the lighting draws attention to the night sky. The design is part of a larger $15 million revitalization of the park, which is located on a 10-mile stretch of land along the Buffalo Bayou, a narrow waterway that snakes through the city’s center. A local nonprofit, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, manages the funding and is overseeing restoration work, which will be completed in time for the park’s opening on June 10.

During the new moon, the park is awash in soft blue light, preserving views of the stars, as the full moon approaches, blue light is replaced by white.

As part of a program to incorporate public art into the park, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership invited Massachusetts artist Steven Korns to design a lighting masterplan for the site in 2001. Korns, in turn, asked L’Observatoire principal Hervv Descottes to collaborate on the design. The team decided to pursue an urban lighting scheme that would respond to the cycle of the moon.

I really wanted to connect the low-level pathways with something celestial,, said Descottes. With lighting pollution, there is a lack of a sense of the existential. I think we all need to connect with the cosmos to get a new perspective, to know that we actually live in a much bigger space..

The entire system, which includes lighting the park’s pathways and bridges, is set to the 291/2-day lunar cycle and each night the lights along the path change in a linear pattern. Beginning with the center bridge and moving outward on either side (the site contains 7 bridges), powerful blue-filtered lights below the bridges turn on, one by one, as the new moon approaches. By the time of the new moon, all of the lights will be on. The lampposts that line the pathways will also be a part of the ballet. Each will be topped with a small orb containing LEDs. As the new moon approaches, they will turn from white to blue, starting from the center bridge and spreading outward, until all the orbs and bridges are glowing blue. Conversely, as the full moon approaches, the lights turn back from blue to white as the bridge lights turn off. Simply put: The park is white for the full moon, and mostly blue for the new moon.

The idea was that with the new moon, maybe you don’t need so much light because the sky is so clear, this way you have an opportunity to see the stars,, said Descottes. He added that with the blue light you get a sense of brightness but without glare. To further minimize the glare, the lights under bridges only appear blue or not at all. During the full moon, then, only the path lights and the orbs on top of them are illuminated, while the area under the bridges stays darkened. According to Descottes, this decision was in part budgetary ($600,000 was allocated for the lighting of the project), but also came about because the designers wanted to preserve the long shadows cast by the moon at its strongest.

The lights are all managed and synchronized by computer. In order to maximize the system’s efficiency, the same wire that regulates the LEDs also powers them. The color of the lights was determined after testing several trial mock-ups; the blue and white combination not only minimizes interference but also refers to the changing color of light that the moon emits depending on its phase and the time of day.

Courtesy L’Observatoire International

The new lighting scheme is only one of many larger improvements throughout the park. The entire project includes public art projects, new hiking and cycling trails, streets, stairways, ramps, and landscape treatments along the water’s edge including the installation of berms and flood controls. Buffalo Bayou couldn’t be happier with the outcome of the lighting project. Said Anne Olsen, president of the nonprofit : Hervv and Steven demonstrated that subtle lighting can be beautiful and give a feeling of safety to an area that has been traditionally desolate at night.. Jaffer Kolb is an editor at an.


LEDs light a hotel in Spain and provide a colorful map of its daily solar diet
In today’s digitally driven world, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are as elemental to mass communication as the pony was to the Pony Express. In the realm of sustainable architecture, the photovoltaic cell has an equally ubiquitous reputation as the basic building block for greater and more complex mechanisms.

The mesh screen will all but disappear at night, leaving multi-colored leds that seem to float. During the day, the screen will shade the building, passively conserving energy.

Increasingly, the two are united for applications in architecture, most notably in lighting systems in areas that are without electrical wiring. The two might seem at oddssLED screens suggest energy consumption on the spectacular level of Times Square, while photovoltaics retain a whiff of hay bale earnestnesssbut the two can be paired with interesting results. By devising a metal mesh studded with thousands of photovoltaically-powered LEDs, the Spanish architect Enric Ruiz-Geli has done just this for the Habitat Hotel, a project that will be completed in a suburb of Barcelona next year. Ruiz-Geli collaborated with Acconci Studio on landscaping and Brazilian architect Ruy Ohtake on the building design, while the lighting design was done entirely in house by Ruiz-Geli’s firm, Cloud 9. The mesh wrapper begins to glow at night based on the amount and quality of the light the solar cells have taken in over the course of the day.

The building itself is a fairly regular and boxy 11-level volume with a few step-backs and terraces on the upper three levels. A series of metal posts jut out diagonally from the corners of the building, providing a loose skeleton upon which a largely transparent metal-link mesh drapes. The mesh screen is relatively fluid in profile, with parabolic concavities determined by the posts that give the curtain’s grid a curvilinear appearance. The drape is comprised of a dense circuit of 5,000 hemispherical lighting units, each of which contains a photovoltaic receptor as well as a standard LED.

During the day, the photovoltaic receptors collect solar energyythe amount of which will vary widely depending on factors including sun angle, strength, number of daylight hours, cloud cover, and ambient pollutionnand store this energy to a standard solar battery. As soon as the sun sets, the computer notifies a microprocessor in each unit that activates the batteries to power the LEDs. In that instant, all 5,000 LEDs simultaneously turn on, displaying a rainbow of colors determined by the level of energy collected. LEDs operate by combining red, green, and blue to create different colors, red requiring the least energy and white the most. Thus, if the receptor has collected a small amount of energy, the light will shine a dim red. From that point, the LEDs respectively emit green, blue, yellow, magenta, cyan, and ultimately white as determined by increased energy levels. The drape becomes a three-dimensional diagram of its own solar diet. At sunrise, the lights turn back off, and the receptors begin collecting energy once again.

Lighting Fixture Detail
1 Green translucent plastic base
2 Curved glass
3 Photovoltaic cell
4 Cable mesh
5 Batteries
6 Structural silicon joint

This union of ecology and technology may seem like a sort of narcissistic advertising gimmick at first, but the mesh is, to its credit, more than that. The hemispherical cells are large enough and far away enough from the volume beneath to cast shadows on 20 percent of the building’s total surface area, substantially reducing the buildings cooling costs. The architect likens the cells to the leaves of a tree, passively providing shade during the day to anyone below it. Beneath the drape, small trees, plants, and pools are placed on the building’s various setbacks and terraces to further enhance the building’s unique microclimate. Barcelona, perched just a half degree north of New York’s latitude, experiences a similarly broad range of temperature variation; the building’s sensitivity to climate changes demonstrates the architect’s understanding of regional needs. Despite the self-sustaining efficiency of the mesh drape, the building itself will be powered by Barcelona’s electrical grid.

While the building falls short of truly being able to call itself a card-carrying member of the sustainability party, the use of the hybrid photovoltaic-powered LED units is an exciting development in both technology and aesthetics. Considering that contemporary architecture must become increasingly communicative and sustainable, particularly in large urban centers, Habitat Hotel is an exceptional example of how to be passive and active at the same time.

Peter Christensen is curatorial assistant in the Department of Architecture and Design at moma. The Habitat Hotel was included in moma’s recent exhibition On-Site: New Architecture in Spain.


Natural daylighting regains popularity among energy-conscious architects
Daylight has always been an integral part of architecture, but in the past ten years there has been a decided shift in natural lighting trends: Designers are putting more time and energy toward integrating effective daylighting schemes in their architecture and developers are increasingly willing to support them despite often higher costs.

This is due in part to a growing body of research that links well day-lit buildings to energy savings as well as improved human performance. One study, conducted by the Heschong Mahone Group of Sacramento, measured the performance of students taking standardized tests in day-lit and non-day-lit rooms. The scores of those in day-lit rooms rose as much as 26 percent more than those in rooms without windows. Another Heschong Mahone study showed that day-lit retail stores experience 40 percent higher sales.

Naturally ventilated and day lit, the Benjamin Franklin Elementary School designed by Mahlum Architects won the AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects Award for 2006. below right: Tanteri + Associates’ recent restoration of the museo de arte de ponce (puerto rico, designed in 1964 by edward durell stone) features new skylights that eliminate the need for artificial lighting.

There are also now more daylighting resources available to architects. Six years ago there were only three labs in the country that conducted daylight testing. Now there are 20.

There has been an attitude change as a result of the growing knowledge being disseminated,, said Russ Leslie, a program director at the Lighting Research Center in Troy, New York. The Lighting Research Center is a university-based center that’s running a multi-year joint research program called Daylight Dividends. The $1.3 billion program, launched in 2003, has received funding from the U. S. Department of Energy, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and energy interests in California, Connecticut, Iowa, North Carolina, and the Pacific Northwest. Aimed at facilitating the implementation of daylight strategies in buildings, the program involves market research and technology development.

Leslie credits the Pacific Northwest for reviving the natural daylighting craze. Northwest architects are very proactive about promoting daylighting in buildings. They’ve been running outreach programs there for the past ten years..

michael tanteri / courtesy tanteri + associates

Joel Loveland, director of the Seattle Daylighting Lab, which offers consulting services to architects, likes to mention a study conducted by Pacific Gas & Electric in the late 1980s, which asked architects if they included daylighting as a strategy. Ninety percent said yes, but when investigated it turned out that less than 3 percent actually conducted any analysis.

Today people are actually being held accountable for the performance of day-lit buildings,, said Loveland. Projects that seek LEED certification are now getting points for daylighting. And California’s 2006 Title 24, a bill that has had a ripple effect on legislation throughout the country, requires daylighting in a large portion of commercial buildings.

The Seattle Daylighting Lab utilizes sophisticated machinery to conduct its analysis of building models, including mirror-box, overcast sky, and heliodon sun simulators, and digital photographic and light-flux metering equipment, but Loveland is dismissive of the tendency to make his work sound high-tech. Daylighting isn’t rocket science,, said Loveland. It’s putting windows and skylights in the right place to evenly distribute light and it’s removing or shading windows that would lead to glare or head loading..

Loveland and the Daylighting Lab recently worked on the Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Kirkland, Washington, a 58,000-square-foot, two-story school designed by Mahlum Architects of Seattle. The school is broken into volumes that are clustered around courtyards; all interiors are naturally ventilated and day lit. The architects worked with the Daylighting Lab from the early design stages to help determine massing and alignment, devising strategies such as adjusting roof angles, minimizing apertures, and installing blinds and other window treatments.

Benjamin Benschneider / Courtesy Mahlum Architects

But daylighting a building in the Pacific Northwest and daylighting a building in New York City are two different challenges. Skyscrapers are huge energy consumers,, said Matthew Tanteri, a New Yorkkbased daylighting consultant who also teaches at Parsons. They are conceived with a complete disconnect between inside and outside.. Perimeter daylighting, which is all that is generally available in a skyscraper, relies on an aperture-height-to-depth ratiooone that in many tall buildings is not sufficient to adequately daylight an interior. Now, there are light-capturing and funneling devices that can bring daylight down into at least the top few floors,, he noted.

In spite of these challenges, Tanteri said that daylighting awareness is on the rise in New York City, in part due to the energy code which now requires buildings to consume less that 1 watt per square foot. Reaching this goal is complicated by the fact that buildings in New York City take longer to cool off due to its high density. Manhattan is a huge heat sink,, said Tanteri. It can be 50 degrees outside and you still have to have the air conditioning on inside..

As part of his efforts to promote the use of daylight, Tanteri is also working with the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America to develop a metric for quantifying daylight. In Europe such a measurement already exists. Known as Daylighting Autonomy, it measures the percentage of time daylight will fulfill a target illumination and offers a direct understanding of how much the daylighting load will take off electric lighting. If you have an understandable and commonly used metric to quantify daylighitng then it’s easier to get a building owner to understand the benefits,, said Tanteri. Aaron Seward is a frequent contributor to an.


The country’s premiere lighting research center burns brighly
You hear them all the time: proclamations about all things light-relatedd?LEDs last 100,000 hourss; Xenon headlights allow you to see 300 yards further than halogenss; You need a minimum of 4 hours, 5 minutes, and 53 seconds of sunlight each day to stay healthyy?but who determines them? Who tests them and checks up on them? Much of what we know about lighting comes from the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at the School of Architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s (RPI) in Troy, New York. Founded in 1988, the center is dedicated to testing, exploring, and inventing lighting technologies.

Computer models of specific sites allow transportation lighting researchers to determine light trespassing,, the amount of light that moves between lots and into the roadways.

At the LRC, faculty and students participate in various research projects funded by private and public sources, such as Sylvania, Boeing, the states of New York and California, the Environmental Protection Agency, and many others. The facility plays an important part in the school’s lighting programs; RPI offers a master’s degree in lighting design and doctorate in architecture with a concentration in lighting design, the only PhD in lighting in the country. At any given time there are between 12 and 25 students and 33 staff members occupying 25,000 square feet of renovated space in the Gurley Building, previously a scientific-instrument manufacturing factory.

While the LRC (and RPI in general) is perceived as engineering-oriented, Russ Leslie, associate director at the center, countered, We aren’t divorced from design, but we do approach design as something that requires extensive research and an understanding of precedent.. With its ties to industry and technology development, it’s no surprise that one strong goal of the center is, in Leslie’s words, to produce industry leaders who can effect change in policy, a generation that will work intimately with the government and groups to devise strategies that can really improve quality of life..

Courtesy Lighting Research Center
The NLPIP monitors thousands of light bulbs from various manufacturers to test for longevity and brightness.

The largest programs at LRC encompass research in light and health, transportation lighting, energy efficiency, solid-state lighting, lighting metrics, as well as product testing. According to Leslie, the LRC operates on a yearly budget of $4 to $6 million, with only 3 percent coming from RPI. The rest is funded through grants, which explains why a tour of the Gurley Building is like walking through a fun house of experiments, where every few feet another mock-up or project-in-development is aglow.

Dr. Maria Figueiro, a professor at the LRC and director of the light and health program, describes the center’s research as mostly bound by a goal of measuring and testing. You can make any statement you want about something like circadian rhythms or light and productivity, but someone out there needs to quantify them and make recommendations based on research findings..

The light and health programs do extensive testing of, for example, how exposure to varying levels of light can prevent breast cancer and stimulate people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Most of our research has only been going on for only two or three years, so we can’t make specific recommendations yet,, said Figueiro, but we’re getting an idea of what we can tell people to make a difference..

The LRC created a mockup of an airport runway to determine how much solar-powered LED-emitted light is needed to safely guide pilots in areas with little or unreliable electricity.

As part of its transportation lighting program, the LRC is involved in projects ranging from testing headlights for automobile manufacturers to overhauling federal roadway guidelines for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP). One ongoing research project is the study of the effects of lighttfrom houses, buildings, signs, lampposts, any possible source from every possible angleeon drivers. We try and look at the all things as part of the larger system,, said Dr. John Van Derlofske, head of the program.

A light device that is used to test how varying levels of light can regulate people’s circadian rhythms.

The LRC strives to act as a regulatory force in the lighting industry. To this end, in 1990, it established the National Lighting Product Information Program (NLPIP), a product-testing division that is increasingly regarded by the industry as an objective third-party rating source. And recently, it created a division dedicated to determining and implementing a universal lighting metric system that would allow consumers and manufacturers to better relate to lighting products and systems. Soon, we might all share the conviction of LRC researchers, that light really can better the mind, body, spirit, and the world around us. JK


Turn on the lights, heat up the Jacuzzi, pull down the shadessall from a single control

Courtesy Available Light
The systems of this house, now under construction in Gladwell, Pennsylvania, will be interconnected and controllable from anywhere in the world.

Smart Houses have been on the horizon for some time nowwa promise of a techno-gadget heaven for some and of Orwellian terror for others. With computers increasingly integrated in building systems and appliances, that vision is coming closer to reality, accompanied by the emergence of systems-integration specialists.

Systems integration creates a network among a building’s systems such as HVAC, lighting, audio-visual, security, even plumbing. The way that information is exchanged is becoming increasingly important,, said Abhay Wadhwa, founder of Available Light, a New Yorkkbased lighting firm that has collaborated with Philadelphia architecture firm Point B Design on a technologically integrated house in Gladwell, Pennsylvania. Systems integration must begin early in the design process, with a consultant advising both architects and technical consultants, ensuring, for example, that physical components, such as built-in audio-visual systems and lighting fixtures, are designed around pipelines and electrical wiring. Such planning can also ensure better performance, overlaying the varying functions of the house on a power grid. If a load changes from fluorescent to incandescent, your wattage could rise ten times on the circuit,, said Wadhwa. This would be hard to handle, typically, but the model will tell you exactly what effects may be produced in terms of the rest of the building’s mechanics.. Practically speaking, this kind of holistic approach to planning the infrastructure of a building saves time and money by reducing redundancies. Rather than each consultant producing diagrams and plans that later have to be compiled and cross-checked, a systems integration consultant orchestrates planning from the outset.

Once the systems are installed, the smart environment is essentially a convenient method of management for the building’s occupant. In the Gladwell residence, which broke ground in October and will be completed in early 2007, the entertainment system (television, projectors, sound), HVAC, and security (which includes motion and fire detectors) are all connected to a single processor which is in turn linked to an automated mechanical and plumbing processor. This processor is linked not only to the thermostats throughout the house, but also to the water pressure gauge, the pool drainage and cleaning system, and the hot tub. These systems are connected to an Ethernet-based server that also controls the house’s lighting system.

All systems can be viewed and accessed on small 10-inch touch screens placed throughout the house. Because they are managed through a remote IP account, they can also be monitored and controlled from anywhere in the world. Some might ask, to what end? In the case of the Gladwell project, a 2,500-square-foot art gallery extends from the primary 8,000-square-foot residence, and requires highly flexible lighting, climate, and security systems.

Others point to the comfort and convenience systems integration can provideefrom allaying the fears of vacation-goers who worry about the proverbial coffee pot being left on to elderly or handicapped persons who can sit with their laptop and turn lights on or off throughout the home with the stroke of a computer key. There is one concern that may not be diverted, however: If you can access your home from abroad, who else can? Apparently it’s not a widely held fear, as Available Light has systems integration projects in Hong Kong, New Delhi, Dubai, and New York. JK

Bill Pedersen reimagines the conference room light

Courtesy Ivalo
The systems of this house, now under construction in Gladwell, Pennsylvania, will be interconnected and controllable from anywhere in the world.

Through her six-year-old company Ivalo Lighting, Susan Hakkarainen is proving to be a discerning design patron. It is unlikely, though, that she sees herself as a Medici. In describing her working relationship with her commissioned designerssincluding Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis and Winka Dubbeldammshe said, They are the artists, and I bring the understanding of technology, fabrication, and the market..

New to her list of designers is William Pedersen of Kohn Pedersen Fox , who has designed L’ale, a pendant light which was just unveiled at New York’s ICFF. Susan is an amazing scientist in her own right,, he said, and brings an incredible intensity to finding exactly the right source or fabricator or material.. For L’ale’s 4-foot, 8-inch winglike span to have the crispness and ability to spread light horizontally that Pedersen wanted, Hakkarainen looked into a wide variety of fabrication methods and materials. We wanted a seamlessness for the wings, which meant we couldn’t stamp them since the parts would never mate up; the same is true for injection molding,, she explained. We even looked into superplastic deformationna mixture of thermal forming and stampinggand realized that they would warp in welding.. They ultimately decided to use fiberglass and resin composite in a mold, so that there is no stress on the materials as they cure and thus no disfigurement.

Another important part of Hakkarainen’s contribution to L’aleeand to all of Ivalo’s hanging fixturessis a proprietary technology that allows for incredibly slender electric cables. Between the current-bearing wire and the thin stainless steel-mesh covering are two layers of Teflon. The Teflon allows the cable to glide independently of the outer sleeve, which bears the fixture’s weight, and keeps the structural and current-bearing elements apart.

Before starting a new collaboration, Hakkarainen will often identify a problem or an area in which she feels lighting fixtures could be rethought. This way, she feels, the design process has a tightness it might otherwise lack. It isn’t just arbitrary form-making,, she said. For Pedersen, the problem was the conference room light. The two thought about the dialogue that happens in such a room, and wanted the light to create a spatial intimacy. Pedersen decided that multiple fixtures could imply a canopy more successfully than a single, massive object, or an embracing form, like L’ale’s. It is sort of like a baldacchino in a church,, he said, it creates a sheltered space within a space.. ANNE GUINEY is an editor at an.