Lighting Design and Revit: Part 2

October 17, 2011 / no comments


Continued from Lighting Design and Revit: Part 1.

Earlier versions of Revit were not really optimized for use in a linked, work-sharing environment; even so, architects, engineers and other consultants in the design trades quickly recognized its value. Strategies for linking each other’s models together efficiently and effectively had to be worked out very early on in a project to keep the design process unimpeded. Later improvements in the software indicated that the developers were aware of the demand for better work-sharing tools and implementation. Now in version 2012, Revit has many new features and functions that greatly improve the ability to host elements to linked geometry.

This makes hosting light fixture families to the geometry of an architect’s model vastly easier, however, it also points out areas that still need attention, namely the fixture families themselves that manufacturers are making available. Previously, before work-sharing was prevalent, many lighting fixture manufacturers only offered ceiling- or wall-hosted families that would not work within a linked model. As it becomes understood that outside consultants now have the ability to host fixtures to linked models, manufacturers are beginning to offer face-based fixture families as well.

Despite all these recent improvements, there is still a tremendous amount of work to do and uncharted territory for lighting designers to navigate. Fixture families from outside sources almost always require modification, shared parameters need to be established with the electrical engineer, a usable fixture schedule needs to be generated, and in-house standards are needed that can be easily adapted for various projects – these are just a few examples. Each project team is still going to have a unique dynamic, with each team member offering different skills, so some flexibility is necessary to truly optimize workflow.

After recently completing what can be called our first Revit project, I realized that we provided all the same information to our client as with previous non-Revit jobs, but in a format that required a lot more upfront consideration and a more thorough understanding of the building’s geometry. Stepping back, I can see that our design is cohesive and well-considered; there’s a connectivity throughout that I think is due in part to the nature of the software.

Now to work on customization and templates to get Revit to better match our project management style!


Image credit: Jenny Cestnik


Lighting Design and Revit: Part 1

July 25, 2011 / no comments


Like it or not, BIM – by which I mean Revit – is here to stay. For smaller firms, Revit may represent a daunting hurdle to overcome, in terms of both cost and learning curve. While I agree the cost is high, once I began to understand how the software functions, I realized it actually forces the entire design team to work in a much closer and more collaborative way; in other words, more like how projects were done before computers.

While claiming that an expensive software platform can actually replicate the design process of yesteryear may seem like a bit of stretch, there are some interesting parallels. Revit functions as a stand-alone tool, but really shines when all the team members using it interact and communicate regularly. Until a project can live reliably on a cloud server so all team members can access the model simultaneously as originally intended, the various disciplines now work on separate models that get linked together on a regular basis to coordinate and resolve conflicts. This regular interaction enables team members to observe each other’s progress, gaining valuable intimacy with the entire project, not just his or her own area.

This current process works reasonably well for the main players on a project – the architect and MEP and structural engineers – but what about lighting, which is such a critical component of a successful project? Shouldn’t lighting also take advantage of Revit? How can a lighting design firm effectively interact in an increasingly BIM-oriented work environment?

As I quickly found out, nobody had really thought much about how smaller consultants could successfully provide Revit deliverables, so we continued to issue 2D CAD lighting layouts that were then recreated in the model by the architect. Eventually it became apparent that this method didn’t make sense, and we began to actively explore a simple and effective workflow with our clients using Revit.

Next month: Part 2.

Image credits: Jonathan LaRocca (1,2)

2011 Lighting Award Season

June 6, 2011 / no comments

Lam Partners is pleased to have received the following awards this year.


Avid Technology, Inc.
Tewksbury, Massachusetts

(Photo credit: © Andrew Bordwin)

Architect: Gensler

Award Recipients: Keith J. Yancey and Nathanael Doak

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts

(Photo Credit: © Anton Grassl/Esto)

Architect: Maki and Associates
Architect: Leers Weinzapfel Associates Architects, Inc.
Electrical Engineer: Cosentini Associates

Award Recipients: Keith J. Yancey and Robert J. Osten, Jr.

Hermann Park Conservancy
Houston, Texas

(Photo Credit: © Scott Adams/Overland Partners Architects)

Architect: Overland Partners Architects
Architect: White Oak Studio Landscape Architecture

Award Recipients: Jennifer Pieszak & Keith J. Yancey


Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island

(Photo Credit: © Peter Vanderwarker)

Architect: Anmahian Winton Architects

Award Recipients: Paul Zaferiou and Justin Brown

Montgomery County
Silver Spring, Maryland

(Photo Credit: © Anton Grassl/Esto)

Architect: Machado and Silvetti Associates, Inc.

Award Recipients: Jennifer Pieszak & Glenn Heinmiller

Avid Technology Corporate Headquarters

February 28, 2011 / no comments

It has been said that you cannot get through a single day without interacting with something that has been influenced by Avid. Since its inception in the late 1980s, Avid Technology has revolutionized the way films and moving images are put together, to become the world leaders in digital video and audio editing tools on both professional and consumer levels.


When Avid decided to move their headquarters to Burlington, Massachusetts, a 200,000-square-foot office space was re-designed with a high-tech polish and bold visuals to reflect the work and accomplishments of this innovative media firm.

The public/client experience begins at the entry lobby, where visitors can watch video feeds projected onto two-story glass vitrines.


The main event is supplied by high-powered projectors; it was necessary to downplay the ambient light in the space in order to avoid conflicting with and washing out the images. A spare array of recessed linear downlights beneath the bridge indicate the beginnings of a recurring visual motif, without overpowering the displays. Incandescent furniture lighting adds warmth and creates a more intimate scale within the tall volume.


Recessed linear fluorescent fixtures define intensely colored portals connecting public areas with semi-private ones. The diffuse acrylic lenses create a crisp, flangeless outline. The corner detail was carefully coordinated, with overlapping fixture configurations ensuring that the glow would wrap uninterrupted into the corners.


The primary program for the project is open offices along the perimeter, with private offices at the core. Product training and conference rooms are designed around the latest in A/V equipment, with a focus on web-based video communication. Low partition walls and nine-foot ceilings allowed the use of a fully indirect, glare-free lighting scheme, with target light levels kept to a minimum to accommodate the high volume of work done on computer screens instead of paper.

Furniture-mounted fixtures relate to team meeting nodes. Wallwashers along the core walls highlight graphics and displays, and help balance the brightness against vast perimeter windows. The unusually wide spacing of the indirect pendant fixtures is due to high-efficiency fixture design with very wide lateral distribution; the minimalist arrangement, combined with concealed furniture-integrated lighting in core offices, puts the emphasis on illuminated surfaces rather than visible hardware.


The main conference room has a broad range of functional requirements, including video-conferencing, large rear-projection video, diverse meetings, and the occasional after-hours cocktail parties. An undulating ceiling was developed to break up the monotonous ceiling plane, and to provide functional lighting from an eye-catching structure. Efficient and economical fluorescent strips provide an ambient glow throughout the room from above stretch fabric panels.

The custom spines crossing the ceiling organize and conceal linear fluorescent downlights interspersed with adjustable halogen downlights, allowing for varying levels of illumination to enable presentations, note-taking, or special events when a little sparkle is needed.

Photo Credits: Nathanael Doak / Lam Partners (1), Andrew Bordwin (2-5)

Healthy Exterior Night Lighting – Is There Such a Thing?

June 7, 2010 / no comments


Many people would argue that the healthiest lighting at night is no lighting at all. Studies are revealing that biological rhythms are offset, sleep patterns are disrupted, even breast and prostate cancers are more likely with disrupted circadian rhythms, due in part to improper lighting at improper times of the day.

The human race evolved under both light and dark. The light-and-dark cycle sets our circadian rhythms and is responsible for our good physical and mental health. Relying on the sun, moon, and stars has for centuries provided us with high-quality, healthy lighting. That’s why there is such an interest in daylighting our buildings, not only to save energy, but to put us in touch with a natural light spectrum that changes throughout the day and provides us with healthy lighting. However, we sometime need to augment this cycle at times when tasks must be performed and there is no available “natural” light.

Exterior lighting provides useful illumination at night mostly through electric means, and there are a plethora of electric light sources available to light our cities, towns, and campuses at night. What’s the best choice? Unfortunately, that question is far too many times answered by “what’s the cheapest?” – cheapest to purchase, operate, and maintain. “What’s the most energy-efficient?” is another, more admirable, question.

Both metrics are easily quantifiable and, as a result, are used almost exclusively in decisions about what light source to use. But since we are primarily lighting for humans, we should be asking “what’s the healthiest lighting to provide at night?” This is a more difficult question to answer. We may find that the healthiest lighting at night is no lighting. But, if we determine that some sort of illumination should be provided for some given task, what kind of light is best?


Most of America’s highways, streets, and pathways are illuminated with high-pressure sodium lamps, a yellow, monochromatic source. Many lighting designers, though, prefer metal halide over sodium vapor due to its “whiter” color and superior color-rendering properties. However, designers have had a tough time justifying this qualitative aspect when compared to the efficiency and long life of sodium.

Then, a number of years ago, studies started to show that cool or bluish light (white light with relatively high color temperatures, 5000K to 6000K) improved visual acuity in off-axis seeing tasks. There was even discussion about measuring this benefit for exterior lighting applications, since off-axis tasks were very important for good nighttime vision, (scotopic) driving, and walking. Finally, designers had a scientific reason for recommending metal halide over sodium for ‘people-centric’ tasks.

On the other side of the coin is the research saying that blue light at night is bad. Studies are starting to reveal that exposure to light with higher concentrations in the blue spectrum at night may actually be bad for our health. Apparently, it is especially harmful to people prone to macular degeneration. Cool blue light in the morning and during the day, at high levels of illumination, is crucial in setting our circadian rhythms by producing serotonin in the body.

Conversely, warm-colored light at night does not suppress melatonin, which is needed for proper sleep cycles. This is why some claim that night lights should be amber or red so as not to disturb sleep patterns through the night, or that people should stop working on their computers or watching TV at least an hour before going to bed, because of blue-rich light emanating from the visual displays.


And then there is the psychological side. Most people prefer a warm tone for low levels of illumination. It feels more natural. The sun gets warmer closer to sunset. Firelight has a nice warm glow. Dimming an incandescent lamp warms its color temperature. Kruithof’s amenity curve reinforces the notion of relating color temperature to the illuminance level.

Just to complicate matters, many exterior applications are beginning to embrace the burgeoning technology of the LED. It seems to make sense from a maintenance standpoint, since LEDs have a very long lamp life. However in order for these diodes to be very efficacious, they must be in the very cool or blue end of the spectrum, about 6000K. When this color temperature is used for outdoor applications of 10lux or less, the resultant lighting system looks very unnatural, not to mention what it does to skin tones.

On the Boston Common, like in many communities across the nation, there is a mock-up of several different styles and manufacturers of LED pedestrian lanterns. One evening, as we were observing the differences between the luminaires, we received an unsolicited opinion from a passer-by who commented on how the warm-white LED lantern looked the best. I tend to agree. The blue light at night simply looks unnatural. I often wonder why induction lighting is not more common for exterior lighting applications – the color temperature and rendering properties are superb, and it is rated at twice the life of most LED systems.

Ultimately it comes down to good lighting design:

1. Identify what needs to be illuminated and what can remain dark, in order to create useful contrast and manage energy usage wisely.

2. Highlight features to reinforce a hierarchy of events and provide orientation for the user.

3. Arrange light sources in clear, understandable patterns to create optical guidance for wayfinding.


A comprehensive nighttime visual environment must provide safety, foster a sense of security, be convenient for performing tasks, and appear aesthetically pleasing. When it comes to choosing the source, it should have a high color-rendering index and a nice warm color somewhere in the 2700K range. And, remember the rule of “everything in moderation”! Providing low levels of well-considered lighting will reveal the environment to the user much more effectively than flooding an area with high levels of potentially glary light, and chances are we’ll all be healthier for it. We won’t be breathing air that is polluted by power plants used to produce electricity to power exterior lighting, and we won’t be subjected to luminous energy that disrupts our biological rhythms. A win-win situation for everyone!

Photo Credits: longhorndave (1), *melody* (2), kevindooley (3), Lam Partners Inc (4)

2010 Lighting Award Season

May 24, 2010 / no comments

Spring has come and our collaborative efforts have been recognized by our peers! Lam Partners is pleased to have received the following awards this year.


The Edwin F. Guth Memorial Award for Interior Lighting Design

Award of Merit

Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art

Johnson County Community College

Overland Park, KS


Architect: Kyu Sung Woo Architects, Inc

Award recipients: Paul Zaferiou and Justin Brown with Derek Porter Studio

Stephen M. Ross School of Business

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI


Architect: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates

Award recipients: Keith Yancey and Carlene Geraci

Taubman Museum of Art

Roanoke, VA


Architect: Randall Stout Architects, Inc.

Award recipients: Paul Zaferiou and Jennifer Pieszak


Award of Merit

Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Univeristy of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI


Architect: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates

Award recipients: Keith Yancey and Carlene Geraci


Harleston Parker Medal for Architectural Excellence

Harry Parker Boathouse (and Ruth W. Somerville Scully Pavilion)

Community Rowing, Brighton, MA


Architect: Anmahian Winton Architects

Award recipients: Paul Zaferiou and Justin Brown

Photo Credits: Tim Hursley (1), Barbara Karant (2), Tim Hursley (3), Micheal Moran (4), Anmahian Winton Architects (5)