Redefining White

January 29, 2013 / no comments

I remember my first trip to Paris, The City of Lights. But, because I’m a lighting nerd, I couldn’t help finding the yellow headlights on automobiles particularly striking. Probably because it was so different from the headlights I was used to in the United States at the time. Today, however, I’m seeing more and more headlights in the blue range as opposed to the standard incandescent halogen range of about 2900K. Do we see better under cool light, or is it simply a function of the electric source generating the light? Up until the 1940’s or thereabouts, ‘white light’ for interior architectural applications has had a predominantly warm cast to it, mostly because it was generated by candles or incandescent sources. Since World War II and the widespread use of fluorescent sources, we’ve seen our interiors take on cooler color temperatures. With the advent of LED light sources, it is more efficacious to generate light in the blue range than in the warm range. Are we looking at an even ‘cooler’ future in architectural lighting?

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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

Season’s Energy Code Greetings

December 13, 2010 / no comments


With the onset of the holiday season, we have also come to the end of the three-year energy code development season. The new 2010 version of ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1 has been published, and IECC-2012 will be published in April 2011. (No, that’s not a typo. IECC-2012 will be published in 2011. Don’t ask, I have no idea.)

It will be a while – years, probably – before IECC-2012 is adopted by states, and at least a year before 90.1-2010 is incorporated into LEED, but the code development community is already looking towards the next versions of these model energy codes: 90.1-2013 and IECC-2015. So, while designers are currently practicing under energy codes that are at least three years old, code geeks have their heads three years in the future. So, what gifts might the next code development season bring us?

Watch the IECC

Historically, the IECC relied on 90.1 for energy code content. With IECC-2012, the IECC lighting section takes on a life of its own. Expect that trend to continue. While 90.1 will likely remain influential, since the IECC is the actual code that states adopt, the IECC may be where the action is in the future.

Stretch Your Codes

Energy codes only set a minimum acceptable performance (the worst possible building that you can legally build?). Institutions, corporations, and governments that understand this are looking for ways to push their energy use even lower. One way to do this is with “stretch codes” such as the Massachusetts Stretch Energy Code which has been adopted by over forty Massachusetts communities. This Stretch Code is an appendix to IECC-2009 that increases stringency.

Another way to go beyond the minimum is through green building codes such as the new International Green Construction Code (IGCC). Green building codes are intended to have energy performance provisions that are more stringent than base energy codes. Because of this, new energy regulation ideas are being proposed in the IGCC development process. Keeping an eye on the development of the IGCC’s energy chapter may give us an idea of what future energy codes will look like.

These advanced code programs, if adopted widely, will make the designer’s job more complex. Not only will they have to keep track of the applicable energy code in each state, but they will have to know if the municipality is using a stretch energy code or has adopted a green building code with its own separate energy provisions. And they may struggle to design to different and potentially conflicting requirements.

Squeeze Out More – a Lot More!

The pressure is on and will almost certainly continue for the energy codes to be more “efficient”. For the last code cycle, the goal was 30% more “efficient” than 90.1-2004. We don’t know what the target off of 90.1-2010/IECC-2012 will be, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a proposed target of 30%. Those of us who have been thinking about this don’t see how this will be possible with typical building technology, design solutions, and energy code methodology.

Lighting Power Density is currently the preeminent tool for regulating lighting energy use. The push for more efficiency in codes means pressure to lower LPDs even more. But barring an unforeseen leap in technology, we can probably only squeeze a little bit more out of LPDs if we are to maintain high-quality lighting. We may be able to eke out some more savings by expanding even further the requirements for occupancy sensors and daylight responsive controls. But how do we make big reductions – 30%, 50%, eventually all the way down to net-zero?! Daylighting.

In order to significantly reduce lighting energy use, we’re going to have to really use daylight to extensively light our buildings. If codes require this, a radical change in mindset will need to take place – resulting in major changes in building footprints, orientation, and envelope design.

Guaranteeing the Outcomes?

If energy codes are supposed to reduce building energy use, then shouldn’t we be directly regulating it? The common prescriptive code methods use blunt instruments such as LPDs, minimum equipment efficiencies, and R-values to affect how a building is designed. These methods do indirectly affect the energy use of the building, but the energy use itself (how the building is operated) is not regulated.

In an ideal world, the energy code should just tell us what the end result needs to be, and let us decide how to get there. Expect to hear more about EUI (Energy Use Intensity), measured in kBtu per square foot per year. An effective building energy performance-based code will require more robust, but easier to use, energy modeling software. It will also require a change in the way we design buildings – with a truly integrated design process where the whole design team is working together to get the most out of a limited building energy budget.

EUI may be the way to make the codes much more “efficient” and still allow high-quality buildings to be built – but many details, such as dealing with occupancy/operating hours, will have to be worked out. Look for energy codes to start requiring a building energy performance method for buildings of certain types or sizes.

Even if you perform complete energy modeling, and design to a specific annual building energy use limit, all you are doing is predicting how much energy the building will use on the day it opens, if properly commissioned and operated. Every lighting designer has their horror stories of carefully designed (and expensive!) lighting control systems that were never commissioned and/or operated correctly, leaving all the lights on, even when daylight is streaming in or when no one is around. The building meets energy code, but if it isn’t operated correctly and becomes an energy guzzler, then the code is ineffective. Realizing this, code geeks are starting to look at “outcome-based” codes.

An outcome-based code might require building owners to certify actual annual energy use. How will an outcome-based code be enforced? Will buildings someday need to get an annual energy certificate just like an elevator or health department inspection? And what would the penalties be for non-compliance? Will design professionals be held responsible for the performance of a building that they designed but do not operate?

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

As you can see, energy codes are likely to get tougher, get more complicated, and adopt unfamiliar new methods. Building design professional organizations such as the IALD, AIA, IES, and ASHRAE are all actively involved with energy code development. If you are interested in getting involved with code development and are a member of one of these organizations, you can contribute. Happy holidays!

Photo Credit: Phillie Casablanca

Worth a Thousand Words

July 5, 2010 / no comments


As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. This is especially true when studying architectural lighting concepts. With energy codes becoming more and more stringent, and seeking sustainability through power reduction becoming more and more prevalent, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that designing by numbers does not tell the entire story. Although meeting minimum illuminance levels is critical to safety and security, and although reducing electricity demand is critical, balancing brightness, uniformity, and contrast ratios with an understanding of texture and shadow is what really leads to a successful lighting composition.

This is not to say that energy codes and recommended illuminance levels are not important, but rather that they are only one piece of the puzzle – one that must be thoroughly understood, and achieved without sacrificing visual clarity in our designs.


A lighted nighttime environment rendered with 3D computer software can be an invaluable way to communicate a lighting concept and a hierarchy of surface brightness for a space. Seeing the ceiling uniformity and shadows created by structural members can impart important information back to the designers that could easily be missed when designing by numbers alone.


Uplighted coffers and the interplay of shadows on different architectural surfaces can be visualized when accurately modeled, allowing the perceived brightness of a room or building to directly inform the design. Material characteristics can be studied and determined, well before the design is finalized, allowing the designers instant feedback on their decisions.


The catch to all of this is that careful attention must be paid to material attributes and light fixture photometric distributions. Creating a wonderful picture that is not entirely accurate can be worth the wrong thousand words.

Material colors and reflectances must be matched as closely as possible to the intended specifications. Darker or lighter color selections, or polished material finishes rather than matte, can make the rendered image differ significantly from the built form. Photometric accuracy is equally critical. Without realistic light distributions and outputs, information contained within IES data files, the 3D model is nothing more than an artistic rendition.

The lighting designer’s responsibility is to integrate all of this critical information into one cohesive model when rendered images are required. It is the thorough understanding of fixture optics, material reflectances, brightness perception, and uniformity ratios that allow lighted environments to be accurately visualized and studied through computer simulation. The artful layering of light and dark goes far beyond minimum illumination achieved or amount of energy consumed, and sometimes, the picture is worth more than a thousand words.


Photo Credits: Visarc (1a), Nathanael C. Doak / Lam Partners (1b, 5b), Peter Aaron / Esto (3b), Lam Partners (all others)

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)