By Craig DiLouie
Haworth Inc. conceived its new 29,000-square-foot flagship showroom in Chicago's Merchandise Mart to showcase the products and vision that have made it a respected name in office furniture and architectural interiors.
The showroom space, designed by Perkins+Will, includes product display areas, multimedia conferencing, private and open offices, consultation rooms, sample selection zones, and reception and public interaction areas.
"Haworth wanted to provide an exceptional customer experience that showcased the concept of ‘workspaces' which demonstrate full integration of interior architectural systems with Haworth products," says Patrick H. Grzybek, AIA, IES, LC, LEED, senior associate for Perkins+Will/Eva Maddox Branded Environments.
The new showroom aligns product, technology, and engineering to demonstrate that Haworth is not only a furniture manufacturer but also a partner in helping companies integrate furniture with communication and lighting. It also showcases the company's commitment to the sustainable design movement by qualifying for LEED certification.
The lighting had to help tell the story of Haworth by supporting the desired visual narrative and atmosphere while providing a variety of functions.
"The architectural goals for the lighting systems required a high level of flexibility in positioning, aiming, and controlling the lighting environment within the restraint of minimizing energy usage," says Grzybek. "The lighting had to be as integrated as possible with the architectural elements; just as the architectural design supports and emphasizes the product and product messaging, the same was required of the lighting systems."
From the beginning, it was understood that lighting would play a major role, leading to architectural lighting design firm Randy Burkett Lighting Design Inc. joining the design team to orchestrate the showroom's diverse lighting needs.
Haworth's desire for a raised floor to display its underfloor product lines led to creative opportunities such as flush-to-floor vitrines positioned in circulation and other informal interaction spaces. (larger image) PHOTO: CRAIG DUGAN, HEDRICH BLESSING
The first big challenge: integration with the intended design and product displays while enabling the design to adapt to changing space use on an ongoing basis. "Cutting-edge, contemporary architectural and interior design challenged the lighting team to compose creative solutions," says Randy Burkett, FIALD, IES, LC, principal, explaining a goal that would include direct integration of lighting with Haworth's floor, wall, and furniture products throughout the showroom. "High-tech display and marketing strategies demanded careful integration of lighting, lighting controls, and multimedia technologies." This integration had to both be seamless and provide long-term design flexibility.
The second challenge would be accomplishing these goals within the restraints of another major goal: achieving a high level of sustainability. "Haworth wanted to create one of the first Gold-certified LEED-CI design showrooms in North America," says Burkett. "Maximum credits in each lighting-related sustainability category were design absolutes." This meant the lighting load had to be 40 percent below the power densities permitted by Chicago's energy code.
And a final challenge: completing the design and construction quickly to meet the demands of working with a showroom environment in Chicago's Merchandise Mart.
"LEED certification demands, tight budget, high technology-driven client, and a fast-moving, ever-evolving construction process is a volatile mix for the lighting design professional," says Burkett. "You must do some responsive design ‘on the fly' and make sure to keep the ear of the client so that the lighting remains foremost as a critical design element and does not fall prey to the value engineering axe."
The result: a design that exemplifies seamless integration of lighting and technology, drama and functionality, and lighting quality and sustainability. This project not only went on to earn LEED-CI Gold certification but also won the International Interior Design Association's (IIDA) 2006 NeoCon Large Showroom award and an Award of Excellence at the 2005 GE Edison Awards.
Revealed sections of the raised floor, designed to display Haworth's floor support and distribution system products visible through acrylic panels, are lighted with low-voltage 20W MR11 lamps. (larger image) PHOTO: STEVE HALL, HEDRICH BLESSING
Retail/showroom environments demand high-contrast illumination for focal emphasis and dramatic presentation, a goal at odds with a tight energy budget. Meeting the display needs with a budget of 0.7 watts/square foot would be a major challenge.
The lighting design uses T5 fluorescent, compact fluorescent, halogen, and LED lighting systems — all controlled by an advanced control system — to establish a dynamic and dramatic visual environment within a lighting power density of 0.65 watts/square foot. The dedication to efficiency is apparent in the use of occupancy and daylight harvesting controls in enclosed spaces to save energy in addition to dimming, which saves energy but is primarily used for scene- and mood-setting.
"The design concept was to use an active engagement of the showroom's vertical and horizontal planes as dynamic reinforcement of the display and communication message," says Ronald Kurtz, IALD, IES, LEED-AP, associate and senior lighting designer for Randy Burkett Lighting Design. Etched glass walls throughout the space serve to visually organize the showroom, with 12-volt MR16 flush-to-floor accent lights providing a dramatic, luminous revelation.
"Wall sections are independently dimmed to allow a near-imperceptible cross-fading of the luminous surfaces, slowly redefining spatial boundaries," Kurtz adds. "The ability to modulate the showroom's perceived volume was a metaphor for the client's ability to adapt to its constantly evolving industry. Floor and ceiling coves utilize linear LED alignments to provide edge and surface wash differentiation between adjacent or overlapping planes."
General lighting in circulation and other informal interaction zones is provided by recessed dimmable downlights, wall washers, and adjustable accent lights. In addition, Haworth's desire for a raised floor to display its underfloor product lines led to creative opportunities such as flush-to-floor vitrines positioned in these spaces throughout the showroom. Static and programmable color-changing LED fixtures and energy-saving 37W MR16 lamps are integrated into these enclosures and used to highlight products or thematic or branding imagery.
"As vignettes change, light intensity and/or color settings can be tuned or re-established," explains Susan Jennings, Associate IALD, associate with Randy Burkett Lighting Design and the third member of the lighting design team. "This technique allowed support accenting to be positioned within 18 inches of the target, permitting significant wattage reduction."
Haworth's furniture and panel product systems are highlighted in a random pattern using 37W MR16 accents. In areas requiring accent lighting, the design team considered two options - low-wattage ceramic metal halide and low-wattage halogen — and chose 37W MR16 halogen lamps because ceramic metal halide lamps could not be dimmed and were considered too intense for the 8- and 9-foot ceiling heights.
General lighting in circulation and other informal interaction zones is provided by recessed dimmable downlights, wall washers, and adjustable accent lights. (larger image) PHOTO: CRAIG DUGAN, HEDRICH BLESSING
Office furniture, meanwhile, is presented in office and conference room vignettes lighted by cable-mounted suspended linear dimmable T5HO direct/indirect fixtures. Revealed sections of the raised floor, designed to display Haworth's floor support and distribution system products visible through acrylic panels, are lighted with low-voltage 20W MR11 lamps. Additional task lighting is provided by T5 fluorescent lamps integrated into millwork and furniture, an approach that "helped to reduce wattage needs by localizing light sources near critical, higher illuminance tasks," Jennings points out.
A final major visual feature is a 1,200-square-foot reflecting pool, which serves as a base on which glass-enclosed consultation and materials selection rooms appear to float. "The blue-bottom pool is accented from recessed, ceiling-mounted low-voltage 37W MR16 lamps while recessed dimmable downlights, LED, and accent lights combine to provide a warm complement to the dramatic pool surround," says Kurtz.
"Haworth's demand for showroom flexibility stressed the budget from both an energy and cost perspective," Kurtz concludes. (The installed cost for the lighting was $15/square foot.) "Whenever possible, lighting was integrated into furniture (e.g., direct/indirect) and displays (e.g., vitrines, millwork) so that accent lighting would move with reconfigurations. Permanently installed lighting was almost all adjustable to allow retargeting and refocusing as focal points change."
The dimming system also played a key role in achieving flexibility by enabling showroom operators to fine-tune display lighting to achieve proper focal emphasis, fine-tune light levels on luminous planes to create a sense of visual movement, and gain color-changing light effects with LED fixtures.
A 1,200-square-foot reflecting pool serves as a base on which glass-enclosed consultation and materials selection rooms appear to float; the pool is accented by ceiling-mounted MR16 lamps, while the rooms are lighted by downlights and LED and accent lights. (larger image) PHOTO: CRAIG DUGAN, HEDRICH BLESSING
The showroom, completed in June 2004, has since gone through two showroom "seasons" at the Merchandise Mart with some reconfiguration; Burkett says the lighting has adapted well due to the flexibility built into the system.
"When striving to reach lofty energy and sustainability goals such as LEED Gold certification — in projects of inherently high technological complexity such as this one — creative, fully integrated lighting strategies are of paramount importance," says Burkett. "For this and other reasons, it's absolutely critical to get the lighting designer involved as early as possible in projects such as this, where success and longevity depend on a near-seamless integration of design disciplines."
Grzybek says, "The lighting creates a memorable experience that reinforces the Haworth product and messaging and supports the strengths of the architecture.
"The lighting solution represents the advantages of a good collaborative effort involving definition of client and architect's visual and energy conservation objectives combined with lighting and engineering design inventiveness."
Craig DiLouie (email@example.com), a lighting industry journalist, analyst, and marketing consultant, is principal of ZING Communications.