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Challenge Retail projects demand a lot of their lighting schemes. No matter the size or cost of an item, the goal remains the same: highlight an object so that the customer will want to purchase it. To date, standard practice has lead clients and designers to believe that fulfilling retail programmatic requirements and cost-effective, energy-efficient designs are mutually exclusive. But as a new lighting approach, developed by Rogier van der Heide and his team at Arup Lighting proves, quality and efficient retail lighting is not an oxymoron.

Architectural and Lighting Solution Van der Heide was first introduced to Louis Vuitton (LV) while working in Seoul, South Korea on Galleria West ("All Dressed Up," Architectural Lighting, Jan/Feb 2005, p.19), a high-end shopping mall whose signature feature is a programmable façade of laminated glass discs. The timing was right; it resulted in van der Heide's design for LV's Galleria corner, storefront location and more long-term collaboration with the company, who was looking to reduce the cost of its interior fit-outs by 30 percent.

Van der Heide's new lighting solution uses an architectural ceiling slot as its primary feature. This concealed, track-based system focuses shoppers' attention on the products, not a brightly lit ceiling. It also enables other firms working on Louis Vuitton stores worldwide to follow a systematized design approach. To facilitate layouts, Arup created a user manual which outlines 15 key interior elements (such as shelving and store window displays), and diagrammatically explains what kind of lights are needed and how to locate them.

Although the luminaires are a custom-designed collaboration between Arup and Louis Vuitton, because they are concealed, the design is straightforward--a bare reflector with a lamp house, and a ballast. And because the lighting scheme has to work around the world, from North America to Europe to Asia, several manufacturers are involved, each supplying their own geographic region. This ensures fixtures will always be in stock and comply with local codes.

Much of the lighting scheme's success goes well beyond the visible aspects of the stores and the lighting quality. For example, by switching to low-wattage (25 and 30) metal halide lamps rather than tungsten, only one round of re-lamping is required during a store's 5-year-average life cycle, in turn reducing maintenance costs by more than 80 percent. Multiply that by 300-plus stores in 44 countries worldwide, and the result is an annual cost savings of millions of dollars. The reduction in lamp heat emissions is also a significant factor, resulting in a 15 percent cost savings for each store's HVAC infrastructure. All told, the new lighting scheme lowers the cost of each store by $35,000.

By reconsidering what constitutes a light fixture and the quantity and location of equipment, Arup has create a flexible, cost-effective, and energy-efficient lighting solution that works no matter the scale or size of a store location. A seemingly simple approach, attention is paid to the lighting design's details. "The result," says van der Heide, "is a chic, understated architectural solution at a competitive price."