Adhering to California's strict energy standards under Title 24 is no easy task, especially when creating a lighting scheme for laboratories that require high light levels. This was the case at the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) on the UCLA campus. Barbara Horton, president and senior principal of New York–based Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design, explains that making the CNSI Title 24 compliant was tough because the labs called for twice as much lighting as the regulations allow. As a result, her design team had to be judicious about the lighting solutions for the rest of the building. “Where we needed 90 footcandles, we had to deliver that, and in other areas we had to make sure we had efficient and appropriate solutions that were lower,” Horton says. With the CNSI open 24 hours to cater to students' schedules, the exterior pathways in the central courtyard needed proper illumination for safety, while the interior necessitated an energy-efficient lighting solution to meet the demands of those working in the building after-hours.

The 189,000-square-foot state-of-the-art research building sits on a narrow, steep lot on UCLA's South Campus, with the main entrance facing the other edifices on the college's Court of Sciences. Adjacent to a parking structure and surrounded by buildings, the CNSI had numerous physical challenges to overcome in addition to the stringent interior demands.

The laboratories had strict requirements for light levels and sealed fixtures that the lighting designers had to keep in mind. As Horton points out, it was a challenge to answer the call for light levels as high as 90 footcandles on a workspace. Horton and her team selected direct/indirect pendant-mounted fluorescent T8 luminaires to illuminate the spaces. With an open louver at the bottom of the fixture, the lighting provides a task/ambient solution.

Illuminated by 150W ceramic discharge metal halide lamps, the central courtyard over the parking facility is intersected by suspended bridges and stairs that connect the building's laboratory and classroom spaces. Brad Feinknopf

One of the most interesting aspects of this project, according to Horton, are the bridges that open up communication between various sides of the building and create an “energy” in the space. A parking structure below—originally considered an obstacle—allowed the architects from New York–based Rafael Viñoly Architects to maximize the building's potential. Today, the partially below-grade seven-story edifice surrounds a central courtyard that is intersected by suspended bridges and stairs above the parking area. Luminaires with an eyebrow feature redirect the light from the 150W ceramic discharge lamps back onto the ground so that the parking structure is illuminated without distracting those in the classrooms or labs. Along perimeter edges of the bridges, fiber optics—also using 150W ceramic discharge lamps—help guide people through the connecting pathways.

In addition to wet and dry laboratories, the building also houses conference rooms and classrooms. A large conference center and lecture room was particularly challenging, Horton says, because it has both a flat floor and ceiling. “I think we had a 10-foot ceiling height in there,” she recalls about the space. “We couldn't pendant-mount anything. We played with a series of ideas and in the end came up with a custom fixture with a 6-inch slot.” The custom linear fluorescent T8 luminaires have a glass lens and are inserted into the ceiling where ambient light is needed. Dimmable PAR38 incandescent downlights highlight the aisle pathways throughout the room.

The laboratories feature linear fluorescent T8 luminaires that offer high light levels while also being Title 24 compliant. Brad Feinknopf

There was not much discussion about daylighting because the building is sandwiched between two other campus buildings, which hinder any long views. Also, since the CNSI is accessible to students 24 hours a day, Horton says that she knew there would be many hours that the building would be in operation without any natural light. Because of this, occupancy sensors are used throughout the building in an effort to save energy and reduce costs.

The CNSI, part of an initiative to create four institutes of science and innovation, allows for collaboration within the state's university system in the science, medical, and engineering disciplines. The building's design fosters communication and unity among its inhabitants, and the lighting scheme supplies adequate illumination in an energy-efficient way—assisting the CNSI in achieving its research and education efforts.

Project UCLA California NanoSystems Institute, Los Angeles
Design Team Rafael Viñoly Architects, New York (architect); HLB Lighting, New York (lighting designer)
Photographer Brad Feinknopf, Columbus, Ohio
Project Size 189,000 square feet
Manufacturers Bega, Lightolier, Litelab, Visual Lighting Technologies