Lighting designers and architects are often so busy working on projects for their clients that they don't devote time to designing their own offices. But for two well-known lighting practices—Lighting Design Alliance (LDA) in Long Beach, Calif., and Focus Lighting in New York —designing a new office was a necessity. Each firm had worked in less-than-ideal conditions for several years and had significantly outgrown their workspaces. LDA had a series of small semi-detached buildings and Focus Lighting had a four-story townhouse on the Upper West Side. After finding real estate that was ripe for transformation—a dark, old auto warehouse for LDA and three adjacent storefronts for Focus—LDA's president Chip Israel and Focus Lighting's principal Paul Gregory knew they needed to act.
For both Israel and Gregory, the chance to build a new office was not just about square footage, but about creating a workspace that would foster communication between staff and serve as laboratory for ideas and strategies. Also, both wanted to implement energy-efficient measures, not merely because they felt it was the right thing to do, but because it was a way to practice what they preach. “I wanted the office to be a place where we could show clients, in real time, what we were communicating in the drawings,” Israel says.
To that end, a range of market-available lighting is on display, from active and passive daylighting systems to solar-fed fiber-optic accent lights. “You can have the best of intentions,” Gregory says. “But you never know if you are doing a good job until the electric bill arrives. That's when you really see if your lighting choices are on target.” With the aid of basic energy monitoring software, both firms have been able to better understand their energy use and how that translates into kilowatt-hours and dollars. “Once you see how the lighting is translating into real-time energy use you can adjust and turn lights on and off so you eliminate the peak periods,” Gregory explains.
The offices have become more than just places for people to work, they represent a communal sense of ownership. “The staff takes great pride in the space,” Israel says. “Everyone is fully invested in it and wants to see it perform to its highest levels.”