This story was originally published in Architectural Lighting.
A little more than a year ago, Arup Boston moved from the fourth floor of a dated office building in Cambridge to 12,000 square feet on the 10th floor of 60 State Street, just steps from Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall. The building, a 38-story steel-and-glass tower designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 1977, features unusually large windows that provide expansive views of the harbor as well as downtown Boston. However, the quality of the daylight inside the building is somewhat diminished by the heavy tint of the glazing.
“Someone said once that it was basically like the building was wearing sunglasses at all times of day,” says Jennifer Taylor, an architect with Boston-based Dyer Brown, which worked with Arup to design the new office space.
Envisioning a clean, contemporary, open-plan office with democratic access to light and views, Arup opted to gut the office. “Essentially, this whole space was our opportunity to create our own working lighting laboratory,” says Jake Wayne, a senior lighting designer in Arup’s Boston office. Arup’s leadership also gave the project team the freedom to “kick the tires on some new technology and experiment a little bit,” he says.
The project began in early 2016 and took roughly a year, with its lighting scheme being developed between March and August. Early on, Arup decided to pursue both Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and WELL Building Standard (WELL) certifications. In recent years—spurred in part by the International Well Building Institute (WELL’s parent company)—human health and wellness has come to trump more standard concerns (such as water and energy use) as the environmental issue du jour. And although LEED includes criteria that relate to wellness, WELL puts occupant health front and center, with credits for active design and even the type of food on offer by employers.
At the time that Arup embarked on its fit-out, WELL was new enough that Wayne had only a cursory knowledge of what it entailed and Taylor had never heard of it. “So then I started just going into sponge mode,” Taylor says. Both designers familiarized themselves with the WELL handbook, and Wayne consulted with several Arup employees who were WELL-accredited.
Wayne made it his personal goal to meet both WELL and LEED standards without sacrificing aesthetics. “That was a major part of doing this,” Wayne says. “It’s not just about technology. It’s about using that technology but being able to apply it in a very thoughtful architectural design.”
In the new space, workstations and common areas, such as the pantry, are located near the windows. To balance the low quality of the daylight and add brightness to the space, Wayne and Taylor worked together to keep lines clean and the ceiling uncluttered, grouping electrical conduit, sprinkler lines, and ductwork into zones that repeated in each structural bay, generating a visual rhythm across the floor plate. The approach, which Wayne calls “painstaking,” helped the designers create a series of uninterrupted visual planes. “We wanted the ceiling, really, to be our light source,” Wayne says.
Linear pendant luminaires are centered on the structural bays, rather than the furniture systems, reinforcing the symmetry and repetition of the building’s structure and also allowing for future reconfiguration. The pendants provide an even wash of indirect white light on the ceiling, creating a uniformly rich lighting environment and making the space feel more voluminous than it is. (The pendants offer 85 percent indirect illumination to limit glare.)
At the same time, Wayne wanted to push the envelope with circadian lighting, which all too often has been deployed as a “token” feature within a larger space. He thought: “Can’t this be a little bit more comprehensive and integral to the actual design?” To that end, practically every fixture in Arup’s office is programmed to change color temperature, so that the ambient condition of the entire space is aligned with sun. Guided by an astronomical time-clock, which accounts for seasonal changes in sunrise and sunset, the office lighting transitions from 3000K in the morning to 5000K in the midday hours and then return to 3000K in the late afternoon. Natural and electric light are blended together, reinforcing occupants’ circadian rhythms. (Despite the sophistication of the system, the lighting uses just 0.67 watts per square foot, which earned Arup a rebate from the local power utility.)
The lighting design exceeded WELL’s requirements, Wayne says. (And the project eventually earned Gold certification, even though Arup’s target was Silver.) “The fact that we designed in a system of variable-color-temperature lighting throughout our office for the ambient quality of light—that’s fundamentally above and beyond what you would have to do for the circadian lighting if you just wanted to check the box and meet the requirement,” he says. “But we really wanted to take it to that next step and create [an] ambient environment to blend with the daylight that we were getting within the space.”
But like all projects, a level of fine tuning was needed. “I’d love to say that on day one we moved in and everything was beautiful and amazing and worked just like it should right out of the box, but it didn’t,” Wayne adds. “It took months to get everything dialed in just perfectly. When you blend so many new technologies together in a single space, there’s going to be a learning curve.”
In January 2017, Arup’s office became the first WELL-certified project in New England and only the 14th in the world to achieve Gold certification. Reflecting on the project, Wayne says that what surprised him most about WELL was that “if it’s done thoughtfully, it really sets the framework for an incredibly high level of design. I think there’s a perception that it’s a bunch of credits and you check this box and check that box. But they’re [the project reviewers] going to come into your space and they’re going to check all these things out with real people. That takes it to a whole new level.”
Project: Arup Boston • Architect: Dyer Brown, Boston • Lighting Designer: Arup, Boston office • Structural Engineer: Arup • M/E/P Engineer: Commercial Construction Consulting, Boston • Project Size: 16,175 square feet • Project Cost: Withheld • Lighting Cost: Withheld • Watts per Square Foot: 0.67 • Code Compliance: IBC 2009, 780 CMR, 521 CMR, 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design
To learn more about the WELL Building Standard, read Architectural Lighting's Nov/Dec 2017 report, Alive and WELL.
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