Lighting is an essential element of any retail space; it defines the way a merchant presents its identity and the value of its goods. Light can make a shopping experience dark and serious, bright and cheerful, warm and cozy, cool and clean, or colorful and ecstatic. In short, it can summon nearly any mood, which will then transfer directly to the customer and shape his or her shopping habits. “The role of lighting in retail is as important as the shelves to merchandise the products,” says Paul Traynor, principal of London-based Light Bureau. “Without good lighting, the products might as well not exist.” So how does a retailer, especially one expecting to open several locations, achieve a consistent level of quality lighting in its many shops without going over budget? Enter the role of prototyping, to deliver a client's wishes while at the same time being affordable, efficient, easily reproduced, and easily maintained by a sales staff that is not familiar with lighting. It often takes more than one prototype to find the right formula. Rapidly changing lighting technologies mean that solutions that were not possible in last year's prototype may in fact become practicable in the years ahead. In addition to achieving the right effect at the right price, flexibility is crucial.

Chipolte Mexican Grill
One restaurant that has recently spiffed up its image is Chipotle Mexican Grill. The store's previous aesthetic was cozy, but also dark, cluttered, and dense. The company wanted to change its look to something airy, clean, open, and casual, and also to reduce its HVAC and lighting energy usage to meet the current energy code allowances. It hired New York firms Architecture Outfit and Arc Light Design to develop a prototype in a storefront on 45th Street in Manhattan. Thaddeus Briner of Architecture Outfit put forth a concept of applying design to unglamorous, semi-industrial materials such as plywood, sheet rock, and perforated metal, to create a vibrant space that delivered the ambiance Chipotle desired. He also had a challenge for Arc Light Design: Fully integrate the lighting into the layout and design.

“One of the interesting things about the prototype is that it had an 18-foot-high ceiling,” says David Singer, principal of Arch Light Design. “Thaddeus didn't want to put lighting up there because he didn't want to coordinate all the trades or lower the ceiling.” So the designers went to work integrating the lighting scheme into the furniture, the floor, and the walls of the space. They relied heavily on T5 fluorescent lamps, which offered both energy efficiency and a slim 5/8 inch diameter that made them easy to conceal within the architecture.

The designers used the T5s for both up- and downlighting roles, providing direct illumination to the tables as well as ambient illumination. The fixtures were set in a cove at the top of an 8-foot-high folded plywood feature wall that runs along the queing line, as well as in a cove behind the banquet, where they wash the white walls and ceiling with uplight. They were also used in custom-designed perforated metal fixtures that affix to tables or rise from the floor. The fixtures have lamps that shine down onto the tables or up toward the ceiling and are outfitted with gel filters that add warmth to the fluorescent light.

While the T5s handle most of the house lighting, the production line required something more task oriented. Here, the designers used 20W MR16 metal halide lamps housed in a custom metal fixture that cantilevers from the wall. They also used 20W MR16 metal halide fixtures in an uplighting function, embedding them in the floor beneath a feature wall of sculpted Aztec motifs.

The prototype, which was completed three years ago, cost Chipotle $15,000 to light. In subsequent iterations, of which there have been six, the team was able to get that budget down to between $5,000 and $7,000. They did this by making certain alterations such as lowering the ceiling in places to provide more conventional recessed ceiling fixtures, which didn't inhibit the drama of the space. They were also—thanks to advances in technology—able to swap the metal halide lamps for 10W and 15W LED PAR lamps, further decreasing Chipotle's energy usage.

Project: Chipotle Mexican Grill Prototype Store
Client: Chipotle Mexican Grill
Architect: Architecture Outfit, New York
Lighting Designer: Arc Light Design, New York
Lighting Cost: $15,000
Project Size: 2,400 square feet
Watts Per Square Foot: 1.0
Energy Code Compliance: ASHREA 90.1 Energy Code Allowance for Restaurant, which allows 0.9W per square foot for primary lighting plus 1W for decorative lighting for a total of 1.9W per square foot
Photography Credit: David Sundberg/Esto, courtesy Architecture Outfit
Manufacturers: A&L Lighting, Cree, Eco-story LED Lighting Solutions, Hera, and custom architectural housings

Pret A Manger
When it came time for Pret A Manger—a breakfast and lunch restaurant serving quick quality meals for the nine-to-five set—to refresh its image, the company had very specific ideas about what it wanted to accomplish. The chain's store design featured frosty glass and mirrored metallic finishes along with dark red walls and checker-plate floors. This composition combined with the lighting resulted in the unfortunate effect of transforming the shop windows into reflective surfaces, obscuring the interior from the street. For its next iteration, the company wanted to make the interior cozier, while at the same time making it more visible from the street.

Pret A Manger hired London-based interior design firm David Collins Studio and lighting designers Light Bureau to develop a solution for them at a new store on New Oxford Street in London's Bloomsbury district. Working together throughout the conceptual phase, the team warmed up the restaurant's materials palette, replacing many of the metal surfaces with wood, integrating bamboo into the checker-plate flooring, and swapping the dark red walls with fairface brickwork. Collins even redesigned the dining room's furniture, providing padded seating for a more comfortable experience.

The job of creating transparency for the shop windows fell to the lighting. Light Bureau settled on a strategy of lighting the perimeter of the space and grazing the brick walls, creating a visual focal point that would extend to the street. This was accomplished by integrating a continuous light cove around the edge of the store outfitted with 4000K 25W T5 fluorescent lamps and bespoke inline 3000K 2W LED fixtures with spread lenses. This solution also gave the restaurant the flexibility to deliver two different settings or moods—cool fluorescents for morning, and warm LEDs for afternoon—without having to rely on an expensive dimming control system. All that was needed was two switches. The team also placed 20W compact metal halide fixtures in the ceiling, which provide illumination for the seating areas, as well as to spotlight Pret A Manger's inspirational wall posters, which the company prosaically refers to as “passion facts.”

While the scheme delivered the effect the client wished, the company decided to do without the LED fixtures for its next store, as they proved to be too expensive. Light Bureau replaced these with 3000K fluorescent fixtures. But that change may not be permanent. “They are looking to use LEDs in subsequent stores,” says Paul Traynor, principal of Light Bureau. “They were used on a previous store we did with Pret and in the [project] de-briefing the team agreed [LEDs] worked really well, [plus] the price is coming down and their availability is greater.”

Project: Pret A Manger Concept Store, London
Client: Pret A Manger
Interior Designer: David Collins Studio, London
Lighting Designer: Light Bureau, London
Lighting Cost: $17,000
Project Size: 65 square meters (approximately 700 square feet)
Watts Per Square Foot: 22W per square meter
Energy Code Compliance: Part L 2006
Photography Credit: Paul Traynor
Manufacturer: iGuzzini

AT&T Experience Retail Prototype
When AT&T bought out cell phone service provider Cingular it was faced with the task of developing “experience stores” to embody the merged brands. The telecommunications giant hired Seattle architecture firm Callison and Beverly Hills, Calif., lighting design studio Sean O'Connor Lighting—which had worked on Cingular's stores—to quickly design a prototype with multiple variations (there were nine in total) that could be easily rolled out in hundreds of locations across the country. “To capture the feeling of the AT&T brand we used the logo to guide the lighting and architecture,” says Sean O'Connor. “We had done something similar for Cingular with their orange logo. For AT&T we referenced the blue globe but kept some orange as a nod to Cingular.”

Architecturally, this translated into a series of curved and circular motifs on the interior: a center ceiling soffit accented with circular recesses, round display pedestals, and blue and orange painted accents. The team integrated the lighting scheme into these architectural features, producing a custom look without having to spend money on costly fixtures. While the prototype variations were each different, designed to meet a variety of needs for the roll out, the designers specified a core group of fixtures, which could be used flexibly with the architecture. These included CFL downlights, LED covelights, MR16 metal halides for perimeter display tables, and T5 fluorescent strips in coves and in valances in the counters.

The prototypes also had to be designed to meet the energy codes of multiple states, presenting the designers with the task of developing a set of standards that could easily be interpreted and used by architects that they would never meet. “We used the International Energy Conservation Code, which is a simplified version of ASHREA 90.1,” O'Connor says. The team was able to get the lighting power density down to 1.7 watts per square foot. “That's on the low side of what you typically find in retail stores, but it's a fair number,” O'Connor continues. “Ultimately our goal was to have the design meet every state's energy code but in such a way that we didn't have to compromise the design aesthetic, and 1.7W met that goal.”

Project: AT&T Experience Retail Prototype, multiple locations
Client: AT&T
Architect/Interior Designer: Callison, Seattle
Lighting Designer: Sean O'Connor Lighting, Beverly Hills, Calif.
Project Size: 4,500 square feet
Watts Per Square Foot: 1.7
Energy Code Compliance: ASHREA 90.1
Photography Credit: Callison, Chris Eden
Manufacturers: Bartco Lighting, Cooper Halo, Cooper NeoRay, Cooper Portfolio, Element Lighting, Hera, Louis Poulsen, Philips