Photo © Lara Swimmer Photography

It’s easy to see why the new J.R. Simplot Headquarters in downtown Boise, Idaho, is an instant landmark for this city of 228,000. The nine-story, 325,000-square-foot building sets a striking profile. The tiered, cantilevered massing with variable window sequencing speaks to boldness and innovation. The aesthetic is fitting.

Photo © Casey Dunn Photography

The privately held J.R. Simplot Co. is one of America’s largest food and agribusiness companies. The business was built on innovation, including the invention of the first commercial french fry. The project architect, George Metzger, AIA, principal of Adamson Associates, Inc., credits the Simplot family with “helping find the right vision for the project. They were clear about what they wanted, including the desire for a narrow floor plate to support maximum daylighting.”

That early understanding by the owners for design elements that support staff goodwill, comfort, and productivity manifested itself throughout the headquarters.

Photo © Casey Dunn Photography

Take interior lighting, for example. The lighting consultant specified a comprehensive lighting solution that tied together a suite of illumination technology, including lighting controls, motorized window shades, digital ballasts and LED drivers, and sensors.

“Our lighting design always endeavors to support architectural design. For Simplot HQ, our design for electric lighting and controls supplemented and complemented the architectural design because of the narrow floor plates designed by Adamson Associates. This allowed building occupants to benefit from maximum daylight contributions and maximum exterior views to the beautiful Idaho mountains,” explains the project’s lighting design consultant, Suzanne Branch, AIA, of LuM Architectural Lighting Design.

Photo © Casey Dunn Photography

The challenge for the lighting design team was to blend electric light with the variability of daylight to create a fully realized human-centric experience, free of shadows and glare and customized to optimize worker activity. “Whether they were between fixtures or right under a fixture, the employees needed lighting tuned to maintain 35 foot-candles at 30 inches above the floor, typical workstation height,” Branch says.

Several factors came into play:

  • Daylighting. The daylight zone or corridor extends inside about 15 feet from the exterior wall. To maximize natural light, private offices were moved away from exterior walls. Daylight harvesting sensors constantly monitor outside conditions.
  • Sun Positioning. “We worked with the Idaho National Laboratory to analyze the enclosure for sun positioning levels at every hour of every day throughout the year,” Metzger says. The design team used the daylighting studies to anticipate maximum natural light levels from any point inside the building.
  • Dynamic Shading. Automated shades controlled natural light levels throughout the structure, especially harmful glare. “The shade material allows abundant daylight in while cutting out glare,” Branch says.
  • Precise Dimming. The lighting team fine-tuned the dimming levels of all fixtures within the building. “Every open office area, every private office, every conference room, every breakout or break room were precisely dimmed,” Branch explains. “These fixtures dim gently and slowly, so no one using that space would be aware of any light change.”
  • Lighting Control Management. Branch specified the lighting and shading manufacturer Lutron, a company widely known for its leadership and innovations in human-centric lighting. “Lutron’s system manages the sensors, automated shades, digital ballasts, and LED drivers into a seamless experience,” Branch says. “Lutron is always at the forefront of lighting technology. I trust them implicitly.”

The Simplot headquarters has been open for about two years. The owners are thrilled, according to Metzger. And the lighting system? “We are delighted that the architectural design, interior design, lighting and controls designs all work symbiotically to create opportunities for the Simplot building, itself, to contribute significantly to the well-being of the company’s employees,” says Branch.