Meeting criteria of the WELL Building Standard was a particular concern for Jim Benya and Deborah Burnett, designers of the lighting system used in the AmericanSociety of Interior Designers’ (ASID’s) Washington, DC headquarters office, the first project in the world certified platinum by both the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), through its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, and the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI). Watch and listen as the two discuss the project, along with ASID’s Susan Chung, as part of the National Lighting Bureau’s Annual Lighting Forum series of panel discussions.
- James R. “Jim” Benya, P.E., FIES, FIALD, principal and partner, Benya Burnett Consultancy, codesigner of the new lighting system used in the ASID’s Washington, DC headquarters;
- Deborah Burnett, ASID, CMG, AASM, principal and partner, Benya Burnett Consultancy, codesigner of the new lighting system used in the ASID’s Washington, DC headquarters; and
- Susan Chung, Ph.D., director of research and knowledge management, ASID, and lead researcher of the pre- and post-occupancy research of ASID’s Washington, DC headquarters.
Mr. Benya began the discussion by noting the similarities and differences of the LEED and WELL certification programs, with respect to lighting. Both consider the importance of views and daylighting, he said, but the LEED program tends to emphasize energy efficiency, while the WELL program tends to emphasize compliance with a variety of quality metrics. Both issues are important to ASID, Dr. Chung said, noting that ASID wanted its offices to epitomize the association’s core concerns: sustainability, health and wellness, and resiliency.
Mr. Benya explained some of the challenges that he and his partner – Deborah Burnett – faced when it came to lighting design. The first challenge was the space itself, which ASID leases in an existing building. Low ceilings were an issue, as was the inability to install skylights. The good news, he said, was the expanse of north-facing windows providing glare-free light with no direct solar heat gain.
The second challenge Mr. Benya mentioned was budget. In this case, he and Ms. Burnett participated in value engineering, applying innovation – especially using fluorescent lighting in a unique approach to emulate with tunable white LED lighting – to achieve dollar savings without sacrificing quality or functionality.
Ms. Burnett noted that Benya Burnett’s approach to lighting design had to change to reach the design objective of achieving a high degree of compliance with WELL, which demands a new awareness about the interplay between lighting and its circadian impacts. Lighting design had to consider the fact that office lighting affects people long after they leave the office, because lighting during the day affects how well people sleep at night. High-quality sleep is fundamental to health, productivity, and workplace performance.
National Lighting Bureau Executive Director John Bachner noted that, for many years, the U.S. lighting community emphasized the notion that “light is for people.” “That concept is even more valid today,” he said, “because we’re beginning to learn so much more about lighting as a biological stimulant. That explains why Deborah [Burnett] spent so much time interviewing ASID employees as the first step of lighting design. In essence,” Bachner said, “the designers wanted the lighting users to complete the sentence, ‘I would benefit if the office lighting could help me _______________.’ As I see it, Jim and Deborah are blazing a new approach to lighting design, recognizing how much more contemporary technology can provide, and how much more we know about lighting’s impact on human functioning. Altogether, it’s fascinating.”
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