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This 6-story, 416-bed residence hall includes centers for academic and residential life at UC Berkeley. The building plan snakes around significant historic trees on the site creating a new connection from the park on the southwest to the central campus to the northeast. The lighting design begins with daylighting, calibrating windows and skylights with sophisticated dimming controls to produce a high-quality, high-performance luminous environment. Electric lighting choreographs a welcoming landscape and building environment that delivers low power densities, pedestrian safety, clear wayfinding and respect for surrounding historic buildings and trees.

Sensitive to the historic buildings and trees, the electric lighting takes its cue from the architectural design and seamlessly transitions from outside to inside, defining a public path through a sloping concourse with a playful palette of circular fixtures. The round luminaires complement the informal nature of the architecture, defining loose zones of space and light to encourage spontaneous social encounters. Pendant drops and fixture output are calibrated to provide focused highlights amidst an even, ambient glow. The size, mounting condition, and control strategy for the round luminaires were calibrated to establish a spatial and luminous topology that would reinforce but not coincide directly with the architecture. The deceptively simple design entailed 36 different variations on the round fixture type.

In the lobbies, the round fixtures hang from the ceiling but as the concourse transitions into the academic center they recess into a dropped ceiling. To aid wayfinding and provide a unique character along the public path, a contrasting vocabulary of custom-designed linear fixtures was used in the academic center's offices, computer labs, and classrooms.

Operating in California under the most stringent energy code in the nation, we conducted a broad search for next-generation lighting technologies in order to minimize energy use and maintenance costs while adhering to the modest budget. At a time when LED fixtures were just coming on the market and had not reached widespread adoption, we specified a combination of LED, ceramic metal halide, fluorescent, and compact fluorescent sources. The resultant design balances the need for a safe, welcoming night-time environment with a high-quality, low-energy luminous environment.

Because of a tight fiscal and energy budget, we were strategic about the deployment of lighting control systems. Using simulations of daylight autonomy we tailored the control strategies to the program, spatial condition, and daylight availability. This approach not only conserved capital cost but lowered ongoing maintenance and energy costs by 67%. The payback for the control systems is just 2.6 years. The control system uses a network of digitally addressable components including ballasts, controls, and sensors. This allowed for a topology-free network that simplified installation and will allow for future flexibility.


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Behnisch Architekten

Berkeley, CA
Occupied, 2012



Photos by Russell Abraham.