EwingCole: Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History
Automation, controls; electrical, power; fire, life safety; HVAC, mechanical; lighting; energy, sustainability; plumbing, piping.
Engineering firm: EwingCole
2016 MEP Giants rank: 39
Project: Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History; first floor, west wing renovation
Location: Washington, D.C.
Building type: Educational facility; government building/military facility; sports/entertainment/convention center facility; museum
Project type: Existing building retrofit
Engineering services: Automation, controls; electrical, power; fire, life safety; HVAC, mechanical; lighting; energy, sustainability; plumbing, piping
Project timeline: January 2010 to June 2015
MEP/FP budget: $18 million
- The transformation of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History (NMAH) continues with a major project to renew the building's 120,000-sq-ft west exhibition wing. The design features new galleries, an education center, interior public plazas, and performance spaces as well as modernized infrastructure including wireless environments.
- A new panoramic window on the first floor gives a sweeping view of the Washington Monument and connects visitors to the National Mall's landmarks. This introduction of daylight into the exhibit space created a challenge for the design team.
- Energy efficiency, flexibility, and quality light were required to meet the museum's goals. All spaces required general lighting, accent/display, and event capabilities. The galleries required long-term modular designs for changing needs.
- As with any museum, lighting plays an important role in the storytelling process. Grabbing the attention and imagination of visitors, it encourages engagement with the objects and their story.
- Lighting was used in the public area to establish hierarchy within the multi-use circulation and display areas. Wall-grazing products with high-efficiency lighting sources were incorporated to illuminate perimeter cases and wall-mounted art displays.
- Lighting installations were paired with a centralized lighting control system to allow for dimming capabilities and programmable presets to meet each curator's needs for specific object-display requirements.
- All spaces included general lighting, accent/display, and event capabilities. LED downlights line the circulation with two circuit-switching/dimming track, a combination of ceramic metal halide (CMH), halogen, and LED heads for exhibits, and adjustable LED multiples for accent lighting.
- The large performance plaza includes music, theater, and a display kitchen. Dimming LED downlights were tied into a centralized control system with theatrical luminaires suspended between the floating ceiling panels.
- The modular ceiling and lighting support multiple special-event setups and are tied into the AV system for increased control. Perimeter LED accent lights illuminate circulation, and several dimming zones were provided for flexible adjustment.
- The Object Project gallery is adjacent to the new west window, where daylight was re-established in the building. Three-percent visible light transmission (VLT) glazing with automated shades was used for light exposure to objects.
- The gallery is illuminated from a modular grid ceiling using distributed dimming plugged in for flexible mounting and individual control. All distributed dimmers tie back to the central lighting control system.
- Perimeter LED lighting is connected to photo sensors for daylight harvesting and energy savings. Theatrical busports pull down from the ceiling to mount fixtures for special events.
- Galleries required long-term modular designs for changing needs. Distributed dimming through the ceiling allowed for all luminaire types and mountings. Separate bi-level fluorescent work lighting was provided and tied to the central control system.
- Large thresholds from the central circulation lead visitors into the main galleries. Track lighting with dimming LED heads illuminates vertical objects and signage.
- In terms of energy efficiency, the project meets ASHRAE 90.1/2007 LEED CI v2009. Eight lighting credits were awarded: five points for EA c1.1; one point for EAc1.2; and two points for IEQ c6.1.