Case study: Historic university building lighting update

A historic university building underwent several updates, including to the lighting design

By Jerry Manavalan, Kohler Ronan LLC, Danbury, Connecticut November 27, 2019
Figure 3: This contains a typical lighting control narrative for an educational project. Courtesy: Kohler Ronan

building project that displayed appropriate lighting code parameters early in design was the renovation/restoration of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia in 2016. Before exploring the code analysis of the project, it was important to establish adequate background information on the project.  

The Rotunda is located within the Academical Village of UVA, which was designed and completed by Thomas Jefferson in 1828. The Rotunda was originally used to house classrooms and a library. The renovation/restoration of the Rotunda required a complete revamping of all systems within the exterior, interior and landscape areas of the building 

The exterior repairs consisted of work on the two porticos including, but not limited to, LED lighting, structural repairs, roof replacement, replacement of the Corinthian column capitals and repairs to the column shafts and bases. Masonry repairs to the brick and stone on the four wings and connecting colonnades, window repairs in the wings, repairs to the north portico stairs and renovations in the cryptoporticus were also part of the exterior work.  

The interior repairs includereplacement of the mechanical, electrical, lighting, plumbing and fire detection and suppression systems. Interior alterations includereplacement of the interior lining of the dome in the dome room and included the addition of a stair to provide access to the first balcony in the dome room 

Improvements to the lighting fixtures and lighting control systems, as a result of interior alterations, occurred to meet code requirement as well as the public and private use of the building. The landscape improvements required the renovation of the east and west courtyard landscapes and the north side of the Rotunda as well. The new lighting fixtures and control system will allow better integration of future outdoor events at the Rotunda. 

The code analysis for this prestigious project required the evaluation of the historic nature of the building and consideration of current code requirements. The design team reviewed the architectural features and explored modern building design options that would allow for the proper cultivation of an energyefficient building. The design team developed schematic design documents for university staff and commissioning professional review that proposed techniques to preserve the historical content while introducing 21st century building systems into the project.  

Additionally, the university requirements entailed developing a design that met U.S. Green Building Council LEED standards. With proper input from the appropriate parties, the project established ASHRAE 90.1-2007: Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings as the correct energy code for the building.  

Once the energy code was selected, the design team proceeded with establishing the correct foot-candle requirements for each space. The initial source for this information was the UVA Facility Design Guidelines. This publication listed the required foot-candles in offices, mechanical/electrical rooms, exterior and telecommunication rooms and directed designers to the Illuminating Engineering Society Lighting Handbook for all other spaces. Establishing the proper energy code and design parameters early in design provided the project with a strong foundation, which allowed the project team to proceed in developing a lighting system composed of energyefficient lighting fixtures and controls.  

The design team used the energy allowance and desired foot-candles, established earlier in design, to select the LED lighting fixture layout that best fit the architectural programming of each space. Once the lighting fixtures were selected, the design team provided a lighting control narrative for each space that conformed to the energy code and university facility guidelines.  

The commissioning professional reviewed the lighting system design along with the university staff and fine-tuned each space to avoid any constructability issues. This guidance allowed the design team to produce design development and contract documents with more detail and information. During the construction phase, the commissioning professional compiled a deficiency log to help track all installation issues for the lighting system. The deficiency log was used by the construction team to resolve all issues and allowed the commissioning professional to provide appropriate documentation that certified that the project had met the energy code and LEED requirements.  

The excellent design, management and delivery of an energyefficient lighting system provided a LEED Silver certification for the most historic building on the University of Virginia campus.  

Jerry Manavalan, Kohler Ronan LLC, Danbury, Connecticut
Author Bio: Jerry Manavalan is a senior engineer at Kohler Ronan LLC, specializing in lighting and building systems.