Case study: Innovative lighting in an office headquarters

MilliporeSigma's new North American headquarters offices required creative lighting design.

By Sara Schonour, LC; Barrett Newell; and Victoria Riedinger; CannonDesign, Boston August 17, 2018

Equipped with a bold new set of brand standards, the European research and development company MilliporeSigma wanted to make its new 298,000-sq-ft facility into a major hub for its North American life science business and a springboard to expand its innovative expertise. Aiming to create environments that inspire, foster collaboration, and enable productivity-and achieve U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Gold certification-the design aspirations for its new office headquarters were lofty. 

Project lighting goals and design criteria 

Flexibility, form, and function were the driving factors behind the lighting design for this project. Performance and style needed to be in balance to create a functional environment that would stimulate the types of collaboration the client envisioned for the new space. In addition to stylistic and functional goals, the client set the bar high for sustainability and energy efficiency. 

The MilliporeSigma project is classified as Corporate Interiors under LEED 2009. At the beginning of the project, the client set a target of achieving LEED Gold. The lighting design contributed points via IEQ Credit 6.1, EA Credit 1.1, and EA Credit 1.2, which all benefited from the all-LED lighting design. From the onset, it was determined that the lighting approaches would contribute as practically as possible to the LEED scorecard, resulting in the all-LED solution. 

High-efficiency LED fixtures paired with robust lighting controls ultimately contributed to a design 42% better than code allowance. The project is pending certification, which is currently still on track and under review. 

One of the credits targeted is the Controllability of Systems credit. Based on a desire for future flexibility and ample opportunities for daylight harvesting, a digitally addressable lighting control system was developed to integrate lighting with the building management system. A zone-based approach was used at different scales to provide varying levels of control based on occupant needs and to automatically adjust light levels when ample daylight is present for daily tasks. 

LED design solutions 

Bold, distinctive lighting moves take cues from the architectural expression of the brand, using simple yet refined integrated details to articulate the geometric, cellular concept. A backlit feature wall with customized display niches softly illuminates a welcoming area, balanced by an overhead cove. 

Simple, integrated lighting solutions creatively use commodity fixtures-like basic cylinders and slots-to provide interesting, high-quality lighting while minimizing fixture costs and operating energy. Suspended cylinders, painted to match the structure, visually disappear, allowing the accent walls of niches outfitted with integrated light fixtures to shine. Whimsical yet sophisticated luminaire selections give the brand’s shapes and colors center stage. 

Layers of playful pendants and daylight-responsive downlighting nestled between acoustic treatments are carefully coordinated into preset scenes to enable functional flexibility in the town hall areas. Servery lighting forms follow functional needs, employing curving slot lighting and floating backlit planes anchored with curb lighting to highlight culinary options and direct wayfinding. 

Direct/indirect troffers evenly deliver glare-free, comfortable illumination to the open office areas, dynamically controlled by the daylight-harvesting system to supplement the plentiful natural light. Large-scale suspended pendants bring a sense of grandness to the exploratory lab, giving visitors an impression of the strength of their resources available through collaboration. Close collaboration and creative execution enabled the design team to take a minimal budget and produce inventive, unique lighting solutions for this client’s new workspace. 


Nothing about this project was typical when it came to the feature lighting elements. The curving coves, luminous reception desks, backlit walls, lit display cases, and other unique interior treatments required specialized details to be developed with the design team, all taking full advantage of unique LED solutions to precisely fit each detail. 

Cooler-leaning correlated color temperature (CCT) was selected to give a crisp, clean feeling in the daylight-filled offices and labs and to enable the bold, playful colors of the client’s refreshed branding palette to pop in contrast with the stark-white finishes elsewhere. Access and maintenance of the lighting equipment needed to be considered in addition to constructability and performance. Coordination to locate remote drivers, provide proper ventilation in accordance with the manufacturers’ recommendations to avoid overheating, determine the location of access panels, organize devices in the ceiling plans, and ensure proper control of all the discrete zones became the coordination challenge. 

The final product is an all-LED workspace environment that is exciting, innovative, and energy-efficient.

Sara Schonour is an Associate IALD and leads the CannonDesign lighting studio and couples her extensive lighting design experience with a deep understanding of architectural design and building systems to bring seamlessly integrated solutions to clients. She is a 2017 40 Under 40 award winner. 

Barrett Newell is a Junior Associate IALD and brings an understanding of the built environment and an appreciation for the importance of integration between design disciplines to each CannonDesign project team she engages, understanding how to use light as a medium to orchestrate unique experiences through carefully executed lighting solutions. 

Victoria Riedinger is a Junior Associate IALD and Intern LC and strives to produce a beautiful and sustainable lighting strategy, recognizing the importance of collaborative design and fulfilling the CannonDesign client’s needs.