Retail Store Cashes in with Design Software

In retail spaces, the role of lighting is not only to highlight the vision of the architect and retailer, but also to focus attention on the store's merchandise. A case in point is the new Bruce store located in Vancouver, British Columbia's fashionable West End neighborhood.


In retail spaces, the role of lighting is not only to highlight the vision of the architect and retailer, but also to focus attention on the store's merchandise. A case in point is the new Bruce store located in Vancouver, British Columbia's fashionable West End neighborhood.

Bruce, called an 'anti-department store' by its owner, represents a new trend in urban modernist stores. Given this purpose, the design team was faced with the challenge of creating a retail space unlike any other. Both the architecture and the lighting had to complement a two-story open concept to showcase a wide assortment of merchandise that changes constantly with seasons and styles. The 11,000-sq.-ft. retail space features a vaulted-ceiling structure. The second level is interconnected to the ground floor by an open staircase and contains a bistro where customers can relax. The fa%%CBOTTMDT%%ade, a full two-story glass structure, allows the entire store interior to be viewed from the street. Skeptical clients

Given the fact that the space includes the two-story open ceiling, the lighting designer felt the illumination should come from a lighting system suspended from the uppermost level. A bell-shaped luminaire was selected by the architect and modified by the lighting designer to provide the necessary light levels for a retail application. Two different sizes were chosen, because the second-level luminaires had to be physically smaller in size due to the reduced floor-to-ceiling height on the upper level.

Both the architect and the owner were concerned that contrast ratios would be too low, thereby creating a flat space with no depth perception. Display lighting has to have large contrast ratios between circulation areas and the product-usually on a scale of 10 to 1.

Traditionally, either hand-colored renderings are commissioned, or a full-color photorealistic rendering software is used to create a visual projection of the end result. Both possibilities, however, can be expensive. In addition, rendering software requires high-powered computer hardware to produce results in a reasonable amount of time.

An alternative approach involves using a simpler lighting design software-usually not as viable an option as rendering software because many of these programs cannot produce visual renderings quickly or accurately. The team, however, unearthed a program that achieved many of the desired results. Software solution

In this case, the software selected combines both color rendering and the science of lighting calculations with the speed required for designers. For example, the software's calculation engine produces color renderings in seconds and minutes rather than hours or days. This feature gives the design team the benefit of previewing how lighting concepts will look and allows them to make changes on the fly.

The program also contains a library of luminaire distribution files, called photometric files, that are produced and distributed by most lighting manufacturers for their entire range of products. Additionally, any manufacturer's files can be added to the database.

These files can then be incorporated into the model to calculate and produce renderings that predict how the design will look using the specified lighting product. Other lighting products can be substituted as required and the resulting images can be viewed on-screen, printed or e-mailed. Once created, renderings can be exported as bitmaps or as complete 3D VRML worlds that can easily be e-mailed to the client or architect via the Internet.

For Bruce, the software created a three-dimensional color computer model of the architectural interior and exterior that could be viewed interactively from any angle. These e-mailed renderings proved to be integral to the Bruce design process and enabled both Bruce's owner and the architect to easily see how the proposed lighting system would achieve the desired results. They were also able to review early concepts and suggest changes. Via this 'Internet charette,' the lighting system design was finalized between all parties with a high degree of certainty and client satisfaction.

A side benefit was that the costs of client communication were greatly reduced. Commissioned, hand-created or software-generated renderings would have to be hand-delivered back and forth across the city or, in this case, from Calgary, where the designers were located, to Vancouver. This new system proved to be faster, cheaper and more efficient.

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