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For 20 years electrical engineer Duc Bui has supported the sustainability goals of Kaiser Permanente and its facilities. And 2014 saw the opening of the healthcare giant’s first net zero design: the Kaiser Permanente Antelope Valley Specialty Medical Office Building. To meet net zero energy, the lighting power density goal for Bui’s dpb engineers inc. was 30% below Title 24 2013 requirements – even though engineering began in 2010. Bui’s decision to use all LED lighting ultimately achieved a connected load 60% below Title 24 2013: a stingy 0.44 W/sqft.

The three-story, 136,000 sqft medical office building (MOB) located in the California high desert is definitely no “doc in a box.” The organic design and unique footprint marry with the desert environment. The undulating glass façade and open courtyard handle fierce winds and allow broad use of abundant daylight in interiors. Canting the glass façade outward reduces the impact of direct sunlight and thus, heat gain. The Antelope Valley/Lancaster region is famous for its windfarms, and the building’s electrical design incorporates a wind turbine, to be installed in 2016. This generator will meet the net-zero energy goal and qualify the project for LEED Platinum designation.

Kaiser Permanente Recption Area
Competition among healthcare providers has upped the game of healthcare architects and lighting designers. Bui sees the influence of hospitality: seeing patients more as members or guests.

Kaiser Permanente sees overall sustainability as a public health issue. “Climate change isn’t a distant threat,” Kaiser Permanente’s Environmental Stewardship Officer Kathy Gerwig said in a media release. “The health impacts of a changing climate can be felt today in the form of increasing rates of asthma and other respiratory ailments, spread of infectious diseases, heat stress and injuries from severe weather events. By addressing climate change for the future, we are improving the health of communities today.” Gerwig’s book Greening Health Care: How Hospitals Can Heal the Planet was published in 2014.

Bui calls the Antelope Valley Specialty MOB a “model flagship” for Kaiser Permanente and the “crown jewel of the owner’s Southern California region.” It was the first Kaiser project that he’s worked on to include significant commissioning and submetering to maximize energy usage. Kaiser has now adopted these as standard practices. “Kaiser Permanente is a very proactive owner, so they went ahead with a commissioning plan knowing that the new Title 24 would require that. They are committed to reducing their carbon footprint,” Bui said.

Kaiser Permanente Oncology
In the infusion bays, an upscale pendant creates a touch of personal space during long hours of chemotherapy.

The total connected LPD of 0.44 W/sqft was achieved with intensive controls, including daylight harvesting, networked via cat 5 cable into a BACnet building energy management system. Dashboards allow facilities personnel to see real-time building loads and track energy performance over time. Global lighting control also accommodates demand-side management.

“LED lighting and lighting control played a critical role in helping achieve the LEED Platinum goal. After commissioning, post-occupancy metering shows actual usage incredibly low,” according to Bui. “The building lighting actually draws only 0.29 W/sqft for lighting at peak demand. We had never done a building like that, with energy that low for lighting.”

Kaiser Permanente Exterior
Bui points to the upscale landscape lighting as an example of the high level of design now required in healthcare architecture.

Bui claims that peak demand for lighting remains low, even at night, because occupants are choosing lower lighting levels. High-CRI LED sources throughout the interiors make colorful furnishings and fittings appear brighter and aid in color-critical healthcare tasks.

Lighting for net zero: still fun

Net zero energy requires a holistic process that looks at overall building performance. Both dpb and mechanical engineers Glumac were brought on board early in the design phase, coordinated by Kaiser Permanente Project Director Patricia Reyes Cappelli.

“We’re going in with net zero in mind, selecting the systems also looking at the best performance that will drive the watts per square foot down as low as possible.” Early on Bui determined that all-LED lighting was possible and, indeed, the only way to achieve efficiency at this level. Bui worked closely with design architect Taylor Design to deliver “the lighting design that will match the function of the building and is also architecturally pleasing.”

Kaiser Permanente Corridor
For a bright, natural look, recessed LED slots provide high-CRI workhorse lighting in 3500K.

Over the years, Bui’s work with Kaiser has seen a sea change in the level of design in healthcare. “About 80 percent of our business is healthcare. It used to be just so institutional: boring 2-by-4s and 2-by-2s everywhere. What we have done in recent years is bring into the design a touch of hospitality. So it’s more like a place for the member to come in and enjoy, and feel more like a guest in the facility than a patient.” Bui points to the upscale exterior and landscape lighting, which again complies with Title 24 2013 controls requirements. Bui coordinated the outdoor lighting with the intricate desert landscape design by EPTDESIGN.

In addition to daylight, general lighting is provided by 2-by-4 ft troffers with a centerline basket and a 4 inch-wide recessed slot in corridors. The slot fixture is repurposed in common areas as a linear pendant for up- and downlighting.

Kaiser Permanente Physical Therapy
Color-energized “dumbbell” light fixtures set the appropriate tone for the physical therapy center.

In the physical therapy space dumbbell-shaped decorative fixtures set the tone. “These are actually color-changing LED. When they have the music on and the lights are changing color, the space becomes very dynamic,” said Bui. “It makes the place more fun for patients to go into and stay to do their therapy… It may lift up their spirits. Maybe they will be more willing to stay and complete their therapy routines and enjoy the space.” Large circular fixtures supply a “natural daylight look” to further energize the space at night.

Bui took particular care with the infusion center where drug therapies, like chemotherapy, are delivered intravenously. “Typically designers just put a 2-by-2 or 2-by-4 in each infusion bay then call it a day. We looked and that and said, This is a cancer patient coming here, sitting here receiving chemotherapy for anywhere from 4 to 6 hrs. We wanted to make it really nice for them.” Bui chose a round pendant-mounted light fixture. “It has a really nice and clean look that gives patients a touch of their own personal space. It’s not so institutional-hospital-boring.”

Lois I. Hutchinson

About Lois I. Hutchinson

Lois I. Hutchinson is a freelance writer specializing in lighting and energy issues. She is also the content marketing mastermind behind Inverse Square LLC, a Los Angeles–based consultancy. Contact her via with your comments and any article ideas that concern the lighting community here in the Southwest.

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