The tk1sc lobby view displays the wide variety of LED fixtures on the market today. Note the hard-won LEED Platinum plaque on the right.

The new corporate headquarters for tk1sc in Irvine, CA, serves as both workspace and demonstration laboratory. Certified LEED Platinum, the office buildout uses all LED lighting and advanced lighting controls designed by tk1sc’s lighting design group, StudioK1. Senior Lighting Designer Eileen Thomas and Senior Lighting Designer Brad Nelson served as owners’ representatives and construction administrators and project managers and lighting design consultants and tenants, gaining rare insight into lighting with advanced LED fixtures and controls, and into the building process generally.

The consultant-as-client approach brought firsthand experience with the LEED decision-making process for principals-in-charge Raymond Swartz, Ron Zawadzki and Roger Carter. “Because we do a lot of LEED projects, the principals decided to spend the extra time and money,” said Thomas. “They’re usually telling a client about good ideas that will save money long-term. But this was our principals having to weigh these decisions from a monetary point of view and from an energy standpoint.” Though the Title 24 2013 code was not yet in effect, tk1sc was determined to meet or exceed nearly all the requirements.

tk1sc Lunchroom
Close collaboration with interior architect H. Hendy lends energy to this multifunction collaborative workspace.

The LEED process was surprisingly laborious, given that Thomas and Nelson (both LEED APs) were required to coordinate all the LEED points, not just energy points. “There’s a lot of ins and outs. You rob from Peter to pay Paul,” said Nelson. “You have to do commissioning at the end, and it takes a long time to get the final parts together.” Thomas countered: “We got our LEED certification pretty quickly following that. When the plaque showed up, it was really exciting.”

Their role as tenant inspired the team, as well. “We were committed to a really energy efficient space. And then also, we emerged from several boring previous offices and we wanted an office that that we are proud to bring clients to,” said Thomas.

The moderate general lighting, at about 30 fc, supplemented by task lighting with selectable CCT puts the office at the forefront of design; all-LED. Advanced controls, including daylight dimming, that tie into the energy management and monitoring system exhibit a level of system intelligence foreshadowing the Internet of Things. “It helps us show that we’re forward thinking. We know the latest technology and we know how to implement it in a way that is economical for the clients on the other side,” said Nelson.

tk1sc Open Office
LED basket troffers provide excellent uniformity throughout the open office, while careful lighting design and controls perfectly adapts spaces to their individual purposes.

The space demonstrates a variety of lighting strategies, color temperatures and controls. “So without the place looking like a showroom, we have areas we can show the client to give them examples of how they might light their spaces,” said Thomas.

tk1sc had worked successfully with interior architects H. Hendy Associates on other projects. “As interior designers they know lighting. But I felt this was a more collaborative experience than in the past. I think they had fun doing this office,” said Thomas. The team also picked contractors they had worked well with: general contractor Turelk, Inc. and electrical contractor Anderson Howard.

Being the client also has its disadvantages

Thomas and Nelson reported that some technologies, like the daylight dimming system, worked right out of the box and have had no problems. Other products… not so much.

“I think the biggest lesson we’ve learned is that commissioning complex controls and the combination of lighting controls systems is quite a handful. In the past we’ve just had really good programmers on site ready to do it,” said Nelson. “We were living with the system, and it just wasn’t doing what we thought it was going to do. Our buttons were all blank for 9 months.”

Thomas added: “Maybe if the client wasn’t a bunch of engineers and lighting designers, they would have been satisfied initially. But I think it will change how we spec controls in the future. We may pick simpler systems or definitely know what parameters we want to set up at the factory. We want to save our clients this frustration.”

The project also experienced a surprising number of LED light fixture failures. Most notably, one fixture type with glaring binning problems had to have several fixtures replaced, some more than once. “It’s a reputable company and it was surprising to us. It was surprising to them, too, that they had problems….

“In the world of LED, everyone thinks that everything is going to be perfect and it’s going to work forever,” said Thomas. “But if you have problems you’re going to have them either right out of the box, or in that first month.” Nelson describes the fixes required as far more complicated and invasive than with the previous generations of conventional fixtures. Instead of going to the store and buying a new lamp, you’re taking apart the fixture and calling the manufacturer to replace “finicky” drivers.

“Because Eileen and I did most of the construction administration on the office, every time a light fixture goes out, I’m the guy that gets the email,” he said. “I’m finding that there are definitely differences in the tolerance that each manufacturer has in their manufacturing process. Some of these fixtures we haven’t touched once. They seem to be built perfectly. And then there are others that I’ve had to either replace the fixture or just fix a lens, or replace the fixture and then fix the lens…. That’s something in the back of my mind now going forward with new specifications.”

tk1sc Conference Room
Conference rooms are lit at 3000K, suited to the wood grain and warmer finishes.

Because tk1sc purchased their own fixtures, they became responsible for these warranty issues. The lighting manufacturers were, of course, attentive and stood by their warranties.

Ship dates were another issue, as they are on all projects. “Most of the time you blame the contractor and say, Oh they must not have ordered it on time. But when you’ve ordered it and you’re writing the check, you can’t do that,” said Thomas. “We learned firsthand about lead times and manufacturers. We couldn’t get our certificate of occupancy because we had no lighting in the corridor.”

Nelson added: “Or we’re moving in a week and we still have holes in the ceiling. It got a little crunchy right there at the end.” He claims that tk1sc did not get much special treatment from manufacturers, particularly in terms of ship dates. But that some manufacturers “stepped up 110%.” Thomas reports that “all the issues have been resolved [sound of knocking wood] and everything is working. And Brad has a few extra drivers in his desk, just in case.”

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 lightinginsider@exponation.net with your comments and any article ideas that concern the lighting community here in the Southwest.

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