Please enjoy the following blog entry detailing a complicated retrofit “Living Lab” project I recently worked on in the Goldman Sachs building in New York. Ultimately, the project was very successful in helping us to uncover potential pitfalls in installing state-of-the-art equipment on a retrofit basis.


When the New York Times headquarters building was completed 10 years ago, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs (LBNL) published a report showing the enormous savings that resulted from using state-of-the-art lighting, control and window shading systems. The base building luminaire used T5 fluorescent lamps, the control system used individually-addressable digitally-controlled ballasts, and a computer-controlled window shading system was also deployed.

This expensive state-of-the-art equipment was easier to pay for on a new construction project. Several years later, the Department of Energy (DOE, as well as others such as NYSERDA) wanted to explore cutting-edge lighting and window shade technology, but this time used on a retrofit basis in existing office spaces. Once again, LBNL was selected to spearhead a team to identify existing buildings for experimentation and design research methodology for the project. Building Energy Exchange (BEEx, in NYC) helped to secure a commitment for the use of one floor of the 2.1 million ft2 Goldman Sachs World Headquarters building diagonally across from the Freedom Tower in lower NYC.

Since the building was completed in 2009, the existing lighting, control and shading systems were technologically advanced, for the time. However, in the six years between the building’s completion in 2009 and the installation of the "Living Lab" equipment in 2015, enormous changes in the development of LED luminaires as well as lighting control systems had taken place. In addition, these spaces existed in a building that – if it had been leased to a tenant – were in what would be considered as a "mid-lease" condition. Remember that even if the building is owner-occupied, the owner still has to make the same calculations to determine whether or not it pays to invest capital for substantial retrofits if the existing equipment still has some useful life.

LBNL retained San Francisco-based lighting designer Steven Mesh, LC, IESNA, to assist with the lighting and controls aspect of the work. Steve is a lighting designer who had previously lived in NYC and the northeast until 2008, and was also the Northeast Regional Vice President for IESNA. Steve was the resident lighting expert at the Pacific Energy Center in San Francisco for three years, then returned to being an independent consultant. Since he is a practicing lighting designer, he brought a real-world understanding of the specification, bidding and installation process to the project.

A major goal of the "Living Lab" project, similarly to the New York Times, was to end up with a substantial amount of "tech transfer" to the broader market. LBNL outlined the process and developed testing methodology to tease out the potential savings using even newer equipment than was installed in 2009. LBNL also provided very substantial expertise in the specification and testing of new automated window shading systems. Steve Mesh provided technical expertise in creating model specifications for lighting and control systems. He also created various supporting materials, such as zoning diagrams that explain how to group luminaires based on automatic shutoff and daylight harvesting code requirements. Additionally, Steve was on-site during part of the installation process to observe the electricians installing this equipment on a retrofit basis. The "lessons learned" as well as the objective numerical results of the retrofits have been summarized and included in the technical report authored by LBNL.

Goldman Sachs allowed the project team to propose using different equipment in each quadrant of one floor of the building. Therefore, this was a true "Living Lab" that allowed the team to compare and contrast different technologies and topologies of controls and other equipment. Some of the resources available for review and download at the link mentioned above include:

  • Complete annotated lighting controls specification [PDF]
  • Editable lighting controls specification [DOC]
  • Example zoning diagrams [PDF]
  • Shading controls specification

Many other resources as well as technical reports are also available at this link. Many thanks are due to the DOE as well as NYSERDA for providing leadership on the project, as well as a variety of other entities involved (see the report for a complete listing). However, Californians such as LBNL and Steve Mesh led the way in providing the technical expertise that led to the successful completion of this very complex research project.


Graphics below were taken from
“Advanced High-Resolution Controls for Dimmable LED Lighting in Offices
Specification & Procurement Support Materials”
Read the full document

Daylight zones are based on penetration of daylight into the interior.
Daylight zones (as designated by numbers in the above example) are based on penetration of daylight into the interior. This example shows a succession of primary, secondary and tertiary daylight zones. Some codes (such as California Title 24) require all fixtures located in primary and secondary daylight zones to be automatically controlled. In California Title 24, the width of the primary and secondary zones is equal to the window head height as shown in the example above.
Many shading systems allow each section to be separately controlled – either manually and/or automatically.
Many shading systems allow each section to be separately controlled – either manually and/or automatically. If so, then a logical strategy would be to use one “open-loop” photosensor corresponding to each shade. If a system is used that allows for unrestricted mapping of fixtures to photosensors, then the owner can decide which photosensor controls which fixture. In some systems, signals from more than one photosensor can be programmed to appropriately dim each specific fixture.
Some systems allow for 'differential dimming' of fixtures within an occupancy zone – groups of fixtures can be dimmed to different levels based on the input from one photosensor
Some systems allow for “differential dimming” of fixtures within an occupancy zone – groups of fixtures can be dimmed to different levels based on the input from one photosensor (as shown above). However, each occupancy zone usually requires its own photosensor as well as occupancy sensor.
Steven Mesh, LC, IESNA

About Steven Mesh, LC, IESNA

Steven Mesh, www.stevemesh.com, attended Parsons School of Design and has been a lighting designer and educator for 37 years. He’s designed the lighting for a wide variety of projects in the U.S. and internationally. He was the Senior Lighting Program Coordinator at the Pacific Energy Center in San Francisco. Mesh has been a corporate member of the IALD. He’s a member of the IES and was previously the Northeast Regional Vice President. For 25 years, he’s served on the Energy Management Committee which updates national energy codes (ASHRAE 90.1). He has also been a member of the Quality of the Visual Environment committee. He’s an EPA Green Lights Surveyor Ally and has been an AIA Registered Provider. Mesh was also part of the development team for the California Advanced Lighting Controls Training Program. He has taught lighting for the past 33 years and has been a Contributing Editor of Building Operating Management. H  won an IALD award for the Palm House at Dowling College and an EPRI award for Brower Commons at Rutgers University. He’s given several workshops at LightFair and has spoken at Lux Pacifica in New Delhi, India.

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