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“Our clients are trying to keep up with the fast pace of change in the lighting industry from LED light sources, to smart buildings, to well building standards,” said Melanie Taylor, national practice leader for WSP USA Buildings Lighting. “They rely upon our expertise to help them make informed decisions regarding these new technologies and design trends.”
Whether it brightens a renovated building or helps achieve a forward-thinking vision for a new structure, lighting has a lasting impact on the impressions a building makes on its occupants and their performance.
“The priority has changed to more closely combine high performance and technically advanced lighting systems that are leveraged and designed for humans,” Taylor said. “This means actually using new technology in ways that benefit users, not just using new technology because it is cool or because it is the latest trend.”
So with every new project comes a new opportunity to incorporate designs and strategies that explore the possibilities that advanced lighting design can provide to suit a client’s objectives.
“I enjoy the challenge of developing concepts for lighting with the client and design teams, then carry those concepts through to completion by carefully applying lighting technology and systems,” Taylor said. “I like to collaborate closely with creative teams to identify the important lighting goals for each project.”
One of her recent challenges was the lighting design for one of the most eye-grabbing buildings in Seattle—and arguably the entire U.S.—The Spheres at the center of Amazon corporate headquarters.
In addition to the lighting design, WSP provided the mechanical, plumbing and fire engineering, combining services to create a workplace for the online retailer that has achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
One of the challenges was creating a mini rainforest where the plants would thrive, while still maintaining a comfort level necessary for an active workplace. In particular, lighting proved to be a complex aspect of the project.
“Detailed planning was essential to strike a balance between light levels that would provide horticultural light levels for equatorial plants, yet low enough to create a comfortable space for the human occupants of the space,” Taylor said. “A complex system of high-output LED sports lighting light fixtures in combination with daylighting sensors provides a robust and automatic horticultural lighting system.”
Working with architect NBBJ, WSP designed an architectural illumination strategy that created a dynamic, multi-use area housed within the Spheres. Lighting supports a program that provides locations for retail, dining, meeting and communal areas designed to encourage open and spontaneous collaboration.
WSP designers understood that one of the client’s top priorities was flexibility and the need for the lighting concept to adapt when there were changes in space usage. Since completion of The Spheres earlier this year, it appears that the lighting system has been a success.
“I recently was on-site at the Amazon Spheres project to make sure the lighting installation was complete and operating as designed,” Taylor said. “The experience was very rewarding as the project looks great, is unique, and the client is happy. Both the plant and human occupants are thriving in the space.”
She recently participated in a leadership summit with colleagues at WSP to identify goals and strategies for the national lighting design practice, which focused on the creation of a design culture of creativity and innovation.
“Lighting is key to sustainability in buildings through low lighting power density and lighting controls,” Taylor said. “Careful design, selection and placement of lighting elements reduces energy usage while creating beautiful and high performance environments.
She said the WSP lighting design team are experts on the best ways to apply lighting technology in a way that creates “great places for humans.” The firm works internally to combine lighting services with smart building, building technology systems and Built Ecology.
“We do our best to ensure our clients are happy and feel that the design is successful and meets the goals and concepts we set out to meet at the beginning of the project,” Taylor said. “We know that lighting will have long-term effects on how the environment functions and how people will feel while using the space.
Originally from Blaine, Washington, Taylor graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn with a bachelor’s degree in interior design. She joined WSP in 2008 where she serves as a vice president in the New York City office.
Her interest in lighting design came during college when she joined a New York-based lighting design firm, where she learned the basics of lighting through a great mentorship, eventually becoming one of the first 40 Certified Lighting Designers (CLDs) globally. Recalling her own mentorship experiences, she now enjoys sharing her knowledge with other young lighting designers.
“I teach lighting design at a local interior design school, which provides me with the opportunity to educate the next generation of lighting designers,” Taylor said. “It is important to educate new designers to understand the power of lighting to transform space.”
Her recent projects for WSP include lighting design for the planned North Campus dormitory complex at Cornell University; a laboratory project for Quest Diagnostics in New Jersey; three high-rise residential buildings at Waterline Square in New York City; renovations of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia; and lighting the CBS Sports workplace in New York.
“WSP applies creative and inspired lighting concepts in intelligent ways to create unique designs for each client,” she said. “We are incorporating smart building technologies, advanced lighting controls and well-building approaches to lighting across many projects.”
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