Finding Sophisticated Lighting Solutions

Once an afterthought of building construction, lighting design has emerged as one of the most important ways to create comfortable and desirable workplaces.

“We have found that clients are looking for more sophisticated lighting solutions that align with their current functional needs,” said Lilian Rodriguez Fu, department head for the lighting team in San Francisco. “As personal technology improves to increase one’s personal productivity, the lighting systems people interface with must also keep up.”

Fu and her team design lighting for a wide range of hospitality, commercial, civic, residential, educational and exterior landscape projects.

“Lighting design today utilizes LED sources that require less wattage to produce the same amount of light that traditional fluorescent sources had provided in the past,” Fu said. “This speaks to efficiency, but the sustainable story is still a bit complex when considering the cradle-to-grave of this highly efficient technology.”

She recalled a challenge involving a conference center client who requested more than just a fully dimmable LED architectural lighting system. “The client also requested a system that included color-changing light fixtures and remote-controlled adjustable accent lighting, which allows for a quick turnover of partitioned conference space to maximize revenues and reduce operational costs,” Fu said.

Each project brings with it challenges and creative opportunities to turn a client’s wants and needs into a system that not only meets the design and operational goals, but in a way that can be completed on time and within budget.

“Fortunately, WSP brings the knowledge and skill of multi-disciplinary teams that help our lighting designers make those goals possible,” Fu said.


WSP’s lighting design team created the lighting system for Balyasny Asset Management’s headquarters in San Francisco.

Island Lighting

One example of WSP’s approach to creative lighting design was featured on the Victoria Ward Block M residential building in Honolulu.

The project, which was completed in 2015 on behalf of the Howard Hughes Company, centered around restoration of an historic mid-century IBM corporate building notable for its distinct brise-soleil shading exterior. Originally designed by renowned Hawaiian architect Vladimir Ossipoff, the building was reimagined as the three-story sales center and headquarters for the adjacent Ward Village development.

The interior was remodeled extensively to incorporate the original fixtures and the building’s mid-century modern style. WSP’s lighting design was configured to not only create a comfortable workplace and a showcase of the building’s unmistakable features, but to bring the building’s façade to life. WSP also provided mechanical-electrical-plumbing engineering services for the project.

WSP is also providing the lighting design for the parks and streetscapes of San Francisco’s Treasure Island development, where Fu serves as project manager.

Treasure Island, an artificial island in San Francisco Bay built for the 1939 World’s Fair and later used as a military base, is in being transformed into a 465-acre planned urban village extending across the entire island and portions of adjacent Yerba Buena Island. When fully completed, the neighborhood will add more than 8,000 residential units, 100,000 square feet of new office space and 140,000 square feet of retail space to the city.

“The lighting design challenges each project carries are both common and unique,” Fu said. “I love drawing on my past experience to help guide and inform the process towards solutions, but understand that there is still much to learn from each other and the situation to tailor that successful path.”

The lighting design of the Victoria Ward building blends modern elements with the mid-century style of the historic IBM building.

Changing Times

Fu, who was raised in Virginia Beach and graduated from Penn State University with a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering, said that when she started her career in lighting design more than 22 years ago, clients rarely understood the value of hiring a specialty lighting consultant to provide design services.

“In those days, few were willing to pay ‘extra’ for this design service,” she said. “At the turn of the century, sustainability and energy codes drove that need for lighting design expertise. Now the focus on human centric design, health and wellness is driving the need for better lighting.”

Today most projects involve a lighting designer in some capacity. Even managers of design-build projects are recognizing the value of having a lighting consultant provide full design services throughout the process.

Fu recently led WSP’s lighting design team for Balyasny Asset Management (BAM) in San Francisco, as well as MEP design services, working with VDTA in Chicago.

“The BAM project had a fun and energetic project team that we fully enjoyed collaborating with to achieve a successful outcome,” Fu said. “The client loves their space, which always makes everything worthwhile.”

And the beauty and functionality of facilities using creative, efficient lighting designs have made favorable impressions on the people who work and live in these buildings.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to hear that the users love their new space, and we have been fortunate enough to have these types of comments occur on many of our most recent completed projects,” Fu said.

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Lilian Fu

Lilian Fu

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