Respective to the design team’s concept goals of connectivity, cohesiveness, and establishment of San Diego’s downtown environment, HLB’s lighting design provided transparency and a nighttime civic presence for the 25-story courthouse. Click below to read our one-on-one with HLB San Francisco project manager, Vasudha Rathi.

What made this project or experience special to you and your team?

It was my first civic project and a great learning experience as it was not just the Architect that we coordinated with but the Owner, too – Judicial Council of California (JCC) who played a very integral role in the design.

What was the biggest design challenge?

The biggest challenge was to meet the ambitious energy goal for the project and also satisfying the high JCC light level criteria with the limited budget of the project. All of these challenges required us to come up with innovative design solutions.

What was it like tackling the 48-foot daylit atrium?

The Atrium is the “heart” of the building. It is the grand entrance to this multi-story Courthouse. During the day, the space is lit by natural daylight from the 4 skylights and the tall east façade. At night, the vertical surfaces are subtly illuminated to provide a lantern effect when seen from outside. All the lighting in the space is seamlessly integrated within the architectural ceiling, providing a very clean and elegant look.

Were aspects of the project culturally or historically significant?

The building is located in downtown area close to a marina. The 22-story building replaces the 3-block-long, 7-story County Courthouse that opened in 1961. This high-rise is a remarkable new addition to the existing skyline of the city.

How did the lighting team handle the high security of the project?

Security in terms of appropriate light levels and fixture integrity was the top priority. Lighting specification was tailored to meet the JCC’s security requirements and light levels, especially for high security areas like holding cells and sally ports.

Were there budget constraints and how were they met?

Budget was limited. We stayed on budget by keeping the palette of fixtures simple and using fewer different types of fixtures.

What did you enjoy most about the project?

One of the unique features of the building is the exterior cantilevered sun shade canopy composed of folded panels. During the daytime the daylight filters through it and has a very dynamic play of light and shadow. To be able to create a similar effect at night we came up with an LED light pipe solution that not only provides the desired lighting effect but also solved the problem of accessibility and maintainability of the fixtures installed at a height of 369 feet.

What were the project’s goals regarding lighting?

There were very specific light level criteria for functionality and security of each of the spaces that need to be met with in the targeted energy goals.

How were these goals achieved?

The goals were met by designing the lighting in the space with hierarchy of light level in mind. With this strategy we were able to optimize the use of energy where it was required the most. Another strategy used was dual purpose fixtures, for example, in corridor spaces one fixture type was used to provide both ambient light and vertical illumination to get the desired lighting effect while still being energy efficient.

“The new courthouse lighting design is inspiring yet practical, energy-efficient, and economical.”


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