Engineering Innovation

NOAA Headquarters Wins Lighting Design Award

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, has been honored with an international award for lighting design from the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES).

lighting design, NOAA headquarters


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was recently honored for lighting design by the Illuminating Engineering Society.

The project received the IES Special Citation Award for energy and environmental lighting design, which recognizes quality lighting installations in commercial and industrial buildings that incorporate advanced energy-saving strategies and environmentally responsible solutions into the overall design. The award recognized NOAA’s adaptive reuse of an existing structure, encompassing integration of daylight, skylight and controlled artificial light.

WSP USA was the lighting designer for the $138 million project. The firm also designed the mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP) systems in the building, and the firm's built ecology group provided sustainable design consulting, energy analysis and water conservation consulting. The firm was under contract to the HOK Group, the lead design firm for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC).

“In the lighting industry, this is one of the highest awards that you can receive,” said Nicole Hammer, who, along with Jay Wratten and Heather Mabley, led the lighting and lighting controls design for WSP. “We are honored and humbled to have been a part of such an amazing project that is receiving awards not only for lighting design, but also for many other aspects of its innovative sustainability strategies.”

The 350,000-square-foot NOAA headquarters on Ford Island houses 12 NOAA line offices, and includes wet laboratories, marine animal tanks, and space for research, conservation management and law enforcement programs. The first floor of the new building includes a visitor center, conference facilities, an exhibition area and cafeteria-style dining.

lighting design, NOAA headquarters, daylight, skylights, diffusers, lanterns, building


The NOAA headquarters was designed so that 90 percent of it gets daylight from skylights, diffusers and lanterns located throughout the building.

The facility is now the home of the Pacific Ocean tsunami warning center, which alerts the world of any tsunami activity in the Pacific Rim. Data collected at this facility is also used by the National Weather Service to inform air traffic in the western U.S. and Pacific region about weather conditions that may impact flight patterns.

That’s the Spirit

The facility incorporates two historic World War II-era airplane hangars, linked by a modern building. These hangar buildings were part of the U.S. Navy facility that was attacked on December 1941. Due to the historic origin of the structures, protecting and maintaining the integrity of the property was necessary. But a more unusual challenge that the designers faced at the long-defunct hangars was local concern about a ghost that was rumored to haunt the old hangars.

“Seriously,” Hammer said. “A specialist was hired to cleanse the building of such spirits prior to beginning construction.”

lighting design, NOAA headquarters, mesh skylights historic hangar ceilings daylight


Mesh skylights were inserted into the historic hangar ceilings to provide daylight autonomy in office areas of the NOAA headquarters.

Once the ghost threat was addressed, attention shifted to structural challenges and requirements of the building, particularly with the installation of skylights to introduce daylight to the interior of the large footprint of the hanger buildings.

“Skylight performance was critical to the success of the project,” Hammer said. “It was a collaborative effort between HOK and our built ecology and lighting groups to develop the final skylight design solution through extensive site mock-up and evaluation of custom diffusers and lanterns to fine-tune material transmission, surface reflectance and height.”

Through the multi-disciplinary approach to finding integrative design solutions, the team achieved a 40 percent reduction below ASHRAE 90.1 energy code and earn a LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

“NOAA’s lighting, daylighting, and lighting controls design sought to push the envelope by pursuing some aggressive and non-traditional strategies, in order to save energy and provide superior visual comfort to occupants of the space through the adaptive reuse of the existing structure encompassing integration of daylight, skylight and controlled artificial light,” Hammer said.

The energy-saving lighting strategies included:

  • reduction of ambient light levels below IES handbook recommendations, relying on task lighting and daylighting to make up the difference
  • turning off emergency lighting when the building was unoccupied;
  • adjusting occupancy sensor and override switch set points outside of normal business hours with security staff walk-throughs in mind; and
  • integrating motorized shade control into the lighting control system.

“Based on a direct sunlight study by the WSP built ecology group, the lighting control system was programmed to automatically lower the shades during the times of day that direct sunlight was present, reducing glare and solar heat gain,” Hammer said.

Science, Service, Stewardship

Hammer said the objective of the lighting design was to “embrace the owner’s core values of ‘science, service, and stewardship,’ and to address the diverse program range including laboratories, library, offices, collaboration and conference facilities, dining, and public exhibit space.”

The team's design strategies provided the client with a cost-effective solution that met aggressive energy goals while providing superior visual comfort and natural light to occupants.

lighting design, NOAA headquarters, wood ceiling slats, ambient accent light fixtures


Ambient and accent light fixtures are concealed between wood ceiling slats.

“The project was a wonderful challenge on many fronts,” Hammer said. “It had impressive, lofty sustainability goals, and it was one of the first projects in the San Francisco office using the Revit building information modeling software. We had extensive review sessions with NAVFAC and NOAA, holding all aspects of design to an extreme level of detail in terms of accountability and accuracy.”

Hammer said it was also an opportunity to design a fully integrative lighting and daylighting solution with the entire team.

“Jay and I collaborated on the lighting controls concepts from the very early stages of the design with HOK, built ecology, NOAA and NAVFAC, and sought opportunities to push the envelope in an integrated fashion, which shaped the lighting design solutions, control solutions, and even the strategy for electrical circuiting,” she said.

Their approach helped maintain consistency throughout design and construction, and contributed to the project’s sustainability achievements.

“This project is the gold standard by which I measure all other lighting control systems I design,” Hammer said. “Professionally, to have been a part of the design team with HOK – and collaborating with wonderful coworkers and mentors within our own firm to achieve cutting-edge goals – has made this one of my favorite projects to date.”

NOAA Daniel K Inouye, regional center, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

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