Student safety and zero net energy initiative drive exterior lighting design at California campus

Jan. 25, 2020

Plaza Verde is a housing complex on the University of California Irvine (UCI) campus and is home to over 1400 undergraduate students.  American Campus Communities (ACC) hired KTGY Architecture + Planning to design the new facility, their fifth housing collaboration on the UCI campus.

This particular project was the last piece in a puzzle to connect the previous East Campus housing projects with the main institutional buildings, so many of the design decisions involved that connection.

Plaza Verde has become a central community hub. Students living on the East Campus walk past on their way to and from classes, and on-site facilities include classroom and study rooms, community centers, vehicle and bike parking, storage, and a bus stop.

Luminis’ Lumistik CL821 provides the exterior lighting around the perimeter of the Plaza Verde buildings and interior courtyards. The column fixtures accentuate the walkways between buildings and pathways leading to the main city sidewalks.

“Security – real and perceived – is always a key consideration for undergraduate student housing,” said Benjamin Kasdan, associate principal at KTGY Architecture + Planning. “The goal is to ensure the resident students feel safe, but also to reassure their parents.”

To this end, transparency is an intentional design element, inside the buildings and out. All structures have portals, or breezeways, on the main floors, so pedestrians always have a clear visual path through the various buildings and across the courtyards.

Lighting, too, is a significant contributor to that wayfinding. The Lumistik CL821, with 4000K color temperature, illuminates the courtyards with bright yet comfortable light. Students can pass through the outdoor spaces and feel safe at any time of day or night.

A 20’ vertical grade change on the land required some special considerations, including sloped pathways to ensure accessibility. The unique clear lens of the Lumistik luminaires provides a wide distribution of light along the path and surrounding area, enabling students to safely navigate the elevation changes, regardless of physical ability.

UCI sets the language for the design aesthetic, ensuring a crisp, contemporary look and feel across all campus buildings and landscaping.  Plaza Verde colors were selected to match the East Campus buildings and lean towards earth tones. Lumistik CL821’s clean lines elegantly complement the surrounding buildings and landscaping.

One of the key accomplishments of this massive project was designing to net-zero energy standards, meaning the total amount of energy used by the Plaza Verde buildings on an annual basis will equal the amount of renewable energy created on the site. The state of California has set goals to reach net-zero by 2030, but the UCI campus has already adopted this initiative for all new construction.

Lumistik CL821 positively contributes to energy efficiency on campus. Its LED light source only consumes 48 watts but the luminaires deliver a robust 88 lumens per watt. And with an expected lifetime beyond 50,000 hours, the Luminis fixture will be a cost-effective, low-maintenance solution for the facility.

“Everything on site had to be as efficient as possible, including lighting,” said Kasdan. “The fact that Luminis could offer an exterior luminaire to meet our strict energy requirements was pretty significant.”

The Plaza Verde design has been well-received in the student community and has already proven to be a commercial success. Pre-leasing went above and beyond ACC's expectations, which may prompt the start of a second phase earlier than expected.

“The exterior lighting is a seamless element in the project,” Kasdan said. “It was a truly collaborative effort, as everyone worked well to blend all the elements. You can’t tell where the architecture ends and the interior design or landscaping begins. Lighting is a part of that.”

PROJECT NAME: Plaza Verde – University of California Irvine

LOCATION: Irvine, California, USA

CATEGORY: Exterior Lighting


ARCHITECT: KTGY Architecture + Planning

PHOTOGRAPHY: Julio Dueñas, Creative Noodle




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