Lighting in Atlanta Airport contributes to LEED Silver status (MAGAZINE)

Nov. 30, 2012
A mix of fluorescent and metal-halide lighting technologies combine with adaptive controls in the newest terminal at the Atlanta, GA airport.
Fig. 1.The Maynard H. Jackson International Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport opened in May and features a mix of fluorescent and metal-halide (MH) lighting products combined with controls to deliver the energy savings needed for the building to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver recognition. The lighting design in aggregate covers 1.2 million ft2 including 12 gates, eight security checkpoints, separate arrival and departure areas, and access roadways. The look is spectacular in areas such as the main ticketing hall where the design mixes blue cove lighting with a polished terrazzo tile floor.

The lighting design firm Domingo Gonzalez Associates (DGA) headed up the project for lighting all public areas inside the terminal and the arrival and departure areas outside. Firm president Domingo Gonzalez said, “The main challenge revolved around the requirements of designing the first LEED Silver certified building at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and executing this with lighting strategies and technologies that were program responsive, energy efficient, cost effective and easy to maintain.”

With energy efficiency a key goal, one might expect that LED-based lighting was a natural choice, but DGA didn’t specify LEDs. Gonzalez explained that the design work began over four years ago when LED products were considered too expensive, and the number of commercially viable options was still limited.

Fig. 2. Gonzalez clarified that the project would feature some point-source LED luminaires if the design were ongoing today, because LED products have become more cost effective and more verifiable in terms of performance. But he also said that such products bring challenges as well as advantages. One issue is that LED-based lighting products are all single-sourced products (other than retrofit lamps) and institutional customers such as airports like the flexibility of buying replacement lamps and fixtures from multiple sources when required.

Ticketing hall

Getting back to the main ticketing hall (pictured on the cover and nearby), the DGA design team used single-lamp Mark Architectural Lighting (an Acuity Brand) Slot 6 fixtures to form what appear to be continuous linear lights stretching to as much as 24 ft. Running perpendicular to those lights, the team installed custom-made cove fixtures with deep-blue Osram Sylvania T5 fluorescent tubes.

Mark manufactured the cove fixtures based on the lighting firm’s specification. Nancy Lok of DGA developed an adaptable, staggered-lamp approach to ensure a seamless line and indeed the lighting appears continuous across the width of the hall.

Fig. 3. The combination of the white and blue lighting provides the light levels needed in the space and spectacularly reflects on the polished floor. Daylight, however, can minimize the need for electric light. Gonzalez pointed out that the glazing extends 40 ft on the front of the building, and said, “On some days you don’t even need the Slot lights on.”

That brings the discussion to controls used in the ticketing hall and elsewhere in the facility. The design implements programmatic controls that can reduce light levels based on the time of day. It also includes controls that work based on occupancy sensors and on photocells that can sense daylight levels.

Gonzalez explained that the controls approach was important for both saving energy and reducing maintenance costs on the airport project. He said, “The lamp with the longest life is the one that is not on.” The controls used in the airport are relatively simple. Gonzalez described them as “hardly sophisticated but very effective.” The incremental granularity of the control is a single circuit that powers multiple fixtures as opposed to individual fixture control that you could get with technology such as Digital Addressable Lighting Interface (DALI). The design uses control products from the Acuity’s Synergy and Lighting Control & Design (LC&D) divisions.

The controls are utilized in a number of ways. For example in the main hall discussed previously, there are MH uplights for indirect lighting that are mounted on the columns along the outer walls of the hall. Those lights are intended to be turned off during daylight hours, as are the custom blue fluorescent lights.

No dimming required

In other areas such as the departure concourse, the design mixes fluorescent fixtures, compact-fluorescent downlights, and MH sources. Light levels are controlled by turning some select lights off, and in some cases via the use of Hi/Lo ballasts than can drive a fluorescent lamp at either 50% or 100% of full output. No true dimming technology is utilized, in terms of dimmable ballasts or lamps. Instead, a switching approach was selected in response to owner preferences for maintenance simplicity, intuitive operating experience, and for flexibility in terms of low cost.

Fig. 4. Gonzalez explained that in the departure concourse that the nominal light level when people are present is 15-20 fc average. But the system can drop that level to 5 fc in gate areas that aren’t being used or at night when the terminal is essentially closed between 1:00 and 5:00 AM.

Likewise, controls come into play in the security checkpoint areas. When checkpoints are open, the system delivers 40 fc of light. At night after 11:00 PM, that level can be dropped to 10 fc.

In the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) or customs area, the airport required higher light levels for custom agents. In that area, DGA specified MH downlights integrated with the Mark Fluorescent Slot fixtures. The team sought in each case to match the specified fixtures to the localized need.

Fig. 5. Mark Fluorescent Slot fixtures also illuminate the baggage claim area. Those multi-lamp fixtures include the ability to selectively energize lamps to achieve the appropriate light level.

Outdoor lighting

In the outdoor areas, DGA again used a combination of MH lamps and fluorescent fixtures. The upper-level departure area relies primarily on MH downlights that are mounted in the canopy. Underneath the departure roadway in the arrivals area, the team used a mix of Lithonia I-Beam fluorescent fixtures and MH fixtures.

The access roadway was not in DGA’s scope of work. According to Acuity, the roadways feature circular Omero fixtures from Lithonia. The company supplies those fixtures with the option of MH, high-pressure sodium (HPS), induction, and compact-fluorescent lamps, although the airport utilized the MH option.

In some cases MH lamps are approaching the efficacy of LED lighting (see page 22). The MH lamps installed at the Atlanta airport come close with an efficacy of 86 lm/W, according to Russ Walter of lighting distributor Lighting Associates, which supplied the fixtures. The access roadway lighting does not include the use of adaptive controls for dimming late at night because there is traffic on those roadways all night long.

LEED features

Fig. 6. Of course there are many elements beyond lighting and energy efficiency that factor into LEED recognition. In the case of the new airport terminal, other elements include a massive rainwater collection system, water-saving features, and construction materials that don’t emit harmful chemicals.

The rainwater collection system can store 25,000 ft3 of water including roof runoff. That water is filtered before it’s returned to the local watershed.

The plumbing system uses low-flow fixtures that are projected to save 40,000 gallons of water annually. Moreover, the terminal design included highly efficient heating and cooling systems.