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PROJECT / LIBRARY OF BIRMINGHAM, UK Photograph: Christian Richters


Custom designed hoop pendant fittings, conceived by Mecanoo and manufactured by Lighting Motions, suspended over the main reading areas to provide a more social space, replicate the circular motif on the façade.


design brief set by the client to achieve an exemplar and innovative design with a BREEAM Excellent rating. Laura Phillips, head of Happold Lighting, who led the pro- ject identified the challenges for the design and construction team in illuminating the building where the BREEAM Excellent rating was indeed achieved.


“The initial challenge was to start under- standing the proposed series of architec- tural spaces, how the massing worked with the ventilation and the lighting strategy for the building,” she begins. “Lighting work commenced with daylight modelling of the external frieze to determine what level of light could penetrate the floor plate with- out overheating or glare. An optimum de- sign was reached which allowed Mecanoo to develop the unique external frieze design. The frieze reflects light and heat during the day but at night it becomes a veil to the building and is lit from fittings mounted within the space to provide a consistent appearance to the overall massing of the building at night. This approach allows the building to retain a lit appearance within the city context at night without relying on large areas of the interior being on during darkness.”


The controls strategy for the building was key in achieving the BREEAM requirements where perimeter areas are daylight linked, all back of house areas have occupancy detection and timed switching which were critical for meeting the energy targets. Through a series of site testing on the façade it was agreed a high number of smaller wattage sources on the façade should be adopted to keep energy use to a minimum, to control light spill into the sky and to make sure the interior spaces were not interrupted from any extraneous light spill from floods. While the façade is lit with white light for the majority of the time, the acdc Como fittings allow the entire façade to be illuminated in different colours via a Mode DMX control unit to allow the building to act as a backdrop to Cente- nary Square where public evening events are often held. As each fitting is individually controlled, colour washes and a level of dynamic lighting is achieved with the cost effective scheme. Within the building, interior daylight mod- elling was required on the central skylight to ensure it was producing the chimney stack requirement for the natural ventila- tion strategy and delivering natural light


to the central circulation space given the deep plan of the building in areas. A number of lighting workshops were carried out at Mecanoo’s offices in Delft to develop ideas that could work with the energy targets. Visually the spaces are relatively open and non-uniform and interesting views are cre- ated across the floors through the central voids. Also with the height of the building, the vertical circulation was important and visitors are taken on a journey through the space through a series of escalators and travelators which are visually connected with the use of blue light in the handrails to create a sense of drama and anticipa- tion as they carry visitors to the centre of the building. This central Rotunda is illuminated with a series of custom curved linear fittings. The original specification was for linear cathode in a custom housing. However, due to the energy criteria and the advancement in technology over the course of the project, these were changed to LED bookshelf fittings manufactured by Lighting Motions. Testing was carried out to determine the correct distribution and colouration to ensure the bookshelves are illuminated to 200lux on the vertical. Archive storage is enclosed and located


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