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"Despite the growing interest in daylighting, "getting it right" remains a challenge. Elegant images in architectural magazines don't automatically translate into sustainable designs with proven comfort and energy performance. Controlling thermal heat loss and gain can be largely addressed with highly insulating glazing technologies on the market today. However, controlling solar gain and managing daylight, view, and glare is at a much earlier stage in terms of cost-effective, available solutions."
— Stephen Selkowitz, Building Technologies Head, LBNL
Mockup of the Times Company Building elevation with exterior shading provided by ceramic tubes.

Mockup of The New York Times Building elevation with exterior shading provided by ceramic tubes.
Photo credit: David Joseph

In early 2003, the Times Company approached the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) for advice having read about LBNL's research on dynamic façade and lighting systems. Their new corporate headquarters was designed to promote "transparency" to the public (being a news organization that provides factual information to its customers) via floor-to-ceiling clear glass windows shaded by a unique exterior shading system. Enhancing the way employees work was the key objective, with sustainable building design as a secondary objective. Automated roller shades and daylighting controls were under consideration. The Times Company learned on their own devices that such sustainable designs would help them achieve their primary goal since they believed that such designs foster employee creativity, productivity, and health through the environment of the space and its connectivity to the outdoors. The Times Company was willing to consider these technologies but needed third-party data to understand the risks associated with the use of such technologies.

A partnership was subsequently created between the Times Company, LBNL, industry, and public funding agencies to conduct a monitored field test to evaluate several commercially-available automated fa├žade-daylighting systems. Monitored field tests on emerging technologies help to provide such information to end users thus reducing risk. The field test was designed to provide credible third-party lighting energy use, control system performance, and visual comfort data that resulted from monitoring a full-scale 4500 ft2 daylighting mockup.

The nine-month monitored study focused on quantifying the synergistic benefits of using automated roller shades with daylight harvesting. Conventional (0-10 V) and DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface) ballasts combined with two types of daylight control systems were evaluated. Two types of automated roller shade products were evaluated (dc- versus ac-motorized shades with two different types of control algorithms). Human factors surveys were administered to occupants asked to perform their conventional office tasks. Visualization simulation studies were also conducted in parallel to flush out pertinent issues related to the visual environment.

Central to this activity was the Times Company's interest in generating a competitive marketplace. The field study data were used to create a unique procurement specification, which was let out to eligible manufacturers for competitive bidding. The winning manufacturers were then invited in a further partnership with the Times Company and LBNL to develop, test, and prove the capabilities of their systems in the daylighting mockup prior to installation in the final building. Entire new product lines were created in response to the unique specifications. Simulation and measured data were produced to help the manufacturers optimize zoning, sensor placement and design, and fabric choice.

To insure that the systems were installed and operating as intended, commissioning tools and procedures were developed then applied to verify performance prior to occupancy. Commissioning was conducted in the Times Building as floors were completed between December 2006 and June 2007. The data from the commissioning mobile carts facilitated productive discussions with the manufacturers and enabled fine tuning of the control systems for optimal performance.

As a corporate citizen, the Times Company was interested in using the combined capability of dimmable lighting, automated shades, and the underfloor air distribution system to shed peak loads during critical periods when an electricity brown-out or black-out was imminent. Estimates of potential peak demand reductions were made using the EnergyPlus building energy simulation program under different scenarios of curtailment, ranging from moderate to severe. Financial implications were computed. The study concluded that small reductions in peak demand could be achieved above and beyond the reductions achieved with the normal energy-efficient mode of operation but with a penalty to the quality of the workplace environment. The Times Company relied on other components in their building to achieve demand-response goals.

In 2011, the Times Company agreed to collaborate on a post-occupancy study of their building in partnership with the US Department of Energy's Commercial Building Partnership program. LBNL and the Center for the Built Environment conducted a detailed monitoring and verification study of the energy use and occupant response to the indoor environment resulting from the use of the energy-efficiency measures. The study concluded that significant energy and peak demand reductions can be attained while satisfying occupant requirements for a high quality productive workplace.

The Times Building project has generated enormous interest in daylighting around the world. Commercial product offerings now claim significantly greater capabilities compared to those offered prior to the Times Company project. The future challenge for industry is to replicate the Times Company success in commercial buildings on a routine and cost-effective basis.