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Incentives, lighting design pay off for Canada Line

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Quality of light the focus in planning for safety, energy-efficiency on transit line

Most stories about energy-efficient lighting are about technology. But on the Canada Line, the emphasis on efficient lighting started long before the fixtures were chosen.

The story of the award-winning lighting in the Canada Line begins with the design process. As the design team started work on the rapid transit line that would link downtown Vancouver with Richmond and YVR airport, an emphasis on safety framed many design decisions, including required high visibility and high quality of light.

"We had eight underground stations to design and build, and we knew the quality of the public place and sense of personal safety would be strongly influenced by the effectiveness of lighting," says Chris McCarthy, Director of Fixed Facilities on the project for SNC-Lavalin, the project's stations design manager. "Plus, there are lighting safety issues related to specific areas such as the platform edge. Thus, good lighting was critical."

What is good lighting?

That led to a discussion about what constitutes "good" lighting.

"Previous transit examples have in some cases focused too much on lighting output and not enough on distribution and uniformity," says McCarthy. "We toured similar facilities to experience both good and poor lighting.

"We measured extremes, where unevenness led to lighting levels varying from 100 footcandles to less than 10 in the space of a few metres. You can have a lot of light but still not feel comfortable in a space."

Seeking a better solution, the design team determined refinements to the lighting design manual provided for the project could save energy and improve quality. With the help of lighting designer Galina Zbrizher, Principal at Total Lighting Solutions, the team requested a revision to the lighting design criteria.

"Good lighting is about the quality of light, not the quantity," says Zbrizher. "Instead of addressing only one element of lighting – the number of footcandles – our approach was holistic. We focused on achieving high uniformity combined with good vertical luminance and absence of glare, which in combination with light-coloured finishes creates a perception of brightness.

"This approach allowed us to build brighter stations while reducing light levels in most areas, with the exception of the platform edge, where high light level is essential."

This design approach, in combination with using the highest efficiency technologies available, and incorporating daylight harvesting, created an electrical energy savings of 1.5 GWh annually for the 16 stations, compared to previous transit developments. An incentive from the BC Hydro New Construction Program made the innovative design achievable.

Quality, uniformity, and efficiency

By establishing quality of light as a key goal from the outset, the integrated design team ensured that all design elements would support the goal.

Materials for the walls, floors and ceilings were carefully selected with high reflectivity to create a brighter space. Daylighting was used extensively in above-ground stations and where possible in approaches to underground stations.

To achieve high light levels on the platform edge and provide ambient light on the platform, a custom light fixture was developed for all platform edges. The sophisticated optical design of the fixture meets the specified lighting performance goal while using only a single fluorescent lamp per section, instead of the two to three lamps required by standard platform edge fixtures.

By directing light only where it's needed and by reducing wasted light, this new fixture saves two to three times the amount of electricity to light the platforms compared to standard lighting systems.

Finally, the entire lighting system, with more than 3,500 individual lights on Canada Line stations, uses only six lighting fixture types and only five lamp types.

"Efficiency is not just about the energy that will be directly consumed by the project," says Zbrizher. "It's also the energy spent during its life cycle: manufacturing of equipment that would need to be transported, installed, maintained and eventually disposed of."

Zbrizher credits BC Hydro's involvement with helping ensure that the efficient design was adopted. "By BC Hydro supporting the customer and providing an incentive to build a more energy efficient project, the customer was able to make better use of public money. BC Hydro definitely helped to bring the project forward, to save energy in a way where everybody benefited."

Looking back, McCarthy says addressing lighting early in the design process improved the Canada Line project in numerous ways, from the quality of the experience in the stations, to the savings on energy.

"Quite often lighting gets somewhat left behind in the design development phase and deferred to the detailed design phase," said McCarthy. "But to me, it's something that should be considered right up front in the preliminary design approach: get the light levels right, get the distributions, integrate with the architectural finishes for optimization. Pull all of these elements together and you will achieve an all-encompassing and holistic solution."

"I was once asked if you could have both efficiency and good design," says Zbrizher. "But good design is energy efficient. The end result is not only to save energy. It's to supply the most livable and energy efficient space possible."

Power Smart New Construction Program

Regardless of size, all high-performance buildings have one thing in common: they've been designed, from the ground up, for maximum energy efficiency. Whether your project is small or as large as the Canada Line, the BC Hydro New Construction Program helps you plan ahead for energy-efficient, cost-effective buildings.

New Construction Program offers apply to eligible new commercial, institutional, and multi-unit residential developments and major building retrofits. Offers include studies and capital incentives for whole building design, system design, and energy efficient lighting design.

High-performance buildings mean lower operating costs, more comfortable tenants, a smaller environmental footprint and enhanced market value. Visit the New Construction Program pages for details about specific offers and how to apply.