Chicago building boasts daylighting, lighting controls

The Access Living headquarters in Chicago has a self-sustaining vegetative roof and uses integrated and green building design to achieve energy savings.


The Access Living headquarters building in Chicago has taken total light management to a whole new level. Access Living is an organization with an active role in improving the accessibility of Chicago’s public transportation and the Chicago Public School System. The LEED Gold-certified building uses both integrated and green building design approaches to achieve energy savings. 

Along with a self-sustaining vegetative roof, the four-story, 50,000-sq-ft building uses lighting controls integrated into the building automation system (BAS) to avoid wasting energy and maximize the use of light in the building. Sensors located on each floor measure the amount of daylight penetrating the building and adjust the light levels to meet the demand of the occupants. Digitally addressable ballasts allow lighting fixtures to be individually controlled. 

The lighting scheme in the building is divided into zones, allowing the occupants to adjust the lighting to their specific needs at certain times of the day. The zones can be reassigned without the need for any rewiring. 

Automated shades were also integrated into the daylight sensors and BAS. The BAS automatically dims or turns off electric lighting and adjusts the shades throughout the building. Energy performance is monitored and reported by the system for optimal building energy performance. 

A few of the numerous results and benefits include natural daylighting of 75% of occupied spaces, a lighting energy savings of 65%, and lower operating costs. In addition to the energy savings, the productivity level of the occupants has improved due to a more comfortable work atmosphere.

Similar projects that integrate lighting into their building automation include the New York Times Building in New York City and the Ben Franklin Technology Partners facility in Pennsylvania.

Michael Chow is the founder and owner of Metro CD Engineering. He holds a BSEE from Ohio Northern University and is a member of the Consulting-Specifying Engineer editorial advisory board and a 2009 40 Under 40 winner. Julia Noschang is a mechanical engineer at Metro CD Engineering. She holds a BSME from Ohio Northern University. Noschang is involved with the Programs and Education Committee and the Emerging Professionals Group within the USGBC Central Ohio Chapter as well as the Young Engineers in ASHRAE in Columbus, Ohio.

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