Energy-saving lighting system makes headlines

In June 2000, The New York Times Co. announced its plan to construct a new building to house its headquarters in midtown Manhattan.


In June 2000, The New York Times Co. announced its plan to construct a new building to house its headquarters in midtown Manhattan. The 1.5-million-sq-ft, 52-story structure was completed in 2007 and features 730,000 sq ft of retail and office space. It also boasts a state-of-the-art, energy-saving lighting system that Times Co. executives believe is increasing employee productivity.

The New York Times Building’s total light management system, designed by Lutron Electronics Co. Inc., allows it to use 70% less energy for lighting than the building’s design called for. The 70% lighting energy reduction represents a savings of $315,100 per year at New York City electric rates. It also means the prevention of 1,250 metric tons of CO 2 emissions each year. In this age of rising energy costs, these are indeed reasons to “stop the presses.”

First published in 1851, The New York Times has long enjoyed a prominent place among U.S. news organizations. The organization understands that what it says and does reverberates across many borders. It’s no surprise, then, that when the newspaper’s parent company, The New York Times Co., decided to build a new headquarters in Manhattan, it eschewed the idea of maintaining a passive role in the project and resolved to exercise control at every stage of the project’s design and construction.

“We desired an interior environment that allowed our employees to be as comfortable as possible and that would reinforce our company’s emphasis on open communication, collaboration, and transparency,” said David Thurm, vice president and CIO of the Times Co. “In addition, we insisted that the building be as environmentally friendly as possible.”

To accomplish these objectives, the Times Co. hired world-renowned architect Renzo Piano, along with two major architectural firms, FXFOWLE of New York and Gensler of San Francisco. The Times Co. also employed the lighting design services of SBLD Studio of New York.

The result is a dazzling tower jointly owned with Forest City Ratner Companies of New York. Its chief attributes are open spaces and floor-to-ceiling glass walls that give the building’s occupants wide views of the neighboring skyscrapers and, conversely, allow outsiders to look in. “The No. 1 priority was to allow natural light to make our employees feel more comfortable and to produce an energizing work environment,” said Thurm.

The Times Co. recognized the importance of lighting controls from the start. Executives researched state-of-the-art lighting control options to satisfy their twin desires for harvesting daylight and for the flexibility to reconfigure spaces easily and simply.

The research eventually gravitated to the Building Technologies Department at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California. With guidance from the Berkeley Lab, the project design team, and manufacturers, the Times Co. built a replica of the southwest corner of its new building at one of its printing facilities in Queens, New York. For six months, from winter solstice to summer solstice, the mock-up tested an array of different lighting technologies and products from a variety of manufacturers—including a new technology just emerging from Lutron.

The testing, plus Lutron’s response to a competitive bid, convinced the Times Co. to select Lutron’s Quantum light management solution for its office space. EcoSystem/Quantum employs a number of different strategies—including daylight control, occupant control, target set point control, time clock control, and emergency lighting control—to give building occupants maximum comfort and give business owners the flexibility to adapt their work environments to meet changing business requirements. Quantum also features software to control, monitor, and report on the lighting usage in the building.

After the building had been occupied for a year, Glenn Hughes, former director of construction for The New York Times Co. and now president of Glenn D. Hughes Consulting Associates, used Quantum’s 30-day energy usage report to determine how much energy savings the EcoSystem/Quantum solution achieved by matching results it has achieved in other office buildings.

“We designed our building to use 1.28 W/sq ft of lighting power,” Hughes said. “With Quantum, The New York Times Co. is using only 0.38%%MDASSML%%that’s 70% less.” Hughes said the figure of 1.28 W/sq ft of lighting power was within the local code in effect when the building was constructed. It has since tightened to about 1.1 W.

Hughes went on to say that the Lutron lighting control system has established an excellent baseline for the building and is poised to achieve even better energy savings as the system parameters are tweaked. Hughes says this is the type of energy-efficient system that supports the federal Department of Energy’s goal of constructing net-zero energy buildings by 2025.

Sensible strategies

The New York Times Building lighting system achieved savings primarily by using the following strategies:

  • Light level tuning (setting the appropriate light level for each space): 58%

  • Daylight harvesting (dimming electric lights when daylight is available): 30%

  • Occupancy sensing (turning off lights when spaces are vacant): 10%

  • Scheduling (turning lights off during certain times of the day): 2%.

With EcoSystem, daylight sensors make the most of natural light pouring into a space by continually and imperceptibly adjusting the electric light levels, while maintaining a consistent overall light level for the people working in that space.

“With all the daylight coming in, the avoidance of glare was a crucial issue to the client,” said Attila Uysal, principal and technical director of the lighting design firm SBLD Studio. “They understood that the 'quality’ of the lighting mattered as much as anything—and they were able to deliver a highly sophisticated digital lighting system with a very powerful control software tool that’s easy to use and that carried the clients’ wishes to the nth degree.”

In the Times building, every floor’s lighting scheme is divided into zones, each with its own lighting levels that fit employees’ needs and each based on the amount of daylight that penetrates that space. Roughly 18,000 digitally addressable EcoSystem ballasts were used to achieve that kind of precision, according to Hughes.

Times Co. executives report increased employee satisfaction. “As a company,” Thurm said, “we intuitively understood that, if we were going to work in a building with so much outer glass, we had to keep a rein on our energy consumption. That helps our bottom line but also is the environmentally responsible thing to do.”

Employee comfort, increased productivity, reduced energy usage, and flexibility of use—The New York Times Building’s lighting system makes for quite a story.


Information provided by Lutron Electronics Co. Inc., Coopersburg, Pa.

At A Glance

By using Lutron Electronics Co. Inc.’s EcoSystem/Quantum lighting solution, The New York Times Co. was able to slash the amount of energy needed to light its new Manhattan headquarters.

The Times Co. chose EcoSystem/Quantum after testing various lighting technologies and products. The EcoSystem/Quantum lighting solution helped the company meet its goals of using natural light while retaining the ability to reconfigure spaces easily. It did this with a combination of lighting strategies like light level tuning, daylight harvesting, occupancy sensing, and scheduling,

The results are a 70% lighting energy reduction, a savings of $315,100 per year in electricity costs, a reduction in the CO 2 emissions, and increased employee productivity.

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