Historic commercial space quietened with innovative acoustic lighting
Yaletown is a historic neighborhood in downtown Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada) and home to some of the oldest warehouses in the city. While most of the structures are brick or timber, the standout building is fully board-formed concrete (instead of the traditional plywood). This unique construction was one of the many features that appealed to the team at Francl Architecture, who selected the two-story building for its new studio and headquarters.
At close to 100 years old, the concrete building had a unique story to tell. Stefan Aepli, architect and principal in charge of the renovations, said his team sought to preserve its heritage as much as possible during the office retrofit.
"As designers, we appreciated the honesty of the materials," said Aepli. "We wanted to showcase the history and structural system of the building, expressing the material, structure, and technology with which it was designed and built."
Francl's studio occupies the main upper floor, approximately 6,000 sq. ft. The open office plan takes on an industrial feel, with a framework of concrete walls, ceilings, and structural pillars across the floor. Three major skylights contribute to the light quality of the space and full windows at the north and south ends. In lighting the area, Aepli's design team sought to augment the natural daylight, and equally important, to showcase the concrete.
A-Light's Absorb H pendants were selected as the primary illumination source throughout the space. With high-performance HE Tech™ optics, each luminaire provides evenly diffused direct light down to the workstations below, ensuring no hot spots, shadows, or reflections on the screens.
Indirect illumination from each pendant serves two purposes, showcasing the dramatic concrete structure above while making the space appear taller than it is. The latter was necessary because the main floor ceiling slopes from 12 feet at its highest down to approximately nine feet.
Employees can control both direct and indirect illumination independently using Acuity's nLight® AIR lighting control system.
“One of the challenges of this incredible open concrete space is managing sound,” Aepli said. “When we first walked in, the reverberation off the bare concrete was excessive. So, we wanted a light fixture that could demonstrate sound absorption, to avoid using acoustic panels that would take away from the aesthetics.”
The innovative double-wall hollow-core shape of Absorb H's wings allows for the efficient absorption of sound. Felt-like polyester panels decrease reverberation time with a large surface area and have an inherent sound absorption rate of 0.75 NRC.
Aepli confirms that the Absorb H pendants contribute to a quieter workspace across the upstairs studio, even with its concrete floors. But they are equally effective downstairs, where boardrooms and meeting spaces are carpeted. The acoustic fixtures work with the floor covering to provide additional sound absorption, and ultimately the extra privacy these areas demand.
The aesthetics of the luminaire itself also played a role in selecting the A-Light fixture.
“Absorb H’s wing shape intrigued us,” said Aepli. “The space is very rectangular with no organic shapes. This luminaire adds a bit of softness to all the hard edges of the building. Yet it’s unobtrusive and doesn’t distract from the heritage structure.”
The renovation has been well-received by the Francl team and its visitors. And, because the project was completed during the height of the pandemic, those returning to the studio after time working from home have enjoyed the attractive workspace.
"Absorb H produces an excellent quality of up and downlight, the fixture lends an interesting aesthetic, and the ambient noise is well-managed. We are grateful to the team at Symmetry Lighting for bringing this solution to the table,” Aepli said.
PROJECT NAME: Francl Architecture Inc.
LOCATION: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
PROJECT COMPLETION: October 2020
ARCHITECT/INTERIOR DESIGNER: Francl Architecture Inc.
A-LIGHT AGENT: Symmetry Lighting
PHOTOGRAPHY: Martin Knowles Photo/Media