Time was when the lighting of an enclosed shopping mall was relegated to electrical engineers. They saw their responsibility as powering up the wattage and housing the lamps in utilitarian-looking fixtures. The light level was typically constant during business hours; the day-into-night cycle wasn't an issue.

Now, daylighting has become a major component in the lighting design programs for mall renovations and expansions. The word “daylighting” has entered the lexicon to denote natural light used in an interior that, when blended with improved types of flattering, color-balanced artificial illumination, creates environments that consumers enjoy.

Shopping center owners who are renovating and/or expanding older properties know that by integrating daylighting from overhead skylights or clerestory windows with the architecture they are making an investment in user satisfaction. (Clerestory refers to the upper portion of a wall containing windows for supplying natural light to a building.)

Indeed, lighting has assumed a status, along with architectural style, music, and entertainment and dining options, that now define the total mall environment, says lighting designer Ron Kurtz of Randy Burkett Associates in St. Louis. “Malls are in competition with many other options that consumers have to spend their time and their disposable income on, including the Internet,” Kurtz says. This strategy feeds into the time-tested retail tenet that patrons who linger longer spend more on products, entertainment and dining.

Design teams have devised ingenious solutions to replace the uniform sameness of big-box-type lighting with a combination of natural light that is enhanced during the day and artificial illumination that glamorizes the skylight and clerestory openings at night. Denis Gervais of GHA Shoppingscapes in Montreal, notes that shopping centers that are recognized today as visual experiences — pleasant, memorable and entertaining — are successfully employing daylighting in their physio/marketing appeal to attract visitors.

For example:

  • For General Growth's new 2 million-square-foot Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines, Iowa, lighting designer Michael DiBlasi of the Minneapolis office of Schuler Shook was directed to create outdoor lighting that supports what he describes as “a community feel.”
  • Simon's Dadeland Mall in Miami, underwent a major renovation that transformed the once-drab 40-year-old mall into a light-filled space for shopping and dining that now occupies 1.4 million square feet.
  • Cadillac Fairview's Carrefour Laval on the north shore of Montreal features a 75-foot-high, 200-foot-long skylight as its major architectural element. But what looks elegant during the day can seem dreary at night, so a second lighting plan was installed to add drama, says Gervais.

Carrefour Laval

“The introduction of daylighting to the mall lighting mix presents a unique set of challenges,” says Gervais, whose firm designed the interiors for Carrefour Laval and Complexe Les Ailes (left), the redevelopment of the former Montreal Eatons by Ivanhoe Cambridge.

During the day, pre-programmed electronic sensors adjust the amount of light from ambient sources and decorative fixtures to complement the level of natural light.

Ottawa-based lighting designer Philip Gabriel recessed 50 watt low-voltage metal halide luminaires into a slot that rims the ceiling below the skylight's frame. “Halide fixtures are small and directable,” Gabriel says. “They can be aimed to create emphasis on storefront façades, a technique that can't be done with fluorescent fixtures,” Gabriel says. The renovation of Carrefour Laval included raising the ceiling surrounding the main corridor on two sides by up to four feet, allowing for the installation of a band of clerestory windows that brings continuous ribbons of daylight into the interior.

“In the past, the use of daylighting was typically limited to skylights at corridor intersections,” Gabriel points out. For projects where new wings have been added, Gabriel reports that daylight is introduced into 25 percent to 65 percent of the new space. “Developers we work with are taking the initiative about daylighting; they know that people like the feeling of being out-of-doors.”

Advances in lamp technology — improved CRI (color rendering index) levels of 80 to 85 or better, longer life and reduced energy consumption — contribute to aesthetic and cost-saving goals for mall managers and their design teams, according to Gabriel

Ian Roth, an architecture and design director for Cadillac Fairview in Toronto, says that malls built from the 1960s through the 1980s are today “undergoing lighting changes to intensify the sites.” Creating indoor streetscapes that incorporate daylighting is a design priority, Roth says. In addition, to augment the perception of the mood and pace of a true street, tenants now have the option of extending their storefronts to make them more three-dimensional, and allow window lighting to spill out onto the walkways.

Roth describes spotlights mounted 40 to 50 feet above walkways that are aimed at tree tops. In the evening, they create patterns that simulate those seen on sidewalks of tree-bordered shopping thoroughfares. “During the 1980s, we relied on artificial illumination,” Roth notes. “Now, the preference is to present a lifestyle experience to the public, to give people a sense of place that relates to an outdoor environment,” he says.

Establishing outdoor lighting systems for U.S. lifestyle centers incorporates a family of fixtures at different sight levels. User safety, starting with parking areas and extending through to building entries, is combined with lighting that expresses the center's image and the architect's visual concept.

Jordan Creek

At Jordan Creek, “There is a lake in front of the buildings, outdoor restaurants, a plaza, and paths through and around the landscaped areas,” DiBlasi points out. Bollards, ground level walkway lighting and streetlights are balanced to produce a illumination throughout the site. “For emphasis, the buildings and the trees are lit,” he adds.

For both interior and exterior, DiBlasi says that energy efficiency and ease of maintenance are built into the lighting program's luminaire and lamp selection program. He specifies fixtures using LEDs (light-emitting diodes) that can last 50,000 hours or more for such areas as hard-to-reach signage.

Computer-driven, color-changing programs can beam patterns of hues generated by LEDs on surfaces as large as exterior façades or as narrow as a piece of jewelry. Pioneered by Boston-based Color Kinetics, they have been used in mall coves, as part of landscape and water feature illumination, and in food courts. Store designers have translated the capabilities of the system to highlight departmental space dividers, display fixture panels on mannequins and decorative props and fitted them in ceiling-suspended chandeliers and wall-mounted sconces, says DiBlasi.

As components become more affordable, he predicts wider use of LED fixtures for large-scale commercial projects such as shopping destinations. He collaborated with Douglas McChane, General Growth Properties Inc.'s vice president of design and construction, and Judd Eddy of Callison Architecture Inc. to develop the lighting plan.

The lighting budget for Jordan Creek, as well as other General Growth projects DiBlasi has worked on, typically includes decorative and specialty lighting, plus any custom designs that interpret themes from nature or architectural details.

One of Simon's objectives for upgrading Dadeland Mall was to reduce the amount of energy used to light the mall, and introduce daylight into the interior. Brian Cotter, Simon director of mechanical and electrical engineering, established the standards for the new lighting program in conjunction with the architects of Thompson Ventulett Stainback & Associates in Atlanta, and The Lighting Practice in Philadelphia, lighting design consultants.

Simon's energy-savings goals at Dadeland were well met, says Cotter. “The new lighting system consumes one-half of the pre-renovation load,” he says. “This saving was achieved by combining daylighting with cost-efficient architectural and feature lighting.”

Helen Diemer, vice president of The Lighting Practice designed the lighting, “To provide nighttime plant maintenance, the downlights in the ceiling are programmed to switch on from closing to sunup,” says Diemer. “Lamps that generate less heat are also a factor in calculating the cost of lighting today's shopping center.”

Mall at Millenia

Megan Carroll, formerly a marketing consultant for Philips Lighting, advises that a drop in the HVAC load is possible by using lamps engineered to produce a specified light level using less wattage and less energy.

A rule of thumb is that 2 to 3 watts of cooling are required for each watt of light,” Carroll says. Lamps that minimize the amount of energy needed to safely and attractively illuminate interior areas cut the amount of cooling used to keep shoppers comfortable.

Carroll also emphasizes the importance of imaginative exterior design that is enlivened with a sensitive lighting design. She cites the The Forbes Co./ Taubman Centers Inc. Mall at Millenia in Orlando as an “outstanding example” of an exterior design that communicates the mall's brand.

“With Millenia, the mall experience starts as soon as it comes into view,” she says. “It's a real jewel of the evening, with the glow coming from its skylight and the exterior architectural lighting adding a sculptural effect.”