Awards, Lighting Design

Benya, Neils, Villatoro and Christensen Win 2008 GE Edison Award

The 2008 GE Edison Award was presented to James R. Benya of Benya Lighting Design, Michael Neils and Juan José Villatoro of M. Neils Engineering, Inc., and James E. Christensen of the City of Sacramento, for lighting the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento, California.


GE Consumer & Industrial presented a personalized Steuben crystal award for the 26th-annual lighting design competition on May 4, 2009 in New York City during Lightfair International. The project also earned an Award for Excellence in Environmental Design. The GE Edison Award competition is open to those lighting professionals who creatively employ significant use of GE light sources (lamps and/or LEDs) in a lighting design project completed during the previous calendar year.

The Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, opened in 1927, is listed on the National Historic Register and has been the home of concerts, inaugurals, commencements and other civic events for 80 years. Excavating the grounds to repair foundation walls provided an opportunity to improve site and building lighting. Because of its importance to the city and state, the design team was asked to develop a lighting design that is significantly better than California Title 24, and that respects nighttime skies.


The lighting design features several GE ConstantColor CMH ceramic metal halide and GE T5 High Output Ecolux fluorescent lamps. The six columns with ornate capitals and the two end pilasters are each uplighted with one 150W CMH T6 3000K in-grade luminaire. The luminaire location is precisely in the second step so that the column, capital, frieze and cornice are illuminated. Up washers with 54W T5HO 3000K lamps illuminate the pediment wall, and the medallion is highlighted with a 70W CMH narrow spot lamp.

In ceiling coves behind the arches, 70W CMH downlight wallwashers illuminate the wall and doors. The downlights, installed in the same locations as prior luminaires, were approved by the historic commission. The front corners of the building are uplighted with 54W GE T5HO luminaires supplemented by 70W CMH luminaires for the limestone pilasters.

The massive brick building’s largest façades are the east and west. Each is comprised of a series of pilasters with rooflines sloping back. A continuous fluorescent 54W T5HO wallwash luminaire between pilasters connects the composition around the building base. Pilasters are uplighted with asymmetric luminaires with 70W CMH lamps for the middle level and 39W CMH lamps for the top and bottom levels. Luminaire locations were limited by historic preservation requirements. Rather than flood the façade, a design creating a dramatic lantern effect on the top of each pilaster was chosen. Interior lighting for the skylight windows features fluorescent GE 32W T8 3000K lamps.

There are Romeo and Juliet balconies at each of the four main fire exits. Two 70W CMH in-grade floodlights and a single 54W T5HO 3000K up washer in each balcony highlight the balcony and brick wall. The lighting reveals a spectacular artful brick pattern not evident by daylight.


The lighting design also includes site poles that provide all plaza, street and walkway lighting for the building’s block. Luminaires are fully shielded and employ 150W CMH lamps.

There are a number of key design strategies that qualified the project for an Award for Excellence in Environmental Design. Light sources in the design are limited to two types: ceramic metal halide and 3000K linear fluorescent. Mockups determined the lowest practical wattage for the desired effects. The larger east and west façades are only partially illuminated, leaving extensive areas in artfully chosen shadow. Uplighting each main column with only one luminaire, and carefully aiming to also illuminate the capital, frieze, dentils and cornice, reduce power use in half from the original design concept. The elimination of some other proposed luminaires yields a design that betters California Title 24 limits by 22%. Site and plaza lighting comply with the requirements for LEED Credit SS8 for lighting pollution reduction.

Photos by Douglas A. Salin.

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Craig DiLouie


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