KAISER PERMANENTE                                                      BACK
By: Robert Tant
  The Kaiser Permanente medical complex in Fontana, California stands silently, radiating as a welcoming beacon in the night sky of Southern California. New lighting designed by California lighting designer Robert Tant (RTLD) provides an energy efficient well lit exterior which guides people toward a primary care building with an inviting glow. "Exterior environments particularly hospital facilities as a public edifice require lighting that enables visual clarity and identifies a visual hierarchy". The lighting design criteria demanded that the building have a clearly stated visual directory distinguishing particular area designations with the building, building entrances, pathways and signage visually defined. The lighting for these exterior areas assists in guiding the public by first defining the architecture of the primary care facility, boldly illuminating the building exterior. The long view was critical to anchoring a visual queue for an approaching driver incoming from the highway or surface streets. The effective illumination washing the building surfaces enables a driver to focus on the exact location of the primary car facility. As a pedestrian approach's the complex they are immediately focused toward the building drawn by the rich illuminating qualities of the structure. As one move closer, more specific visual identities are presented to direct the viewer toward the main entrance of the facility.

Prior to the new construction of the adjoining parking structure it had been a long walk from other adjacent parking areas on the campus. This was the catalyst that prompted the client to build a new parking structure and then in turn re-define the surrounding areas of the existing primary care building. One of the lighting design challenges was to visually unite the dissimilar older 1960s six-story building, with the new adjoining four story parking structure and link together the ground level spaces between the new and the old structures. The existing building architecture is designed with projecting fins spanning vertically along the facades. The top area of the facade also projects outward horizontally from the building facade creating a series of cell like divisions to the elevations. This proved to be a compatible geometry allowing lighting to be placed in the bays were there were no patient room windows. There was a concern that any lighting scheme from below would have caused light trespass into the patient rooms. The architects chose to enliven the exterior spaces between the two structures with a new curvaceous shaped colonnade of wall planes which, envelope a circular courtyard and extend around to define the space at the entry drive. This created the unifying elements between the existing building and the parking structure. Areas included in the lighting scheme were automobile and pedestrian entrances a courtyard, walkways and landscaping. The goal was to create an aesthetic night time appearance with a primary focus on the building, while also adhering to necessary illumination requirements at the ground level. Areas specifically addressed were the transition spaces between new and old structures accommodating pedestrian access from the adjacent parking garage as well as at driveway drop off entries which provide short term stopping for loading and unloading of patients.

Areas included in the lighting scheme were automobile and pedestrian walkways, entrances, a courtyard, covered walkways, roadways, drop off entries, landscaping, signage and the building identification. The architectural forms are enriched by a landscape of palm trees with lush ground level foliage. "

The approach taken for illuminating the building is a novel departure. Most buildings are usually lighted from the bottom up, "this one is illuminated from the top down." Another unique feature of the lighting system is that the three sides of the building facades were illuminated using only 56 fixtures and a total of only 6380 watts of compact fluorescent light. It is interesting to note that originally only two sides of the building was to be lighted. After the final installation, the clients were so pleased with the results that they decided to light the other side as well. The colonnade effect resulting from the alternating exterior building surfaces is vibrantly defined by lighting the recessed planes. This radiant effect is provided by a series of two lamp, 55 compact fluorescent fixtures. The compact fluorescent source is a 3500 kelvin temperature.

The fixtures are mounted at fifty-seven feet above grade, spaced approximately 6'0" on center and positioned 2' from the exterior wall plane. A custom continuous rectangular mounting shroud was designed by RTLD to blend with the building architecture and unobtrusively house the 4' long fixtures. The 4'0' reflector segments are housed in a continuos linear housing creating an almost seamless transition from building surface to lighting product. This integration of form eliminates the visual impact of lighting instruments secured to the surface of the building.


To persuade the client and the architects of the merit of the design to light the building from the top down, a mock - up was employed to demonstrate the effects of this approach. A few fixture reflector assemblies were temporarily c-clamped to the top edge of the building and by a "unanimous luminous decision " the project moved forward. Lighting a building is sometimes regarded as excess and usually is saved when regarded as an artistic expression. The Kaiser project exemplifies a synthesis between aesthetics and functionality. Since the building is illuminated from the top down, all of the reflected light is distributed downwards towards the pedestrian walkways and areas adjacent to the perimeter of the building. This component of light otherwise directed into the sky is now useful and contributes to overall ambient luminance in the pedestrian areas. The pronounced colonnade effect of the illuminated building facades creates a dynamic background to the accent lighting of the architectural elements and the landscaping.

The drop off areas center island at the main entry are planted with large date palms; these are up-lighted with 150 watt 3200 K metal halide sources. The architectural forms are enriched by a landscape of palm trees with lush ground level foliage." Each tree is cross-lit with two fixtures, to punch up the entrance area. Other palm trees located in front of the building and in the circular courtyard are illuminated from the ground plane with adjustable MR16 spots. These fixtures are positioned close to the base of the tree to accentuate the trunks as well as the frond tops of the palms. The next layer of illumination comes from below grade up-lights that highlight vertical wall plane surfaces of the architectural expression; the walls add another layer of imagery contributing to a pleasant environment. There are seventeen burial fixtures in the paving with 100-watt par38 halogen IR flood lamps. The apertures of these fixtures are fitted with black hex louvers to the control surface brightness levels from the passing pedestrian eyes. Forward of the wavy wall are a row of low-level light bollards that serve to blanket the ground plane with light and identify the separation of a curb-less sidewalk and the roadway.

The lighting for the signage at the main entrance is carefully concealed behind the shallow metal work of the curved architectural canopy. This entrance "eyebrow canopy" is shaped in plan as half an ellipse, the space to position fixtures is marginal only 2’4" at the furthest point in plan from the sign. The solution was a series of compact fluorescent fixtures with asymmetrical reflectors. A small profile fixture was utilized in order to hide the product from any direct viewing angles. Several lamp wattage’s @ 3000 k were used to achieve an even illumination and to accommodate the varied set back distances from the sign plane. Asymmetrical reflectors were specified with a one way clear linear acrylic lens to maximize the horizontal beam spread thus eliminating hot spots by patterning an overlapping distribution. Flanking the signage band below are two custom wall mounted luminaries which are intended to add a formal identity to the main entry and to suggest the gateway into the facility. The architectural language of the wavy wall inspired these "lantern" elements designed by RTLD; the arc shaped fixtures profile is detailed with thin wall plastic translucent panels that align to a surface detail of the raked concrete finish. The detail is subtle but it gives the fixture a sculptural quality. A single 4’o" T-8 fluorescent (3000 K) wet location off the shelf floodlight is mounted back inside "the lantern." This avoided any need to have the fixture labeled by UL for exterior use. This approach to a custom exterior product saves time and money.

A circular courtyard intersects various adjacent passageways leading to other buildings on the site and into the new parking structure. This area is down lighted by (5) metal halide spot light fixtures mounted to the rooftop of an elevator tower about fifty feet above ground. Spot reflectors were chosen for two of a total of five spotlights which, are fitted with Clear 250 watt metal halide lamps, a contrasting 4000 kelvin temperature was used. These two fixtures accent contrasting bright spots on the concrete surface below while, the other three are specified with a warmer coated metal halide lamp (250/C/HOR/3200K) to spread the beam and also intended to cast a warmer rendition on the concrete paving and surfaces below. Fixtures were fitted with 180-degree glare shields and black concentric louvers. The mounting method for these five fixtures was modified by the LD to enable the product to be aimed to a more acute angle than possible with standard hardware. An existing covered walkway leading to the front doors were down-lighted with an outdated HPS source, these were retrofitted with new ballast's and with a fifty watt coated metal halide source. There were other path lights and area lighting fixtures on the perimeter of the project scope, which were also retrofitted with current equipment. Energy use was always a hot topic in discussions and it was helpful to offset the load by improving the efficiency of some of the older products.

Mexican fan palm trees located in front of the building and in the circular courtyard are lit using Q50MR16/SP and Q75MR16NFL constant color, 5000-hour lamps. Fixture positions enable a combination effect for grazing the trunks and highlighting the crown tops of the palms. The center island’s (9) larger date palm trees are up-lighted with 70 watt 3200K double-ended metal halide sources that have an 80 CRI. Each tree is cross-lit with two adjustable surface mounted fixtures.

The methods used in particular to illuminate this building prove beyond a doubt that we are in a new and exciting era in the field of lighting design. The older equipment for lighting large exterior surfaces was costly and required large fixtures as well as much larger electric bills.

With the latest light sources and equipment it's encouraging to know that we will see more good architecture celebrated with efficient lighting. A quote by Frank Lloyd Wright says " Invest in Beauty and you shall be rich all your life. "


Bega, ELP, GE, Greenlee, Kim, Lumiere, Orgatec-Omegalux, Osram, Phoenix, Ushio.

Lighting Consultant:

RTLD www.rtldlightyears.com


Robert Tant


Ware and Malcomb Architects / GKK Architects