Louis Vuitton, like most luxury retailers, has been challenged for several years to reconcile the demands of retail trends in store design and product display, with the implementation of strict energy and lighting Codes. These codes are adopted by the various agencies and jurisdictions with the overall goal of reduced energy consumption, without providing specific solutions, as they are intended to spur innovation and product development.
Within the industry, there seems to be a reliance on the general sense that ‘lighting technology’ will be the solution, with much the same faith that accompanies the general assumption that computers will continue to improve in speed and processing power. In many cases, this assumption is ahead of reality, and compliance seems to be more about bending the rules or ‘getting by’.
In North America, the local Store Planning team embraced the challenge, and adopted a two-track approach to reducing lighting energy consumption in their stores.
The Technical Approach – Working with ballast and light fixture manufacturers, the team developed a system to reduce overall energy usage, using existing commercially available lamps (in addition to testing and selectively using LED lamps). The result is a proprietory fixture that conforms to labeling requirements for certifying of a lower energy consumption. Very technical, and very exciting for the Electrical Engineer!
The Perceptual Approach – From an Architect’s perspective, the more interesting part of the equation is a focus on the perceptual studies. Luxury retail represents the blending of high art and commerce, and this is reflected in the ambiance of the lighting, which by is very nature is the subject of perception.
These studies used full scale testing of various lighting levels and lamp combinations for the customer experience in their stores. This approach was tested and benchmarked, in a full-scale mockup in the 4,000 square foot store in Palm Desert, California.
At this location, the lighting for the entire store, including ambient ‘cove’ lighting, display lighting, and the lighting within merchandise display fixtures, was wired on multiple ‘split’ circuits with a variable dimming interface, to facilitate side by side comparison of current and various proposed lighting levels under early morning, day time, and evening conditions, that would utilize the technology being developed. The tests were conducted in the presence of the local operations team, the local store development team, and the design team from Paris. The results of this extensive testing were used to establish new benchmarks for adjusted lighting levels, and hence reduced power consumption for all future stores.
These results were subsequently integrated into the technical approach and ‘hard-wired’ into the light fixtures themselves, providing measurable, predictable, and tamper-proof technology guaranteeing energy savings.
By subjecting themselves to the demands of a rigorous development and testing procedure, in both technical and perceptual/ environmental arenas, Louis Vuitton developed a system that is integral to the lighting design in the current generation of all their stores, reflecting a true commitment to the Green agenda. This lighting design was used in the Santa Monica Place store, currently under review by the USGBC, but on track for LEED Gold. (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)
Jamie Pancino AIA is Design Director and Partner in Charge of Luxury Retail atValerio, a full service architecture, interiors, and construction management firm. Their luxury client list includes Louis Vuitton, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Ferragamo, Fendi, Moschino, and Prada.
She was the local executive Project Architect for the Palm Desert store, and Project Architect and LEED Project Administrator for the Santa Monica Place store.