Big Box Applications
Last Update: March 12, 2012
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Big Box Retail Design


Some of the best examples of sustainable design have come from the Big Box Retailers. With current building configurations, daylight is becoming the primary daytime lighting source. Customers and staff thoroughly enjoy the brighter stores, and in many cases management enjoys increased sales.  As a result, electric lighting levels can be greatly reduced during the day, allowing huge peak load energy reductions. The electric lighting design should support and convey the price-conscious aesthetic of the Big Box market.


Toplighting strategies can be applied throughout most big box retail stores, taking advantage of typically single story buildings. The general merchandise areas are illuminated with a uniform layout of low glare tubular skylights. With a one to one spacing to mounting height ratio, the merchandise is uniformly lighted with quality daylight. Providing uniform illumination is important when trying to incorporate a controls strategy that attempts to conserve energy by lowering electric light levels in response to the availability of daylight. 


In the general sales area, ambient light is provided with linear direct/indirect fluorescent pendants. The indirect component (20% uplight in our design) brightens the ceiling between the skylights, thus reducing the contrast between the daylight and surrounding structure. Utilizing a two lamp (T5HO) cross section, the rows of luminaires can be spaced 22’ apart and still provide uniform illuminance on the merchandise displayed in the stacks. This is optimal since equipment quantity is reduced, thereby saving initial equipment and installation labor costs.  Fluorescents have the advantage of being dimmable in response to daylight availability, have long life compared to HID lamps, and have excellent color rendering properties.  

Accent Light

Merchandising flexibility is greatly enhanced with track-mounted luminaires allowing store managers to change the direction and location of accent lighting as feature displays change. Track-mounted metal halide accent luminaires provide the highest quality and quantity of light with the least amount of energy. Metal halide was chosen because it is an energy efficient source that also provides a strong punch of directional light. Although the actual lamp being used is efficient, ASHRAE 90.1-2004 specifies the way in which track lighting is to be counted in all energy calculations: 30 watts per linear foot of track run. For this reason, the length of track used should be kept to a minimum and only located at feature display locations. The accent lighting will be energized during open business hours adding highlights to the interior store environment. Accent lighting should be separately controlled to allow it to turn off during stocking and closed hours. Accent lighting is about adding contrast to a space, therefore the general ambient lighting should be enough illumination for the stocking and cleaning crews. In the near future, LED may also be considered for accent lighting, but the majority of LED products are not yet comparable to metal halide for this application.

Perimeter Lighting

Brightness around the store perimeter improves visual clarity in the space by lighting wall surfaces, signage, and other aesthetic or way-finding features. A mixture of fluorescent and metal halide sources can be used to achieve a variety of brightness and focus. Soon, LEDs may also be considered for perimeter lighting. Currently, LED technology must be carefully evaluated for reliability and cost is often too high to be considered for use on a large scale.

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