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Acuity Distribution Center

Orange County / Orlando

Lighting provides flexibility for
Orlando Convention Center

If Chicago's Sears Tower was laid on its side (including the antenna on top), the entire structure would fit lengthwise inside level two within the Orange County Convention Center's exhibition space.

Located in the midst of Orlando's popular International Drive, the Center is comprised of 1,100,600 total square feet, with eight contiguous exhibit halls 2,500 feet in length.

In 1980, ground was broken for Phase I in the construction of the new civic center, designed to accommodate large conventions/trade shows and multipurpose community activities. The first phase, completed in 1983, called for 150,000 square feet of column-free exhibit space and 30,000 square feet of meeting rooms.

Subsequently, Phases II, III and IV were finished in February, 1990, January, 1996, and August, 1996, respectively, bringing the total exhibition space to over one million square feet. The final phase of the project, due for completion in December, 1997, involves a retrofit of 150,000 square feet of existing exhibit space to bring it into compliance with current building code requirements.

Because of the Convention Center's size and variety of uses, from boat shows and banquets to professional organization exhibits and sports events, lighting designer Robert J. Laughlin, principal, Robert J. Laughlin & Associates, Winter Park, Florida, said an efficient lighting system was needed that would provide high quality illumination and long life.

"The client wanted to have the best meeting and exhibit facility in the United States," Laughlin said. "We visited structures across the country to determine what features we liked best about existing lighting systems. We wanted a system that would provide the flexibility needed for the various events, yet would create a bright, crisp and clean environment. People come to Florida seeking the brightness they associate with year-round sunshine. We wanted the atmosphere in the Convention Center to help satisfy their expectations."

Lighting installed in Phase I of the construction project consisted of clusters of three fixtures, with two metal halide units and one incandescent fixture. The incandescent units are used as house lights for events such as circuses and sports competition. During performances, the metal halide units can be turned off completely, allowing the area to become dark enough to utilize spotlights. All fixtures are independently switched.

The same clusters of fixtures were installed in Phases III and IV, with Phase II utilizing a combination of one metal halide unit and one high pressure sodium fixture, along with an incandescent unit. All high intensity discharge units installed in each of the phases are Holophane Prismpack units with cylindrical covers and 400 watt lamps.

Laughlin pointed out that because the Center has a large truss system, including exposed duct work and catwalks, one of the challenges was to make the ceiling fixtures virtually disappear from view. During each phase, the ceiling and fixtures, including the covers for the light units, were painted black or battleship gray. All mounting brackets and hardware were painted the same color so that they fade into the ceiling structure.

"The metal covers for the Prismpack units were custom designed by Holophane engineers to meet our requirements for enclosures that would conceal the lighting fixtures," Laughlin said.

Exhibit halls in each of the phases were designed for 50-60 footcandles, with the fixtures mounted at 40 feet above the convention floor. The units are suspended as much as 30 feet below the ceiling, hung with safety chains mounted to the joists.
Approximately 300 clusters, or 900 fixtures, were installed in Phase I, with 200 clusters used in Phase II. Phases III and IV each have approximately 400 clusters.

According to Laughlin, Phase I includes a 100' x 50' playing surface used for sport events. Above the area, clusters of five fixtures, four metal halide units and one incandescent, were installed, mounted at 40 feet. Under normal circumstances, only three of the five fixtures are illuminated (two metal halide and one incandescent) to achieve 50 to 60 footcandles. During professional sports events, the other two metal halide units can be illuminated, boosting light levels to 100 footcandles.

"The lighting system provides the Convention Center the flexibility to illuminate about any event. Because the exhibit halls are different and separate, up to four individual exhibits can run concurrently. Or, in the event of a very large exhibit, every hall can be opened up and used as a single space," Laughlin said.

"The fact that the Convention Center continued to utilize the Prismpack fixtures in each successive phase attests to the effectiveness of the lighting," he added. "The Holophane system provides efficiency and engineering technology combined with the pleasing appearance of the custom enclosures."

Located 11 miles southwest of downtown Orlando, the Orange County Convention Center is one of the largest convention, trade show and meeting facilities in the United States. The facility is within walking distance of more than 3,500 hotel rooms and within 45 minutes driving distance to more than 80,000 hotel rooms in the Orlando metropolitan area.


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