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Warehouses Sonnax Industries

Holophane fluorescent system helps Sonnax win praise
as "Most energy efficient building in Vermont"

“The most energy efficient building in the state” is how Vermont’s governor Howard Dean described the new 34,000-square-foot warehouse-machine shop facility at Sonnax Industries’ corporate headquarters in Rockingham, Vermont.

One energy feature is gas-fired, infrared radiant heating panels that warm people and objects—not air. Another is the fluorescent lighting system that provides uplight and was specified for its energy efficiency.

The lighting system is controlled by photosensors that override certain zones and shut off up to 50 percent of the fixtures automatically when enough daylight is present to provide sufficient light. After hours when the facility is not in operation, light control is transferred to occupancy sensors that turn off up to half of the luminaires when the space is unoccupied.

Michael Bereece and Darrell Line, principals, Line Associates, Inc., Chicago, designed the lighting system. Bereece indicated he originally planned to illuminate the 80’ x 422’ structure with a metal halide system, which is more typical for this type of application. However, after reviewing the photometrics for a fluorescent system available from Holophane Corporation during a trade show, he specified the Holophane IS industrial strip Miro 4 enhanced aluminum specular reflector with F032 T8 lamps. The system uses 50 percent less power than a comparable metal halide system.

Because of the diverse operations within the facility, two different lighting fixtures were installed. Units in the warehouse—which comprises about two-thirds of the floor space—are eight-foot, four-lamp industrial fixtures with specular reflectors. Four-foot aisle lighters are installed in the stack area where high vertical footcandles are required to light package faces. Both fixtures use the standard F032 T8 lamps.

“This is the first system we have installed that has enabled us to utilize standard lamps (as opposed to high output lamps) effectively. The metal halide units originally planned require 1.34 watts per square foot, whereas the fluorescent units use .62 watts per square foot. The project meets Vermont’s strict Act 250 energy requirements while the design actually exceeds California’s standards, which are the strictest in the country, ” Bereece described.

Although light levels average 25 footcandles maintained throughout much of the warehouse space, levels reach as high as 50 footcandles in specific areas such as the packaging line. Light levels in the machine shop where close tolerance work is performed are at 80 footcandles. Fixtures in all areas are mounted at 24 feet, with the spacing varying. The sky blue ceiling in both the warehouse and shop areas is metal deck with exposed ductwork and joists.

According to Bereece, uniform illumination was particularly important in the warehouse, which was designed for automatic forklifts with computer sensors that scan the bar codes on products. Most of the warehouse aisleways—which total 40—have 16-foot racks.

Throughout the facility, high-strength polycarbonate glazing is installed near the top of the walls, providing twice the R rating of traditional thermopane windows. The glazing is slanted slightly inward to flood the warehouse with natural light during the day. Photosensors installed both inside and outside the facility sense when natural light levels are sufficient, and an automatic control system switches 40 to 50 percent of the fixtures off. The control system also has occupancy sensors that switch up to half of the luminaires off when the warehouse is not in use. All of the fixtures in the machine shop remain on during operating hours because of the higher levels of illumination required.

One of the challenges associated with this project was the distance between the lighting designer in Chicago and the principal architect, Joseph Cincotta, LineSync Architecture, in Wilmington, Vermont. All lighting designs and drawings for the project were transferred between Chicago and Vermont by E-mail.

“Despite the fact that we could not go out and visit the construction site anytime we wanted, the project has been very successful. Not only have we achieved significant energy savings with the fluorescent system and other energy features, but the owner and architect have indicated they like the way the project looks,” Bereece said. “This project was more expensive than planned because of the many energy-saving features installed. However, Sonnax expects to recoup the extra expense solely through energy savings over the next five to six years.”

Sonnax Industries is an international company manufacturing products such as transmission casings for the automotive aftermarket.


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