Lighting a Showcase Airline Terminal

Lighting a Showcase Airline Terminal

A new arrivals gate at JFK Airport, which allows the airport to handle four times as many passenger aircraft, required the installation of a lighting system that incorporated creative designs and inviting color schemes that could offer a pleasurable environment for travelers.

Rapid technological changes and unparalleled growth in air travel made JFK International Airport's International Arrivals Building obsolete.

Clear visual indications on all three levels of the new Terminal 4 building at JFK International Airport in New York City guide arriving and departing passengers through the 1.5 million-sq-ft glass-walled structure. The new building allows the airport to handle four times as many passenger aircraft, adds two aircraft gates, introduces a 100,000-sq-ft retail court and integrates a station into the new light-rail system that carries passengers from the airport to the city. The original International Arrivals Building, which was built in 1957, remained operational throughout the demolition and construction, which presented a scheduling challenge to the design team.

The New York City lighting designer, Susan Brady Lighting Design, also faced some special requirements on the project. The fixture layouts had to not only define the large interior spaces and direct people through the terminal, but also maximize energy efficiency and minimize maintenance. The installation had to also comply with the New York State Energy Code, which mandates the use of lighting controls on all circuits except for emergency and egress lighting. Thus, low-voltage control networks connect many of the terminal's lighting systems with the computerized building management system.

A number of innovative lighting systems help to achieve special effects like shadow casting and projections. For example, after a long flight, an extended passageway can appear daunting to an arriving visitor. To solve this problem, precisely aimed light sources draw attention toward the installed artwork.

Travelers checking in at the airport are greeted by a series of lenticular screens, back-lit in suspended stainless steel panels and placed just above the check-in counters. The images, or travelogues, depicted on the screens are intended to provoke different emotions in the travelers as they pass by.

The beginning of the “Curtain Wall,” a series of bas-relief sculptures, is directly ahead of the travelogue display. These sculptures are mounted on the walls of two 300-ft long ramps that lead to the Arrivals Hall. The fiberglass-modified gypsum “draperies” have a static appearance at the beginning of the walkway, but they become increasingly animated, or “windblown.” A 39W metal-halide (MH) lamp served by an electronic ballast highlights these three-dimensional forms. Available in a number of beam spreads from narrow to very wide flood, these PAR 20 MH lamps have a color-rendering index (CRI) of 80, a color temperature of 3,000K, and a 9,000-hr life. In this case, each 277V-powered fixture holds a PAR 20 flood lamp and a frosted tempered spread lens.

The Arrivals Hall uses remote-ballasted, 70W and 150W double-ended MH lamps within semi-recessed fixtures. Serving as wall washers, these fixtures illuminate large sculpted panels mounted above the long counter.

Within the customs/immigration area, 32W T8 fluorescent lamps provide general illumination over the INS counters. Custom-made, 8-ft wide frames support the two linear runs of lamps, which are served by ballasts mounted within a central extruded aluminum channel. As the electrical contractor on the project, E-J Electric Installation Co., Long Island City, N.Y., had to coordinate the installation of the custom junction box at the apex of the assembly.

Looking at the details.

Taking into account the variations in fixture accessories, a total of 126 different fixtures were necessary on the Terminal 4 project. Additionally, a number of modified-catalog and custom-designed luminaires are listed in the lighting specifications.

Since fixtures couldn't be stored on the jobsite, the electrical contractor worked out a detailed spreadsheet system in a software program to oversee fixture delivery. The spreadsheets were customized with columns showing the total quantity of fixtures specified on the job and the quantity ordered. The quantity received, in stock, and on back order were listed under a “warehouse” column heading. A similar breakdown is used beneath the “on-site” column heading.

Components easily lost or misplaced on the job, such as cones, lenses, louvers, remote-ballasts, and hardware for track-mounted lighting, were also included in the spreadsheet. Change orders and delays in the approval and release of custom-designed fixtures were also brought into the contractor's documentation and scheduling system.

At the same time, the E-J Electric team — Tom Kregel, project manager, John D'Agostino, general foreman, and Gary Loiacano, project electrical engineer — planned out the power distribution and branch circuit runs that could most economically serve the lighting equipment. Coordination with other trades was a critical factor throughout this fast-track project.

Any seasoned traveler will tell you that all airports begin to look the same after a while. One arrivals gate blurs into the next, and the dizzying spin of baggage carousels make for a dreary and disorienting experience on the road. And the heightened security measures being taken at airports around the country don't add to the ambiance. It may be an infrequent stop on many travelers' itinerary, but the lighting scheme and art at JFK International's new arrivals terminal is doing something to lighten the mood.

Sidebar: Facts About the Terminal 4

Building A three-level, glass-walled central building and two aircraft gate concourses form a U-shaped layout in the new terminal at JFK. The top level is for departures, the middle for shopping and gate access, and the ground level handles all of the arriving aircraft. The departure area has 144 counter positions divided among four, two-sided island-shaped counters, 18 positions on each side, effectively creating a capacity of 2,800 departing passengers per hour. Departure check-in counters have a total capacity of 80 bags per min.

The arrival level holds baggage claim and areas for necessary government operations — 52 Immigration and Naturalization Service and 20 U.S. Customs positions, with a capacity of 3,200 arriving passengers per hour. Seven baggage carousels serve the luggage of incoming travelers, and two of the carousels can be converted from domestic to international service according to volume.

Dozens of U.S. and foreign flag carriers, serving more than 65 U.S. and overseas destinations, use 16 gates, plus 10 ramp parking positions. Two of the gates can handle aircraft as large as the new 555-passenger Airbus 380.

The 850-ft long, 100,000-sq-ft retail hall features stores, restaurants, and many seating areas for relaxation. An intermodal transit link is integrated into the building's design. Terminal 4 contains a station for Air-Train, an 8-mi.-long, light-rail system that links the airport's Central Terminal Area with the Long Island Rail Road and the New York City subway system.

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