SME Inc of Seattle published a note.
Unique Lighting Solutions
We’ve recently learned that SME Inc has been awarded the ABC Excellence in Construction Award in Electrical and Communications for the Living Computers: Museum + Labs in the SODO District in Seattle. While the entire project was unique, in that a museum like this had never been constructed before, the custom blown glass light fixture for the stairway lighting and LED signage of HELLO WORLD were especially rewarding installations.
Living Computers: Museum + Labs (LCM) is Paul Allen’s latest project and features a large collection of supercomputers, mainframes, minicomputers and microcomputers. The purpose of this museum is to provide a hands-on and educational experience with these fully restored computers.
SME originally began work on this project in early 2012 with the construction of the original museum space on the second floor of the building, which was dedicated to displays of functioning vintage computers and related items. Later, we built out the third floor as the museum’s administrative offices. First floor construction began in March of 2016 and was completed August 2016.
First Floor Project Scope:
Design-build installation of LED lighting (general lighting, display track lighting, hand blown custom chandelier in the featured stairwell, LCM featured “HELLO WORLD” sign), lighting control system, power outlets located throughout for museum displays and labs, unistrut grid to support track lighting and sign displays, power connections to mechanical equipment, voice and data communications, fire alarm system upgrades, and relocation of several electrical branch circuit panels.
Unique Stairway Lighting – Part of the project involved removing an existing, non-working elevator, and installing a stairway to connect the new first floor museum to the existing second floor. The centerpiece of the stairway, built in the existing elevator shaft, was a custom blown glass light fixture (designed and built by Julie Conway from Illuminata). The fixture included 10 individual hand blown glass pendant balls hung with aircraft cable. Old memory cards were embedded in the centers of each pendant. Each pendant was installed, one by one at pre-determined heights, into a 3’ X 4’ custom electrical canopy box hung from the ceiling.
The challenges with this light fixture were many:
1. Working in the stairway required extensive daily pre-task planning from both a means and methods standpoint as well as a safety standpoint. Safway Scaffolding worked closely with us to set-up a scaffold that would meet our requirements for safety, speed, and efficiency. Extreme care had to be taken when this fragile light fixture was installed.
2. SME worked closely on site with Illuminata to create the artistic look that LCM and Illuminata was attempting to achieve. With back and forth design modifications, and the lead time to assemble, the light fixture was not completed at the time of final inspections.
3. As a result, we only had three days to erect the scaffolding, install the light fixture, and remove the scaffolding, since the museum was already open to the public. In order to accomplish this aggressive schedule, we completed much of the installation out of sequence. We installed supports, lighting circuits, and pre-programmed the lighting controls in advance to lessen the installation time. Our coordination and preparation paid off in spades - we were able to complete the installation of the light fixture in one day!
HELLO WORLD Sign - Near the end of the project, LCM asked SME to install the featured “HELLO WORLD” in LED letters, which greets people when they first enter the museum.
Initially, SME’s only scope was to provide a single circuit for power to the sign. In the end, however, the general contractor and customer asked SME to step in and make sure the installation happened correctly and timely.
LCM provided us with a paper template that resembled the letters installed in a vertical format. We utilized our prefab shop to design a rigid template which aligned the letters and mounting holes. This rigid template helped keep the letters straight and in-line when we mounted them vertically.
Since this was a completely custom-built and unplanned-for sign, there was no control circuit designated to control the LED letters. Our field staff utilized the latest technology by using a wireless control device which receives a signal from our lighting control panel – this solution provided what was needed to automatically operate the LED letters.
As this project grew over the past four years, SME, Inc came to appreciate the vision of the LCM. Computers have a recent history that first only a few people were engaged in, now nearly everyone has a powerful computer in the palm of their hand. HELLO WORLD, indeed.