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  • Writer's pictureNancy Clanton

US Embassy Innovation Center in Helsinki


Ambassador Bruce Orek giving a tour of the lighting design at the U.S. Embassy Innovation Center in Helsinki

The vision of Ambassador Bruce Orek, the US Embassy Innovation Center in Helsinki showcases the best of the best in American building ingenuity and design. Working with the US State Department’s Overseas Building Operations, Ambassador Oreck and his staff undertook the unique challenge of transforming an apartment building built in 1915 into a show case for advanced sustainable design technologies and practices. The goal of the project was to show how “green” building design can translate into long term economic benefit while maintaining and enhancing the historic integrity of a building. The US Embassy Innovation Center in Helsinki is now a model for how sustainable design can be successfully achieved.


Our Design Process

For a lighting designer, this unique project was especially exciting. In collaboration with the Ambassador, Clanton explored new lighting technologies such as Organic LED (OLED), waveguide optics, spectral tuning, quality LED, and full lighting controls including manual dimming, daylight dimming, and occupancy sensing. All the controls were commissioned to meet the occupants needs for productivity, comfort, performance, and safety. In order to align with the projects mission to showcase cutting-edge American ingenuity, all the luminaires selected for the project were Department of Energy Next Generation Luminaire (NGL) Solid State Lighting winners which– in addition to performing beautifully – use very little energy.


Highlights of Design

US manufacturers worked with the design team to explore and demonstrate their most unique offerings including recently introduced or “on the drawing board” products. Each room in the Innovation Center highlighted one of the many manufacturers lighting products. The design team carefully selected the appropriate offerings, obtained samples of the product to test out quality and performance, and designed the lighting for each room and area.


In the main conference room, an OLED pendant was installed to demonstrate flexible optical disks with diffuse low glare disks. A unique pattern of these disks showcased how pendants can be designed for space and task.


Light wave pendants installed in office areas allowed daylight to stream through the luminaires while off and, when energized, the luminaires directly and indirectly illuminated the ceiling and room with uniform, diffuse, low glare lighting. The even light distribution allowed for large spacing, which greatly reduced the number of luminaires needed.


The Secure Room, where the ambassador met with visiting dignitaries, allowed for beautiful views of the outside providing gorgeous scenery for events. The room was celebrated with a circular handcrafted LED pendant that was programmed to showcase the colors of the visiting country’s flag.


Sustainability and Energy Leadership

Overall, the Innovation Center reduced its energy consumption by 46% of the Baseline Office Building in ASHRAE Standard 90.12007. The Innovation Center is the first U.S. diplomatic Facility to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certified overseas.


The Innovation Center is a demonstration to Europe, and the world, in the deployment of innovative technology into beautiful design.

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