During the day when the sun is shining, buildings receive more light than is required to light an entire facility, but design limits the ability for daylight to reach most of the occupied space. This was the case until SunCentral Inc. (SunCentral) entered the market with a fully hybrid, sunlight-LED solution, illuminating the depths of buildings with daylight when it’s sunny and using advanced LED lighting when it is not. Therefore, only one lighting system is required for the whole building.
For a concept that’s green by nature, Guthrie Cox, CEO of SunCentral, doesn’t look at the California-based firm as a green go-to, but rather a premium lighting lifestyle company. “The way in which SunCentral utilizes natural light certainly saves energy and all of our products are manufactured in a transparent, sustainable way, but we’re mainly focused on creating beautiful spaces with natural light,” explains Cox. “In this sense, SunCentral delivers the best of both worlds, a premium lighting experience that is also sustainable.”
Seeing the light
Using state-of-the-art optics to track the sun, SunCentral is able to redirect natural light, bringing to life almost any building or structure. “There’s no argument that sunlight is the highest quality light; it makes colors look the best and it changes the way we feel about a space,” continues Cox. “It makes us feel happier and creates indoors spaces where we want to be.”
Since late 2009, SunCentral has been a true innovator in the lighting industry, delivering full-spectrum, glare-free sunlight deep within multistory buildings without significantly altering design. “We provide natural light to previously inaccessible areas within a building, resulting in an improved experience for building users and potential increases in property value for owners,” explains Cox.
SunCentral’s signature SunBeamer and SunCentral System save energy by displacing electric utilities during the day and provides architects and lighting professionals with new design opportunities. The system seamlessly integrates into curtain wall construction in both new and retrofit applications.
From the central atriums of some of the nation’s largest shopping malls to living green walls, product features and kiosk displays to contemporary art and statues, SunCentral is shedding new light on the industry. And the company is doing it all with the touch of a button by simply opening the SunBeamer Control Center app on any smartphone. The app allows users to easily calibrate SunBeamer and control it remotely, eliminating the need for technical assistance in positioning and commissioning the equipment.
Climbing the ladder
SunCentral’s low cost, high precision, sun tracking optic technology originated with University of British Columbia professor Doctor Lorne Whitehead in early 2007. Not only was Whitehead a respected professor, he is also a serial entrepreneur, having sold patents and companies to major brands, such as 3M, Philips and Dolby.
“SunCentral’s technology was originally developed by professor Whitehead,” tells Cox. “We then secured the rights to the patent portfolio and have since commercialized the technology, taking it from a few patents to now more than 25.”
When SunCentral began building its product team in late 2009, Cox was the company’s first employee. “I’ve held numerous roles from chief sales officer to general manager over the last five years; I’ve basically been involved from the ground up,” he says. “I assumed leadership as CEO in June 2014 and my focus is on the company’s rapid growth as we expand throughout the U.S., Asia and Europe.”
SunCentral now has main offices in Santa Clara, Calif., and Vancouver, British Columbia, and is also growing globally throughout Asia and Europe. The company is pleased to announce the completion of its first international project, having successfully installed 20 SunBeamers bringing natural light to Timber Hall at the Canadian Embassy in Berlin, Germany.
The revolutionary SunBeamer product delivers full-spectrum sunlight to previously inaccessible areas in buildings. SunBeamer tracks the sun autonomously, maintaining a stationary, collimated beam of light throughout the day. This product can be used in skylights, atria and tubular devices to deliver glare-free sunlight while incorporating the tracking components of the SunCentral System. The long lasting, low-profile design allows for easy installation and commissioning, freeing designers and architects to create an inviting environment.
“As part of the overall embassy facility, Timber Hall is an iconic and unique architectural structure and a beautiful space graced with an overhead skylight, but the height of the structure and the shade of the surrounding buildings at times created a dark atmosphere,” describes Cox.
SunCentral designed and installed SunBeamers that provide greater sunlight into the 40-foot tall building, shaded by a larger building that blocks most of the sun and casts a large amount of shade on Timber Hall. The company installed 20 SunBeamers on the rooftop of the adjacent building to capture and track all available sunlight and beam it into the lower Timber Hall structure. This approach effectively doubled the light levels of the building from 250 lux to 500 lux.
“We were pleased to be able to design a solution that helps shine constant and even daylight into Timber Hall, creating a remarkable experience with this world-class technology,” Cox says. “It was a perfect project to mark out entrance into the international market, especially given the significant importance of energy conservation objectives in Europe and how our product can help contribute toward these ambitions.”
SunCentral has worked with numerous other high-profile clients by the likes of some of silicon valley’s tech giants to the world’s premiere shopping mall owner, Westfield Group. “Westfield Group is one of the largest high-end shopping mall owners in the world with malls in California, London, Paris and the world over,” details Cox. “We’re happy to have Westfield Group as a preferred customer and look forward to our future together as we create new and innovative shopping experiences for Westfield Group patrons.”
While Cox says SunCentral’s main purpose is to bring life to a range of facilities – schools, offices, hospitals, commercial buildings – the company certainly fits the green-product niche, as well. As a Greenbuild International Conference and Expo (Greenbuild) 2014 exhibitor, Cox says SunCentral’s goal was to get the SunBeamer out to more potential customers.
“We showcased how we can create a beautiful space that’s the best of both worlds in form and energy-saving function,” he measures. “We also demonstrated how the entire system can be controlled with nearly any smartphone. Now that’s intelligent lighting.”
After just five short years running, the company has risen to the top of the lighting scene. Using the best of nature to make man-made facilities better, SunCentral Inc. is shedding new light on more inviting, intelligent natural lighting.
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