All That Brazzaz: GE Helps Chicago Restaurant Set the Mood for Diners

CLEVELAND, Ohio — (NYSE: GE)  Voted as one of the top five new restaurants in America by Citysearch, Brazzaz has made quite a splash since entering the Chicago restaurant scene in 2005. This churrascaria (Brazilian steakhouse) offers a dynamic Brazilian dining experience on the ground floor of one of Chicago's newest residential high–rise buildings in the growing River North area near downtown. 

"We spared no effort to complement our guests' dining experience with the right sights and sounds," says Marcos Zarza, co–owner of Brazzaz. And that effort included the restaurant's lighting design.

Diners are surrounded by a warm, inviting atmosphere. Tall windows are covered in gauzy purple fabric that borders a large L–shaped dining room. Saffron walls and red and terra cotta upholstered chairs further enhance the casual, contemporary feel. Fabric–covered light fixtures cast soft light over the dining room tables. An upbeat soundtrack of Brazilian rock and a parade of skewer–wielding carvers serving a variety of grilled meats tableside add to the vibrant scene.

A plan comes together
Brazzaz hired PARACHIN design studios ltd. as its architect and lighting design firm Schuler Shook to properly illuminate the dramatic space being created. For the lamps themselves, Schuler Shook turned to GE Appliances & Lighting. Zarza and his partners wanted to highlight a number of interesting features and finishes, such as textured and multi–colored wall panels, an elaborate display of wine bottles and liquor bottles along a wall behind the bar. The lighting design also had to provide enough illumination for diners to see the numerous skewers of meat being served tableside, while providing a flexible system for creating presets (or "lighting looks") for different times of day.

Adding to the challenge, Schuler Shook had to adhere to a stringent energy code. The Chicago Energy Code set limits on the wattage per square foot for specific spaces (i.e., restaurant, kitchen, etc.). Schuler Shook's designers had to ensure the total lighting wattage didn't exceed the limited allowances. The code also had specific requirements for controls.

New strategies, new tactics
"Incandescent and halogen sources are primarily used in restaurants because of their warmth, precise distributions and ability to be dimmed. With our energy constraints, we had to consider fluorescent, with its inherently high efficacies, for the bulk of the lighting design," says Emily Klingensmith, IALD, LC, LEED AP, principal in Schuler Shook's Chicago office.

One of the challenges Schuler Shook faced in using fluorescent was to "disguise" the lamps to appear warmer, more like an incandescent source. By hiding the fluorescent lamps inside warm–colored shades, they were able to make the lighting appear warmer.

Klingensmith says GE was an easy choice. "GE is a reliable manufacturer and offers an extensive range of lamps in the fluorescent and halogen families," says Klingensmith. GE provided Schuler Shook with samples during the design phase for several fixture mock–ups that were reviewed by the architect and client.

Show time
Custom, glowing pendants in orange and blue shades are a design motif throughout the restaurant. Backlit resin wall panels randomly dim up and down, simulating "hot embers" — the meaning of "Brazzaz" in Portuguese. The orange pendants and the backlit resin wall panels use nearly 130 GE 18–watt Double Biax® 2700K dimmable compact fluorescent lamps. The consistency of lamp type for both fixtures meant the restaurant would have to stock fewer lamp types.

"CFLs are a great choice because they offer long life and up to 75 percent energy savings over standard incandescent bulbs," says Gabrielle Boose, CFL product manager, GE Appliances & Lighting. "Our 2700K bulb offers an incandescent–like color and feel for a more inviting look."

The blue pendants feature 40–watt High Lumen Biax® 3000K lamps, which met the energy requirements of the Chicago Energy Code and vary the look of the lighting. Dimming ballasts were used in the fixtures.

Recessed downlights with GE ConstantColor® Precise™ 50–watt MR16 floods were used for trackheads and downlights. They provide direct lighting at dining tables that are often re–arranged to accommodate various size groups, which required a lamp that could accommodate these "moving" tables.

"We chose the 50–watt MR 16 floods for their minimal size and precise, clean beam," says Jim Baney, IALD, LC, LEED AP, principal in Schuler Shook's Chicago office. "They provide uniform lighting at the right level so the tables are well illuminated regardless of their location."

In some cases, the lighting took a back seat to ensure it was integrated with the architecture. Slots were created in the ceiling to hide borderstrips and track. The recessed downlights were located between pendants to provide a second layer of light for the tables. The designers used black cones for these downlights so the fixtures would blend in with the ceiling. The designers concealed fluorescent striplights within coves and behind wall panels to glow out onto walls and ceilings.

Efficiency experts
Baney estimates the fluorescent scheme is approximately four times more efficient than incandescent sources. It meets the stringent energy code plus offers the added benefit of making maintenance easier with a lifespan of anywhere from four to 10 times longer than incandescent lamps.

For Brazzaz, the lighting is meeting its goal of complementing the dining experience.

"The lighting design creates a warm, contemporary atmosphere, while adhering to a stringent energy code. It's also dynamic, flexible and unique," says Klingensmith. And with its outstanding food and comfortable, elegant spaces, Brazzaz has quickly brought some added pizzazz to the Chicago restaurant scene.

Since 1986, Schuler Shook has crafted lighting uniquely tailored to enhance the architectural integrity of the spaces it lights. Schuler Shook's designers create with an innate understanding of light: its color, form, and dramatic potential to enhance the built environment. Schuler Shook's design team is drawn from a diverse background, including theatrical lighting and architectural engineering. With a commitment to collaboration, artistry, innovation, practicality and technically astute solutions, Schuler Shook ensures harmonious integration of the lighting design with the vision of the architect.

This lighting retrofit is among several recognized during the 2005 GE Edison Award ceremony held in May 2006.