May 9, 2023

Emory University Cognitive Empowerment Program


Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) partnered to create the Charlie and Harriet Schaffer Cognitive Empowerment Program (CEP) facility in northeast Atlanta. Together with the funders they are building a program to help individuals experiencing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to maintain their physical and cognitive health, and independence as long as possible. In addition to applying effective strategies and therapies, the two research groups are investigating the responses of the MCI members to treatments that involve acoustical conditions, exercise and movement, and lighting changes that may support retention or relearning of skills. Care partners and family members receive support and instruction to improve home and work life, promoting joy, purpose, and wellness in the family groups. The lighting system uses tunable-white LEDs, employing luminaires with both warm and cool-color emitters that can be dimmed separately to produce any white correlated color temperature (CCT) between 2700 K and 6500 K. All luminaires were dimmable to achieve subdued or lively surroundings for different treatments, time-of-day, and mood. A central networked digital control system was employed to allow tuning of multiple spaces together (for example, bright, cool morning light could be programmed for extra stimulation, or lighting in all spaces at the end of the day could be reduced in both light output and CCT to promote relaxation and not interfere with the melatonin cycle of occupants). Almost all spaces were equipped with individual room control of dimming and color temperature with touch screens to allow users to tune the lighting as desired, but each room’s controls could also be specially programmed through the server in case the research staff were investigating lighting settings on learning, for example. The server incorporates a timeclock, and it is able to send signals to switch off all lighting after occupancy hours, or enable occupancy sensors to control the lighting. The bulk of the construction work was completed in January 2020. It was clear from an initial walk-through that although the lighting system produced the expected high light level with low-glare qualities of light, that there were issues and inconsistencies to be resolved. These were noted in an initial punchlist visit and expected to be resolved when the tech representatives from the agency visited with the electrical contractor in the following few weeks. What followed was 2.5 years of identifying unexpected lighting performance in terms of light output, color, scheduling, and occupancy. This report documents the issues encountered in the effort to get the lighting and controls systems to operate as intended. It concludes with guidance for design professionals and manufacturers to help avoid problematic complexity in future projects.

Published: May 9, 2023


Miller N.J., G. Campiglia, C. Feustel, J. Dubose, and C. Zimring. 2023. Emory University Cognitive Empowerment Program Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

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