2023 IES Illumination Award Winner

The Cohen Building – Council Bluffs, IA

The Cohen Building - Corner View

An aerial view showcasing the life and character the final lighting solution brought back to the exterior façade.

The Cohen Building - Side View

Minute details become prominent through strategic placement and aiming of LED luminaires. Building elements become the focal point as the luminaires blend into the façade.

Uniform pathway lighting provides attractive and inviting atmosphere at every level storefront.

Brightness levels were carefully determined respective to the surrounding environment to reduce glare and light pollution. Lighting controls further limited night time exposure.

Aerial street view showing lighting at the Cohen Building and adjacent neighborhood.


What We Did

We had the privilege of working with The 712 Initiative and Alley Poyner Macchietto Architects (APMA) to revitalize an essential historic building at a prominent downtown intersection in Council Bluffs, IA. The building was acquired by a nonprofit organization looking to revitalize the building for community housing, along with a strict budget. Since the building is considered historic, numerous design iterations with the State Historical Preservation Office were presented to propose a modern lighting solution that did not degrade the historical integrity of the 165-year-old building.

The lighting concept needed to emphasize the features of the historical façade. Solid masonry walls, up to 2.5′ thick in some areas, presented opportunities to enhance textured forms while limiting access to conceal pathways to luminaires. Adjustable luminaires with narrow 9×9-degree optics and a warm CCT of 3000k allowed for precision aiming while highlighting the brick characteristics. The symmetrical lighting layout provided a rhythmic approach that not only helped accent the façade, but provided uniform lighting along the walkways and paths of egress around the building perimeter.

Local energy codes demanded energy efficiency and control strategies be implemented in addition to the tasks already at hand. As a result, LED luminaires were strategically selected with small form factors for energy conservation and glare reduction. Exterior lighting was controlled by a central lighting control system that consisted of a combination of an exterior photocell allowed for “automatic on” operation automatically at dusk while the astronomical timeclock allowed for “automatic off” at a specific evening time mandated by the energy code and city lighting ordinance.

In summary, a drastic experience can be seen from the before and after photos provided within this submission. A once bustling street corner with a historical buliding presence, defamed overtime by renovations and neglect, has been restored into an inviting and awe-inspiring view historically relevant to the area.

Historic Significance

Historic Photo - 1930

Street view photo showing the bustling area during the 1930s.

Historic Photo - 1976

Historic Photo - 1978

Street view photo taken in 1978 showing the neglect to the historic character of the exterior.