A Zoo and a College Campus: Different Venues, Same Outdoor Lighting Goals

A Zoo and a College Campus: Different Venues, Same Outdoor Lighting Goals

Two Institutions Reduce Energy Use by 85% with LED Retrofits

This piece was originally published in the February 2017 issue of electroindustry.

Tom Salpietra, President and COO, EYE Lighting International

The two bronze gorillas that greet five million visitors a year to the San Diego Zoo now prowl under new LED lighting. Photos courtesy of EYE Lighting

Sleek, modern designs, as well as historically styled outdoor lighting fixtures, have been growing in popularity over the last few decades as cities, municipalities, and educational institutions make significant investments in lighting infrastructure, especially outdoor applications. These investments squared off with the light-emitting diode (LED) revolution as it became clear that reductions in energy and maintenance costs could be achieved, while improvements were made to the quality of the lighting from old sources such as sodium and metal halide. Customers began to demand that lighting retrofits be aesthetically pleasing, fit the architectural design of the area, and provide safety and security while reducing energy consumption.

Budgets for capital equipment or expenses, however, weren’t generous enough to warrant a complete change-out of lighting poles and fixtures. This was an engineering challenge because initially LED light sources could not be screwed into existing light sockets. But leading manufacturers stepped up to the challenge and provided a solution that worked for almost any post top application.

Here’s how two applications by different organizations solved unrelated problems with similar technology. In a world where quality outdoor lighting represents a hard-sought ideal, these customers could not afford a wholesale change-out. In one instance, a world-class institution enhanced its global brand and created a nighttime environment suitable for families. In the other, a preeminent research university’s city campus is now brighter and safer.

San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo cafe area now sits under LED lighting.

For nearly 100 years, two bronze gorillas have adorned the front gates of the San Diego Zoo and greeted five million visitors each year. With guest hours that now extend into the evening, the lighting of the entrance plaza and the two famous simians was an important earmarked project. Edward Newell, head of design and specification for RTM Lighting & Electronics, led the design. Replacing the old 250 watt light sources saved 85 percent in energy.

“I saw this project as a classic solid-state lighting upgrade,” he said. “The zoo needed to increase light levels, improve the quality of light, reduce energy use, and lower maintenance costs. As it turned out, the existing poles were made by three different manufacturers, so the challenge was to find a single lighting solution that was flexible enough to accommodate the different fixtures, and at the same time deliver consistent quality light.”

Kevin Haupt, director of facilities operations for the San Diego Zoo, was pleased with the result.

“Everything under the newly retrofitted poles looks brighter and more vibrant, and we are convinced our guests will enjoy the park even more. As a global leader in conservation and sustainability, the zoo is constantly searching for new ways to reduce our overall resource consumption.”

University of Louisville

The primary goal for the Eastern Parkway retrofit was lighting quality. Louisville needed to ensure a superior visual environment for both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

Three time zones away, the University of Louisville in Kentucky was nearing its final step in upgrading the major thoroughfare leading into the institution. It was part of a campus-wide lighting retrofit, replacing Eastern Parkway’s 82 existing 250 watt high-pressure sodium luminaires with energy-saving LED technology. The decision was easy, but the cost to implement was the problem. The poles along the road dotted the landscape nicely, but it was not in the budget to replace them. The university needed a retrofit solution that delivered quality lighting, reduced energy, and could be economically installed by facility maintenance personnel. Several months of searching revealed no product that fit the specification, until the maintenance personnel discovered an LED post top solution.

“A primary goal for the Eastern Parkway retrofit was lighting quality; we needed to ensure a superior visual environment for both pedestrian and vehicular traffic,” said Matt Minard, the project leader for Eco Engineering, the university’s project partner.

The cost of operating the Eastern Parkway luminaires was reduced by more than 85 percent, with kilowatt hours dropping from more than 100,000 to 12,000 per year. Kilowatt demand went from 23.7 kW to 2.7 kW. The goal of good lighting quality along with security and safety was met.

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