Exterior Lighting and Controls: Problems and Solutions

The Influx of LEDs
As controls have become commonplace, the use of LEDs for exterior applications has increased due to their controllability, among other factors.

“LEDs’ abilities to instantly illuminate or dim, function well in cold climates, and last for a long service life have made them a prime contender,” says Olson. “Their cost may be restrictive, but end users should look for rebate programs for retrofits or new installations.”

As research and development into LEDs have surged, paybacks are getting shorter – down to two years, explains Gibson. More than half of new products are now LED, and that number will only grow, he says.

“Lighting began as gas and oil lanterns in the 1600s, and then the Edison incandescent lamp came along in the 1880s. Going back to the 1960s, high pressure sodium and metal halide HID lamps have been the only choices for exterior lighting,” Gibson explains. “But after 50 years of stagnation, LEDs are the next lighting revolution.”


Name: Riverside City Hall
Location: Riverside, CA

Situated in a community about one hour east of Los Angeles, the building is a red brick structure that incorporates distinctive architectural arches.

Because the building is a focal point in Riverside, City Hall wanted to light the facility’s unique facade with upgraded lighting. The city needed a controls system that would allow its employees flexibility and customization.

New fixtures would have to be inaccessible to the public to prevent tampering, and they also needed to illuminate the facade cleanly and evenly with little light trespass. The light must also be available in a wide range of colors and levels with controls hardware and software that are intuitive and user-friendly.

LEDs replaced the existing metal halide lamps. They required custom brackets placed strategically on the exterior and around the property. A simple central control system allows city employees to alter colors, patterns, levels, and timing.

Return on Investment
In addition to their resistance to outdoor wear and tear and their favorable impact on maintenance, the LEDs also reduced annual energy use by 73,088 kWh, representing cost savings of $16,810. They also avert 40,818 pounds of CO2 emissions annually.

Photo Credit: LITHONIA

Name: Humility of Mary Health Partners
Location: Youngstown, OH

As the only Level 1 trauma center between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, the Humility of Mary Health Partners (HMHP) annually treats 70,000 patients, most of whom rely on the facility’s 135-space ER lot for round-the-clock parking.

Although the parking lot was illuminated by twin 400W high pressure sodium luminaires mounted on poles spaced 65 feet on center, hospital administrators were concerned about overall visibility and visitor safety. They wanted to increase light levels while reducing operation and maintenance costs.

Due to the limited service life of high pressure sodium lamps, HMHP was forced to regularly replace failed lamps. Replacement entailed significant cost and required a bucket truck and electrical team. HMHP also wanted the new system to be compatible with the existing steel poles.

Over 60 LED luminaires were installed in the parking lot, increasing the sense of security for patients, visitors, and staff. Light levels now average 18-20 footcandles in the ER lot, roughly twice as much light as before.

Return on Investment
Virtually maintenance-free while offering an expected service life of more than 20 years, the luminaires are expected to save HMHP about $8,400 in annual maintenance costs.

Photo Credit: LITHONIA

Name: Castle Museum
Location: Saginaw, MI

Constructed in French Renaissance Revival style in the late 19th century, the Castle Museum was once a U.S. post office but was converted in 1979 and now houses exhibits and artifacts.

The museum’s unique architecture draws many locals and tourists. Although it has a distinct daytime presence, its lack of exterior lighting inhibited it from hosting nighttime events, thereby missing ideal opportunities to attract occupants.

The museum wanted an efficient solution that would keep costs down and require minimal maintenance. It also needed luminaires that would accentuate the museum’s architecture without drawing attention to themselves.

Nineteen LED floodlights were installed around the building’s exterior, enhancing its historic architecture and making it visible all hours of the day and night. Photocells shift at dusk and dawn and can also be controlled with a timer, providing energy savings.

Return on investment
Using only 41 watts per fixture, the building’s outdoor lighting uses less than 780 watts. The museum can be illuminated for approximately $341 annually, less than a single dollar per night.


Chris Curtland is assistant editor of BUILDINGS.

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