Reverting your carbon footprint back to 1990 levels is no small task. But four years ago Washington University in St. Louis pledged to do just that, despite the fact that its main campus has doubled in size.
One example of their efforts is a recent lighting makeover that is projected to save Wash U. 75 percent in energy costs and 75 percent in labor and maintenance costs compared to their old exterior lighting.
“It was clear Wash U. had done their homework,” says Bill Belosi of City Lighting Products, a company that provides lighting redesigns. “Electrical energy engineers Kevin Watkins and Larry Downey had educated themselves on the merits of LED, compact fluorescents and induction lighting. By the time they called us, they had already determined that LED was the best fit for Wash U.”
One thousand acorn-style lamps line the streets and pathways of the picturesque campus with its granite and limestone-cleated architecture. Wash U.’s goal was to retrofit 400 of their existing 175-watt metal halide and high-pressure sodium vapor lamps with 55-watt LED lights.
City Lighting represents a variety of product lines, but for a large project like Washington University, the lighting design company wanted to partner with a major producer. “We have confidence in Sylvania because of the extensive tests they perform before rolling any new product onto the market,” says Belosi. “Plus they were willing to back up their product with a seven-year guarantee that Washington University found reassuring.”
Sylvania offered 10 each of their D-11 and D-6 kits for use in a trial run. Rather than scatter them around campus, Wash U. opted to group them in a specific area in order to evaluate their overall effect.
“Sylvania was eager to hear our feedback,” says Barry. “All of the light readings were acceptable, and since the lamps were designed to provide downlight only, they fit the guidelines of the Dark Sky Initiative aimed at reducing light pollution—another plus.”
The fact that Wash U. was able to install the Sylvania light kits themselves was another bonus. “It saved us thousands of dollars upfront and the savings won’t stop there,” claims Barry. “It took a two- or three-man crew working full time, year ‘round, to maintain our old metal halide lights. With a life expectancy of 12 years, the new Sylvania LED lights will free up maintenance personnel to work on other projects around campus.
Another unexpected benefit of the new lights has turned out to be student morale. “Students are proud of the university’s efforts to reduce energy,” Barry continued. “The great strides we’ve made in modernizing our heating and cooling systems remain largely invisible to students. But these new lights are daily, visible reminders of Washington University’s serious commitment to reducing greenhouse gases.”
“New energy-saving lighting is not only good for the planet, it also offers one of the fastest returns on investment that any company or school can make,” claims Belosi. “In many cases, the new fixtures are eligible for rebates or tax benefits, although those offers won’t be around forever. Meanwhile, I don’t know of anywhere in the country where energy costs are decreasing. The bottom line is, the sooner a school or company calls City Lighting Products for a consultation, the sooner we’re able to help them start saving money.”