Creative architectural LED lighting

-December 11, 2017

In keeping with the festive lighting of the holiday season, let’s take a tour of landmarks lit with LEDs. These attention grabbing displays are dependent on products that can deliver a wide range of colors, and a control scheme that allows lighting designers to fully realize their creative ideas.

Let’s begin with the glorious Miami Tower in Miami, Florida: 

Miami Tower (Image courtesy of Philips Lighting)

Located downtown, the Miami Tower is a 47-story landmark that you may have seen in films and on television. Before conversion to LEDs, it was lit with a total of 382 1,000 W and 400 W metal halide fixtures, with gels (color filters) applied by maintenance crews to change the color effects. Conversion to a combination of LED flood lighting and strip lighting reduced energy, maintenance, and operating costs by over a quarter million dollars annually, and the building façade can now be changed to a virtually limitless combination of colors and patterns with the “push of a button”.

How do they do it? Miami Tower and the other landmarks reviewed in this article are illuminated using Philips Color Kinetics products, which currently have a bit of a monopoly in architectural installations. The control scheme uses a data enabler to combine power with a proprietary Ethernet DMX-based data signal called KiNET, prior to routing to luminaires, junction boxes, and/or strings of strip lights.

Over 16 million color combinations can be achieved through the 8-bit channels of Red/Green/Blue/White or Red/Green/Blue/Amber luminaires. A number of different controllers can be used to program either static or dynamic displays. DSP techniques ensure that data corruption is negligible even in noisy, high-EMI environments, e.g., adjacent to powered radio antennas.

Next, let’s travel across the country to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

 

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (Image courtesy of Philips Lighting)

 

The Bay Lights of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, installed in 2013 in what was meant to be a two-year run to celebrate the bridge’s 75th anniversary, is currently the largest LED lighting sculpture in the world. With over 25,000 white LED nodes installed on the 1.8 mile western span, the bridge surpasses even the Eiffel Tower in number of LEDs.

1W 89 cd lighting node (Image courtesy of Philips Lighting)

The lighting system uses light strands, each made up of 50 individually controllable nodes designed to operate in the demanding environmental conditions of the bridge – wind, rain, vibration, and even road debris. Control software scans the installation to ensure that all lighting is operational and sends alerts if problems are detected.

Bridge lighting projects are the most challenging to implement according to Philips, because the process can include not just lighting designers, architects, and contractors, but also transportation authorities and the Coast Guard, each with separate concerns and requirements. In addition, lighting installation usually requires workers to hang from suspended cables, and to work at night to minimize traffic impact. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

And finally, tis the season to be shopping, so let’s envy the lucky folks in Philadelphia who get to spend time at the appropriately named Lit Brothers Building.

Lit Brothers Building (Image courtesy of Jeffery Totaro for Philips Lighting)

Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1979, the Lit Brothers Building takes up a full city block with its mix of retail and office space. Unlike newer installations, preservation of the historic and structural aspects of the building were paramount in the lighting design, which includes both flood lights and light strips to illuminate the façade and ornamental columns.

 

As engineers, we’re interested in the technical and practical details of these LED projects, like lower operating costs and reduced maintenance requirements, but the non-energy benefits these projects bring can be even more significant. They play a tremendous role in creating a space that local residents and tourists look forward to visiting, enhancing the sense of fun and excitement in the community and the economic boost that often goes with it.

 

Here are yet more landmarks around the world illuminated with LED lighting.

 

Happy holidays and best wishes for a great 2018!
 

 

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Yoelit Hiebert has worked in the field of LED lighting for the past 10 years and has experience in both the manufacturing and end-user sides of the industry.

 

 

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