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Next Step in Empire State Building Retrofit is Exterior LED Lighting Installation

Empire State Building Mast

We’ve covered the Empire State Building’s $550 million capital improvement progarm extensively here at gbNYC. Currently, New York City’s second tallest building is in the midst of upgrading its iconic exterior facade and mast lights with 1200 LED fixtures that should drop lighting expenditures by 75 percent, saving the building over $4.4 million annually.

The fixtures themselves contain over 68,000 individual LEDs and are being supplied by Philips. What’s most interesting about the project is that the LEDs will replace the 400 facade and mast lights that were installed in 1976 to help New York City’s skyline celebrate America’s bicentennial. Those 400 lights have illuminated the top of the tower ever since.

Now the LEDs will allow for a much quicker change of – and selection in  - lighting schemes (today it takes a team up to seven hours to swap out the color palette, which only contains 10 colors and is changed by replacing gels that rest on top of the lights). The new computerized LED system will offer a fully customizable range of 16 million colors – including pastels – in every possible color combination. “When the Yankees win the pennant, we can put pinstripes on one side of the building and solid blue on the other,” Jeff Campbell, director of architectural products at Philips, told City Room. The project is underway and should be completed sometime this fall.

The 2.9-million-square-foot Empire State Building is both LEED Gold-certified under Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance and Energy Star-rated. Its retrofit program, of course, also included refurbishing all 6500 of its windows and modernizing all 68 elevators (making them 30-percent more efficient and able to send excess energy back into the building’s electrical grid).

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