Sep. 11, 2015

Princeton University is making campus lighting more sustainable and efficient one fixture at a time. Through the Lighting Efficiency Upgrade Program, the University will convert more than 100,000 fixtures to light-emitting diode (LED) technology in buildings across campus. The improvements will significantly reduce carbon emissions, promote cost savings and limit waste.

The Facilities Organization project, which began in July of 2014, is expected to be completed in December 2016 and could contribute as much as 15 percent toward the Princeton Sustainability Plan goal of reducing the University's carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

One of the largest and most visible LED projects will be the conversion of all 839 lighting fixtures in Jadwin Gymnasium. The project, which is already underway, will be finished in October of 2015. The fixtures are a custom solution designed to compliment the architecture of the existing space. Since Jadwin hosts broadcasts of NCAA basketball games, the lights themselves had to meet rigorous standards for color rendering (CRI), spectral temperature, and spectral distribution.

Each fixture uses 100 to 170 fewer watts, saving 192kw over the entire installation. The new wireless control system will bring smarter, more flexible performance, providing even greater overall savings. The ballasts, aluminum, and glass from the old lights will be fully recycled offsite.  

"The Lighting Efficiency Upgrade Program can transform Princeton's lighting systems to one of the most modern, reliable, efficient and environmentally responsible of their kind," said Campus Energy Manager Bill Broadhurst. "The recent progress made in LED technologies also has allowed these projects to be good investments financially."

Director of Sustainability Shana Weber said “In addition to the obvious energy, carbon emissions, and cost-savings benefits for the campus, I’m especially excited to work in partnership with our Facilities engineers to raise awareness on campus about how smart it is to do this. This project has the very real potential to impact not only what happens on campus, but may make this approach more accessible to other campuses, and may even impact the choices our community members make at home. That’s the kind of broader impact we’re looking for."

The new LED fixtures are, in many cases, about 50 percent more efficient than the fluorescent lights they will replace and will emit considerably less heat. They have a longer service life than fluorescent lights — LEDs last 50,000 hours or more — and they contain no mercury. LEDs also are known for providing higher quality lighting, which reduces potential eye strain, with no ultraviolet emissions.

Over the lifetime of the LED fixtures, the project is expected to eliminate the need to safely dispose of more than 60,000 lamps containing mercury. It also should eliminate more than five tons of waste removal each year in the form of thousands of electronic ballasts. 

"In addition to the significant cost savings, revenues and credits associated with using LED technology, the lighting upgrades also will lower the University's maintenance costs due to LEDs long expected life," Broadhurst said. "The safety of the Princeton Facilities staff also will be enhanced by reducing the amount of time workers spend climbing ladders to replace thousands of burnt-out lamps each year."

Broadhurst said the sheer size and comprehensive nature of the LED upgrades will eclipse the efforts made more than 20 years ago when the University began to convert many campus fixtures and lamps from incandescent to fluorescent technology. Since then, lighting upgrades mostly included changing old fluorescent technology to newer, more efficient fluorescent technology.

graphic showing evolution to LED lights

During the past few years, lighting was upgraded successfully in the West Parking Garage, the Lower Visitor and Faculty/Staff Parking Lots and area lighting, Dillon Gymnasium, Woolworth Center for Musical Studies, MacMillan Building and Lewis Thomas Laboratory. LEDs were used in several of these projects as pilots. LED lighting upgrades are already underway in Icahn Laboratory, Fine Hall, parts of the Engineering Quadrangle and 701 Carnegie Center.

As a first step in the campus-wide program, Princeton Facilities engineers will meet with building managers and campus representatives to develop an implementation schedule. The decision to upgrade lighting to LED technology will be based on an in-depth life cycle analysis of each project and any special use requirements.