SCC brighter and more energy efficient after $200,000 lighting project

September 14, 2018

Lighting fixtures in the Shapiro Campus Center (SCC) were fit with LED bulbs over the summer in a $200,000 project which not only provides more light to the building but improves the building’s energy efficiency, according to the Manager of the Sustainability Programs Office Mary Fischer.

The project is estimated to reduce 60 tons of carbon production a year, accounting for an estimated .3 percent reduction in our campus carbon footprint, Fischer told The Brandeis Hoot in an interview. She said that although that percentage seems quite small, “for one building it is actually significant.”

“We’re always looking for ways to reduce our energy use,” Fischer said. “LEDs are a great way to do that.”

The reduction in energy use is expected to save Brandeis over $40,000 per year in electricity costs, meaning the lighting upgrades will have paid for themselves in a little under 5 years, according to Fischer.

Before the installation of LED bulbs, the lighting fixtures on the highest floor of the SCC were not providing light all the way down to the first floor, Fischer told The Hoot. She said the LED lights now provide more light to the ground floor.

Fischer explained that many of the lighting fixtures on the ceiling of the SCC atrium are really high up and hard to reach. In order to complete the project, a special lift had to be rented and driven into the SCC in order to replace the bulbs in the highest parts of the ceiling, many of which had already burned out but had not been replaced.

“We were able to replace the atrium lighting with half the number of fixtures,” Fischer said. She said that previously there were approximately 80 fixtures which were replaced with only about 40 LED lights. The brightness of the LED bulbs meant the change “provides more light than it was providing and is more efficient,” she said.

In addition to having a lower annual energy cost than traditional bulbs, LED bulbs have more than double the lifespan of most other bulbs, according to United States’ Department of Energy website.

$90,000 of the approximately $200,000 spent by the university on the project came from the Brandeis Sustainability Fund. The Brandeis Sustainability Fund “provides financial support for Brandeis undergraduate students willing to undertake projects and/or activities to improve Brandeis’s environmental sustainability,” according to the Brandeis website. The rest of the project was financed by Brandeis facilities.

Fischer estimated the total project costs to be $240,000, but told The Hoot that Eversource, the energy company which provides Brandeis with energy, provided a $47,000 incentive for the project, which would improve energy efficiency.

The lighting project was not limited to replacing old bulbs with LEDs but also installed “smart” technology to some lighting fixtures in the SCC. Lights can now be controlled from a central location in a variety of manners which could potentially further reduce energy use, according to Fischer.

She explained how, during the summer when not many people are on campus, she could “potentially dim or turn off some of the lights” in areas of the building that aren’t being used. Many lights also have occupancy sensors that turn on automatically when someone is in the room and off automatically when the room is unattended, according to Fischer.

These features could be useful “especially during Turn It Off days” Fischer said. Turn It Off days are part of Brandeis’ Turn It Off Program, which works to reduce electricity on the summer’s hottest days.

The SCC is just the first building on campus to receive upgrades to lighting, according to Fischer. She said that the cost of doing similar lighting upgrades to other buildings on campus is being looked into. She suggested buildings such as Usdan Student Center or the International Business School could be next, since those buildings have both “long building hours and old technology.” Future improvements to outdoor lighting fixtures are also being considered.

“Lighting is always the lowest hanging fruit,” Fischer said, “depending on what you’re replacing, LEDs can be up to 70 percent more efficient than older technologies.”

Individual electricity meters in buildings on campus means Fischer can look at most buildings’ history of electricity usage. Based on the meter in the SCC, Fischer said, “We have a little bit of data already showing that the energy use is less than it was before.”

The project, which was largely completed over the summer, received its final touches on Sept. 10.

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