Facility Fix: Reading Light

When the senior property manager of The New York Public Library needed to find new lighting components, he searched for a way to remain true to the city's original vision of the establishment.

When the senior property manager of The New York Public Library needed to find new lighting components, he searched for a way to remain true to the city's original vision of the establishment.

Facility Fix: Reading Light

Facility Fix: Reading Light

By Jillian Ruffino

Published in the January 2008 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

New York Public Library - Christopher Williams


Q&A Christopher Williams  

What is your position? How many years have you been in the facility management profession?
I am the senior property manager for The Humanities and Social Sciences Library building of The New York Public Library. I have worked in facilities management for the last seven years and facilities maintenance for 15 years prior to moving into the management field.

Please give a brief description of the facility/facilities involved in this project.
The Humanities and Social Sciences Library building is a landmark building and the flagship facility of The New York Public Library. The building, adorned with the lions Patience and Fortitude and one of the most recognizable in the city, is almost 100 years old. It has irreplaceable and unique light fixtures.

Ornate, gilded ceilings, some approximately 50′ high, offer patrons examples of some of the finest craftsmanship in the world. Special details regarding aesthetics and the preservation of materials were key factors in this lighting project.

Why was the decision made to pursue this project for the facility?
It offered savings to the city with regards to electricity consumption. Also, the project offered a significant reduction in the cooling load generated during the summer months and reduction in maintenance hours and the material cost of changing burned out bulbs. Degradation to wiring was greatly reduced, which increased life safety. A complete matrix of bulbs and fixtures was a side benefit, and task lighting was improved.

Also, the decision was made to pursue this project based on a personal sense of responsibility to enhance the greening of our environment, which was paralleled in similar efforts already undertaken by The New York Public Library.

Please describe the decision making and research process for this project.
Utility areas, such as the basement and storage rooms, needed approval at the facilities director level and were the first step. Public areas and those under landmark designation were taken to the president of the library.

Mock ups were installed and juxtaposed against existing lighting for review by senior management and a lighting architect who was tasked with ensuring lighting levels were increased or maintained.

After review, it was decided the library would retain incandescent bulbs in some areas because of their aesthetic appeal (including within certain candelabras). In that case, the incandescent bulbs provided a sparkle the compact fluorescent bulbs did not.

What was the vendor selection process like? Did you feel limited?
Representatives from Quality Conservation Services, Inc. (QCS) approached us with the idea for this renovation. QCS provided the labor and materials at no cost to the library for one year, and after beginning the project, provided us with excellent customer service and knowledge.

QCS has a reputation in the New York City market for customer satisfaction and the quality of their work and products used. QCS sampled several different manufacturers’ products for us but recommended Technical Consumer Products (TCP) for its products’ performance reputation.

What led you to choose the specific solution that you did?
The TCP product was extremely diverse in its size, shape, color, and overall fit. In addition, TCP seems to maintain a greater number of options without having to special order the goods. If it weren’t for this manufacturer’s diversity, many of the selected fixtures may have been left undone or would have taken much longer to complete.

A lot of trial and error determined the ultimate installations. While TCP’s product line provided a generic, equivalent wattage rating, in the end lower and higher than equivalent wattage bulbs were installed in some areas.

What benefits have you reaped as a result of this project?
In the Rose Main Reading Room alone the project has saved nearly 250 man hours annually, which allows the room’s electrician to concentrate on more pressing needs. With the new bulbs installed, the visual grandeur of the room has also been enhanced.

New life has been brought to the beautiful, decorative ceiling in the map division. I’ll always carry with me great personal satisfaction for reducing power consumption and degradation in irreplaceable fixtures.

What economic benefits have you reaped as a result of this project?
While the library does not pay the electric bill directly, the city of New York will realize the benefit. We’ve enjoyed a year of “free” light bulbs, and we estimate savings in the area of $50,000 annually. However, the estimated energy savings should exceed $240,000.

Additional benefits were also delivered in the form of reduced green house gases. Nearly 1,485,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2), 10,118 pounds of Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), and 3,869 pounds of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) have been eliminated. In addition, the new products have a life expectancy of more than 10 times that of a standard light bulb.

Did you encounter any unexpected highlights or challenges while implementing this project?
Several challenges occurred during this project. A portion of the building was served from another power grid and was therefore not eligible for the plan through QCS.

In that portion of the building, the library incurred the initial cost of relamping with compact fluorescent bulbs. Previous lighting design in another area had provided insufficient task lighting, so the equivalent to what was present offered virtually no benefit and trial and error was the only solution.

Yet another area required the ability to dim the CFLs, and a special order had to be placed. It should also be mentioned that TCP sent its own engineering team to the facility to work with QCS and library staff to overcome many of these challenges.

How did this project require you to change your operations and maintenance practices?
It wasn’t difficult to eliminate almost a full day each week of changing bulbs in the Main Reading Room. The time saved allows our electricians to concentrate on other projects.

What was the most professionally rewarding aspect of this project?
Knowing we’ve done a small part to save the city on operational costs is significant. More importantly, the positive impact on the environment (along with the increased life span of the library’s irreplaceable fixtures) has provided a very rewarding experience.

Williams can be reached at [email protected]. Learn more about TCP at www.tcpi.com.

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