WEB EXCLUSIVE: Turning The Lights On

This Web exclusive was contributed by Lithonia Lighting, an Acuity Brands company based in Conyers, GA.

web exclusiveConstructed in French Renaissance Revival style in the late 19th century, the Castle Museum in Saginaw, MI is one of the most recognizable buildings in the Saginaw region. Formerly a United States Post Office, the building was converted to a museum in 1979 and now features various exhibits and artifacts from the Smithsonian Institute. While the museum’s exhibits continue to expand, its striking architecture also draws locals and tourists alike.

“As our museum exhibits continue to grow, we have really seen our foot traffic increase,” says Ken Santa, Castle Museum President and Chief Executive Officer. “However, a large amount of our visitors come in from noticing the exterior architecture when they pass through town or are searching for tourist attractions online. The building is very intriguing and is a staple in the town.”museum castle

Although the Saginaw Museum’s historical architecture gives the facility a distinct daytime presence, the museum was not illuminated at night. With no exterior illumination, the museum was missing an ideal opportunity to showcase the facility and dramatically accentuate its architectural features.

With more visitors, increasing night programs, and a mission to keep the museum attractive and appealing, the staff set out to find a way to highlight the museum’s architecture and make the facility a focal point of Saginaw’s nighttime skyline.

A local organization devoted to illuminating Saginaw’s architectural treasures stepped in to help. Saginaw Sees the Lights has illuminated 13 historically significant buildings in the community and identified the Saginaw Museum as the latest in need of a distinct nighttime presence.

With the support of Saginaw Sees the Lights, the museum contacted a local electrical contractor for help. “When I was called to work on the project, they had been working for more than a year to find the right solution,” says Ken David, CEO of Ken David Electric.

The museum’s primary goal was to find an energy efficient solution that would help keep energy costs down and require minimal maintenance. Said Santa, “We were concerned about constantly replacing light bulbs. The inside is loaded with bulbs that we have to replace every few weeks. Due to safety concerns, time, and difficulty, we did not want the same issue outside.”

The museum also wanted luminaires that would accentuate the architecture, without drawing attention to the luminaires. “Good architectural lighting should call attention to the building and not to the fixture itself,” says Santa. “Our goal was not to update or modernize the look of the castle. We wanted to create awareness of the castle’s classic aesthetic. In order to accomplish this, we needed sleek fixtures.”museum castle

The museum reviewed multiple options (with a focus on LEDs) before deciding on D-Series LED Flood luminaires from Lithonia Lighting. The next step was to test lighting samples on the building to see how they performed in actuality. Says Santa. “The samples matched our needs perfectly, and as soon as we saw them light up, we were ready to install them.”

The museum installed 19 of the D-Series LED floodlights around the building’s exterior, and once these were in place, there was a grand opening ceremony to watch as the historic building was illuminated for the first time.

“When the switch flipped and all the lights went on, we were shocked,” Santa recalls. “The castle looked completely different at night. We were thrilled beyond belief. The lighting significantly enhanced the historic architecture and made it possible to view the building 24 hours a day.”

The Results
Using 41 watts per fixture, the building’s outdoor lighting uses less than 780 watts. This means the museum can illuminate its exterior for approximately $341 annually, or less than one dollar per night.

“Back when I started in the trade, a project like this would have used much larger fixtures and the wattage would be at least double,” says David. “With these luminaires, it is going to be up to 20 years before the museum has to replace the lights. The energy savings are incredible. I am 100% sold on LED.”

While LED would help keep energy usage to a minimum, the compact size of the floodlights used also helped the museum focus on the castle’s architecture and not on the floodlights.

For additional savings, the luminaries are equipped with photocells for dusk to dawn lighting. They can also be controlled with a timer, which allows the luminaires to be turned off during pre-selected times.

“We are thrilled with the energy consumption—or lack thereof. There is virtually no maintenance time and the cost is minimal,” says Santa. “Additionally, the fixtures are perfect because they are barely noticeable, and the real true spotlight is on the architectural features of the building.”