November is here. The Jack O’Lanterns are gone. We know that soon our thoughts will turn to the holiday season. For many of us, this means digging out the Christmas lights and stringing up the house exterior with the seasonal display. Some do more, some do less, some do none at all. After all, what goes up must come down. A labor of love, maybe, but still a chore.
The Empire State Building in New York City is world famous for saluting seasons and occasions with color lighting designs. When Christmas comes, for example, the exterior walls from the 72nd through the 102nd floors are washed in a red and green design. On Veterans Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day each have red, white, and blue lights. You can view the full-year Empire State Building lighting schedule here.
HOW DO THEY DO IT?
Up until 2012, changing the building’s color lighting design was a big job every time. A team of engineers labored to change the color filters in each of the dozens of High-Intensity Discharge fixture arrays. Working outside at heights of 72 and 81 floors above the pavement. In sum, it was time-consuming, costly, and risky.
In 2012 the building’s owner brought the exterior tower lighting into the 21st Century. He hired an outdoor lighting contractor to design and install an LED system controlled by a purpose-built digital controller. Workers can now reset color schemes on the fly from a control panel indoors. An astronomical clock loads preset designs at programmed times. For example, the system already knows when to load and activate the lighting design for St. Patrick’s Day 2020.
In 2012, a concept like this was revolutionary. To be sure, it was expensive and complex. For one thing, buildings that tall have to maintain a minimum illumination at night, for aircraft. Therefore, as one old HID array was taken offline, its LED replacement had to be ready to go. Hence, the installation took six months to complete.
Now, in 2018, advancing technology and falling costs have put this approach to seasonal lighting within reach of homeowners. Off-the-shelf components like color-changing LED fixtures and programmable digital controllers make it affordable. Imagine never stringing holiday lights again. Think of sharing your appreciation of the year’s special days and seasons by tapping a touchscreen.
Professionals can add this wonderful capability in existing outdoor lighting design or build it into new ones. It can be as understated or as dynamic as the homeowner wants. You can express your inner artist with hands-on control, or leave it to programmed presets.
From time to time, the nation’s First Residence, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, paints its exterior walls with color lighting to honor occasions. Now, you can, too.