The Energy Costs and Environmental Impacts of Smart Lighting

From the most recognized symbol of New York City, to the streets of Boston and San Francisco, find out how cities are building a sense of community, while lowering their energy costs and environmental impact through smart LED lighting technologies. Philips Lighting Director of City Innovation Suzanne Seitinger will talk about the digital revolution in lighting and how it is helping cities to redefine themselves with practical examples from Boston, New York and San Francisco.

Presentation files


Introduction by Gordon Feller

We’ve seen some things about technology being a driver for innovation. Jay Nath talked about the bottom-up driving of innovation. We’ve heard big companies talk about the top-down innovation and their laboratories developing new innovations that are suitable for cities. Of course, the testing is yet to be done for some of those innovations because technologists sitting in labs developing innovations are not the same thing as the innovations being successful in cities. We’re lucky to have our partner Philips Lighting with real experience in real cities. For several of our sessions this morning, we’re going to dabble into the world of Philips Lighting with special reference to specific projects: the Empire State Building, the bridge over the Bay. I want to welcome Susanne Seitinger. She’s here with us from the Boston area, the Burlington, Massachusetts laboratory and corporate center for North America of the Philips Lighting North America. She is the director of city innovations for Philips Lighting. More importantly, based on her experience with the MIT Media Lab and her work in developing technology that speaks to real needs, she’s been leading the charge with Philips to think about what cities can do as they transition to the next stage of evolution for lighting. Thanks, Susanne for joining us.

Susanne Seitinger

Thanks, Gordon, for that lovely introduction. Thanks to all the folks here who have come out to listen to this conversation about cities and lighting, my 2 absolutely favorite topics. This is a great lesson in glare. This is how to set up a stage so that you absolutely can’t see who you’re talking to. I’ll just trust that you’re out there and enjoying some of the images that we’re going to look at today.

One of the most important things for us at Philips is that we want to touch the lives of 3 billion people by 2025. That’s a very, very grand vision. It’s built on 3 different pillars around lighting, around sustainability, and around healthcare. All those 3 things come together to create communities that are supposed to support people in their everyday lives, in their homes, in their wellbeing, and in their health. With these 3 elements together, we’re really looking at sustainability as a cross-cutting issue and as a driver for our innovative culture within the company. To keep in mind that all of these 3 things cut across these issues related to sustainability is key. I’m really proud to work for an organization that’s been named a leader in sustainability by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the second year running. It makes me feel good about going there every day.

One of the things we’ve talked about a lot is that cities consume. They consume a great deal of things. We come to cities to consume. One of the exciting things is the offering that cities are. But they also consume a great deal of energy. If you think about the 70% of energy that’s consumed in cities, that is an enormous opportunity for us to do better by replacing our old systems with new systems. One of the key elements is lighting. 20% of all of our electricity goes into lighting. That’s an enormous amount of electricity. We can do much, much better with new technologies that are available to us today, through replacement of existing systems, through bringing systems as we do new construction, and also by adding in controls, by being able to deliver light to people when they need it where they it and not be superfluous with our lighting.

LED technology has already transformed the lighting industry. It’s really amazing to think that 2 days after the 40th birthday of the 1st LED light in the visible light spectrum, we’re heading towards 50% LED penetration for all lighting. That’s extraordinary. We’re going to be at 75% at 2020. That’s an enormous amount of transformation that’s taking place. It’s a real revolution in something that’s such a key factor in our experience every single day. We want to take that and help to reduce energy consumption by 40% to 60%. If you think about all of the roads, all of the buildings, all of the elements of our urban environment that are lit, we can make a great deal of difference by replacing those technologies.

One of the key things that we can do is think about how lighting will impact our cities of the future. There are really 2 aspects that I think lighting brings together. On the one hand, you can think about all of these efficiency gains, all of these energy gains, all of these conveniences that we can create but at the same time, there’s something about lighting that enables us to also create environment, create experience, to do the things that make us want to be in cities. So the other aspect of smart cities −and we’ve talked about it a little bit in some of the breakout sessions− is really this idea of sociability, of transparency, of being together. Lighting creates an atmosphere and experience that allows us to do that. Together, it’s almost this marriage of art and science that is lighting. That is something that I think smart cities really need because it’s not just about making things faster, better and more efficient. It’s also about doing what we were talking about in connection with Barcelona. It’s about making people feel good in the places that they are, making those slow cities inside those fast cities. This is an example from Spain that I would just quickly show. This is a media façade that was done in Madrid at the Medialab Prado. They created an open source façade where anyone can go in and design a game or interface for this building. They can use it as an interactive display. They can create content that’s meaningful to them. It’s an expansion of what light is. It’s not just about providing that task lighting. It’s really going beyond that.

A lot of cities are thinking about these dual uses or these multiple aspects of lighting. Philadelphia is really of the first to take a comprehensive look at this with its Avenue of the Arts work that started back in the ‘90s. When they went out and did a comprehensive lighting plan and decided to think about how light could change the identity of the places around the arts district right next to city hall, what they did is they went in and created a program that highlighted the arts and cultural institutions that are located there. It’s exciting to read about a few weeks ago in Philadelphia where they announced that the local economy is being driven to an enormous extent by its arts and cultural institutions, second only to Washington DC in terms of job creation and also expenditure per person on the arts and culture. That is indicative of their early investment and foresight into those institutions and buildings that represent the arts in the downtown area. That’s what they’ve done together with the city center district and the Avenue for the Arts organization.

The city of Boston has also gone ahead and really worked hard. Mayor Menino has really thought about his sustainability agenda. One of the big things he’s been working on is replacing 14,000 street lights with LED street lights. That’s about $1.1 million in energy savings every single year. He’s not only changing the environment in those places. He’s saving a huge amount of cost for the city. He’s saving 5,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions by doing this change. You can see here the old light in the background, the new light in the front. This is reusing an existing infrastructure to help the city reduce its cost on the installation side. It can also add controls later on. One of the key things about LED technology is that it’s absolutely controllable. You can create this idea of light where you need when you need it with ease and in a much more flexible way than previous systems, especially street lighting.

This idea of control taken to the other extreme, this is an example of a building that all of you are familiar with −the Empire State Building− probably the most famous building in the world. It’s been an icon on the city skyline for a long, long time. We’ve been working with the building owners to look at their lighting on the crown of their building from 72nd storey all the way up to the mast. What they wanted to do is make the system a lot more flexible. They want to be able to change the skin or clothing of their building at the press of a button. A control system allows you to do that. You can decide on the symbolic meaning of that evening and you don’t have to send 7 people out on a precipice looking down at Manhattan for a whole day to replace individual gels on the traditional metal halide fixtures. They went from a palette of about 10 colors to pretty much any color they can dream up. That’s really exciting and amazing because now, they can start to link all of these colors to various aspects of city life. They’ve been doing that for awhile but now, they can think about that again and reinvent that for the 21st century. These are the old fixtures next to the new ones, sort of a mock-up test going on. Installation is right in the middle of completion. They’ll also be able to monitor their fixtures. I was talking about controls but then, think about how you have this huge building with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of fixtures. How do you know which one is working and which one isn’t? If you were able to just look from the comfort of your home or your office and see “Oh, wow, there’s something wrong over here. I got a notification about that,” you can send someone to fix it immediately. In an iconic structure that’s really important to the city, you want to be able to do that very quickly. They get many, many emails when something is wrong with their building. They’re notified immediately and it’s not just about King Kong attacks; it’s serious people who care about this idea that “Oh my gosh, the Empire State Building’s not the right color today.” Who knew?

Staying on the topic of New York, this is just around the corner on the 42nd Street Times Square offices of Ernst & Young. They replaced 32 floors of their building with new lighting systems. This has allowed them to save a ton of energy, 2 million pounds of CO2 is going to be saved as a result of this retrofit. They’ve decided to implement this across their entire office building. It’s going to transform the work environment for their employees and also allow them to save an enormous amount of cost in energy and maintenance.

The idea of using light as an expressive aspect of an urban environment really has been going on for awhile. Since the idea of the Great White Way, there’s something that we just associate the city lights with this excitement and this energy. This is an example from Miami Tower in Miami. It was just replaced. About 300 fixtures were replaced with about 200 LED fixtures. They’re able to place these LED fixtures much closer to the building than previously. They had lights on an adjacent building that they had to rent out space for in a very costly way. They had to go to the neighboring building, request access, go up, replace gels the same thing as on the Empire State Building −a huge amount of effort just to create a different effect for one particular evening. Now, they’re able to do this kind of thing which they did for the commemoration of 9/11 attacks just recently. They’re using these LED fixtures in a way that allows them to deliver the light to the façade in a very targeted way. Rather than thinking about a great distance between the light and the façade, you can really reinvent how you want to deliver that light to the façade as a result of how this light source works. That’s a really important thing because we do have to be careful with where we use light. It’s not just about glib with adding more of this kind of thing to cities. It’s really about finding those meaningful moments where you want people to experience and then enhancing those through light. So this is an example that I think was quite well done recently. You can see that really thinking about the building and the light in a mix between display and illumination where they’re actually generating a visual, almost as a flag that they’re painting onto the building. So this idea of a nighttime identity for our architecture is something that is really, really key. Smart cities are also 24-hour cities. They’re cities that are never really sleeping for better or worse. We’ve heard a lot about the need for helping people to stay healthy and sleep well at night and how it relates to how we design our cities for nighttime is really important.

I had to show this again because Jay already set it up. It’s really an extraordinary project. We’ll be going live in March of next year. It’s really, really exciting for us to be able to collaborate with Leo Villareal on this project. He is one of the inventors of thinking about LEDs and their ability to be programmed has transformed the idea of lighting. It’s really a low-resolution display that’s hovering above the Bay. It’s pretty extraordinary, if you think about it. If you couple this idea of light and programmability, you get something like this, which is really forward-thinking and exciting to see at such a large scale. This will be up for about 2 years. It’s ephemeral, just like light. It’s only going to consume about $11,000 worth of energy every year. If you think about that compared to some of these enormous costs that we’re talking about in traditional lighting systems, this is something that is minimal but has a maximum impact. That, I think, is really essential. I’ll play the video real quick one more time so you remember it. I think they still have a little bit of support that they’re probably hoping for. They definitely want people to come out. That number in terms of economic development is based on the idea that 50 million people will see this installation over the time that it’s up. That’s going to support the local economy. That’s going to drive people to view this installation from various locations in this area. That alone is already an exciting aspect. This idea that started with a smaller installation like in the Philadelphia Avenue of the Arts can culminate in something like this is pretty extraordinary. I won’t go through all of it but just remember that and compare it to the real-life thing once it’s up there. It’s uncanny how you think it’s already there but not quite. There’s a lot of labor involved in some of these stuff.

Just closing with a piece from Jason Bruges in London… This is an installation in a subway station. He worked together with the transit authority. The idea of incorporating art into transit environments is something that’s happened a lot lately. This piece just summarizes for me the idea that we’ll have this kind of interactive, responsive infrastructures around us in the future and we should really use them to express ourselves, to inhabit our spaces in a more meaningful way. You can see these ghost shadows of passengers pass on the other side of the platform. Experience the light around you in a more present way. I encourage you on your way home tonight to really think about how it’s impacting you on a daily basis. Go forth and transform it and transform your lives as you go. Thanks a lot.

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