Upgrading a Campus Fixture (or thousands of them)

With over 230,000 square feet of building space, the University Library is the largest building on CSUN’s campus. During a normal semester, its study spaces, computer labs, coffee shop, and other resources attract thousands of visitors per day, who enjoy spacious lounges and cozy book stacks in the historic building. While the University Library has undergone a number of renovations, most notably after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, the building’s lighting is still a thing of the past. Over 10,000 fluorescent lightbulbs line the library’s ceilings, each drawing around twenty five watts of power. These, combined with a number of other high-wattage bulbs around the library’s exterior, represent significant electricity costs and greenhouse gas emissions each year.

CSUN has been taking steps improve its lighting efficiency for years, upgrading numerous indoor spaces as well as the campus’ outdoor walkway lights. The ability to retrofit an entire building at once, however, is a more recent development. The Commercial Lighting Incentive Program offered by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) reduces the overall cost of lighting efficiency projects, enabling CSUN’s Facilities Planning department to take on building-scale LED lighting upgrades. At the same time, the closure of the University Library due to COVID-19 has allowed work to proceed quickly inside the building. By the end of this calendar year, the various fluorescent and other bulbs throughout the building will be replaced with LED alternatives averaging less than half the power consumption of their current counterparts. This change is estimated to reduce annual utility costs by over $275,000, as well as reduce CSUN’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by 511 metric tons of CO2, a 0.8% reduction.

In addition to these benefits, the LED replacements have a higher color temperature than the current fluorescent lights. Higher color temperature lighting is closer to the blue part of the color spectrum, while low color temperatures are closer to the yellow part of the spectrum. Higher color temperatures have been associated with reduced daytime sleepiness, increased alertness and work performance, and improved mental health, perhaps because they more closely mimic natural light. Similar lighting upgrades have already been completed on the B5 and G3 parking structures, University Bookstore, and Associated Students Children’s Center, with LADWP’s lighting incentive program reducing the cost of these projects by a total of over $96,000. CSUN’s Director of Energy & Sustainability, Austin Eriksson, says that “These types of projects have a great payback from both a financial perspective as well as a greenhouse gas standpoint.” He plans to reinvest the utility savings from the University Library into future lighting efficiency projects. Facilities Planning officials are already making preparations for additional buildings after the completion of the University Library, including Nordhoff, Cypress, Monterey, and Bookstein Halls, as well as the Education and Education Admin buildings.

With these exciting changes on the horizon, CSUN is poised to greatly reduce its utility expenses and greenhouse gas emissions, and improve the quality of life on campus for years to come.

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