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Empire State Building given LED facelift

8 May 2012 11.30 BST

(USA) - Philips Color Kinetics to create state-of-the-art, dynamic lighting system for iconic office tower.

Globally recognised as an engineering marvel and symbol of New York City, the Empire State Building has selected Philips as its partner to transition the building’s iconic tower lights to innovative LEDs. The LED lighting system from Philips Color Kinetics will allow the building’s façade and mast to change lighting scenes in real-time. In addition to greater control and management of the lighting, the new system will deliver the superior light levels for the design, as well as allow it to highlight its architectural details.

The Empire State Building's lighting schemes recognises key milestones, events, charitable organisations, countries and holidays - a tradition started in 1932, when a simple searchlight was used to announce the election of New York-born Franklin Delano Roosevelt as President. To honour the United States Bicentennial in 1976, Douglas Leigh designed a scheme to light the building with red, white and blue coloured floodlights.

The tower is replacing its traditional light fixtures with LEDs as part of its 21st century renovation. The new system will allow customised light capabilities from a palette of over 16 million colours, including hard-to-achieve pastels, in virtually limitless combinations. The LED lights will replace the current palette of ten colours, which also requires a team several hours to change the building’s nearly 400 fixtures.

“Throughout our $550 million Empire State ReBuilding program, we’ve looked at every aspect of the building to make it energy efficient and install 21st century technology, befitting of its position as the 'World’s Most Famous Office Building',” said Anthony Malkin, president of Malkin Holdings, owner of the Empire State Building. “It is time to update our iconic tower lighting. Initially, as we have both old-fashioned high intensity discharge and LED lighting side-by-side, there will be no obvious difference to the public’s view. But in September when the LED changeover is complete, we will see some differences. We surveyed the market for the most technologically advanced, energy efficient, and reliable lighting system to illuminate the international, iconic symbol of the New York City skyline. Philips Color Kinetics’ LED system will make our world famous tower lightings that much more magical.”

Ripple, cross-fade, particle and burst effects, previously not possible, will be easily automated to create unique lighting designs. The new system will also allow the building to minimise light spill, ensuring that light is focused on the façade and mast, while  providing enough light to allow the building to be seen from anywhere in New York City. This feature not only respects the night sky, but the building’s neighbours as well.

“Lighting the Empire State Building has been a technical challenge and aspiration for us, and one that we have been working on with the Empire State Building for years,” said Jeff Cassis, general manager of Philips Color Kinetics. “We have been developing our LED technology  to create a solution that could achieve the right light levels and design for the building’s façade, while keeping true to the building’s identity as an iconic symbol of New York and building innovation. The result is a unique LED lighting system that creates as much light as the traditional light sources that it is designed to replace, yet one that can be adapted on the fly to redefine the New York City skyline.”


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