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LED lights shine on “Word of Life” mural

Jessica Stoller-Conrad | Monday, December 5, 2011

Last Spring, the popular “Word of Life” mural on the south side of Hesburgh Library was updated with new energy-efficient LED lights, said Paul Kempf, director of Utilities at Notre Dame.

new lighting is part of the $10 million Energy Conservation Measures (ECM) project, begun in 2008 to support conservation initiatives, Kempf said.

“[The ECM project] has had two phases … The second phase has been very focused on lighting,” Kempf said. “We’ve basically gone through all of campus with an eye towards replacing incandescent light bulbs … and large-diameter fluorescent light bulbs. We’ve upgraded almost 80 buildings on campus with new lighting technology.”

The mural, originally illuminated with outdated mercury vapor lighting, also visually benefits from the new lighting provided by LED technology, Kempf said.

“The LEDs give better uniformity than [the mural] had before, as far as how it illuminates the whole mural, and you get a better color rendering,” Kempf said, “The LED lighting is more akin to natural lighting and you see truer colors.”

Kempf said another ongoing sustainability project involves updating the “sight lights” that illuminate the sidewalks and roads on campus, which also benefit from LED technology.

“The LED also has a great advantage — that it’s a light that you can shape and direct much more than you can the older sources … We’re lighting the ground instead of lighting the sky and there’s less glare … less light pollution,” Kempf said.

Energy savings from the use of LED lights also benefits the University financially, Kempf said.

“It has a cost benefit to the University,” he said. “It has allowed the University to take the savings we’ve generated and actually roll it right back into the program and let us keep doing more and more by reinvesting in [the ECM project]. And that’s a logical approach to conservation or sustainability, to do the things that have an economic payback first.”

Heather Christophersen, director of Sustainability at Notre Dame, said she also supports these new energy-efficient transitions.

“The new lights save energy, which causes us to produce less carbon, which is one of our major goals — to reduce the carbon footprint of campus,” Christophersen said.

Christophersen said she would like to see other campus icons receive sustainable lighting updates in the near future.

“It would be really cool to change the lighting on the Dome to LED lights to make it, at night, have less of a green color and more true,” Christophersen said.

The LED lights for the mural were a donation from Musco Lighting, with whom the University has had a long-time partnership in lighting campus locations, Christophersen said.

Christophersen said she also hopes the new mural lighting will have an impact that reaches farther than the boundaries of campus.

“I think changing to these more efficient types of lights on such a visible campus landmark that so many people know about and look at, it will help hopefully remind people how they can save energy in their own lives,” Christophersen said.