Light-Years Ahead
By: Susan Bloom

Ranked as the fifth-busiest airport in the world and the second busiest in the United States, LAX in Los Angeles serves more than 70 million passengers annually. As part of the recent $118 million LAX Curbside Appeal and Roadway Improvement Project, which was launched to modernize this prominent 55-year-old international gateway, the airport pursued a bold new approach to its exterior terminal lighting with help from Gexpro, Eaton, and a team of experienced architects, lighting designers, engineers, and contractors. As a result of the installation, the sky’s now the limit for LAX’s new roadway illumination, which stands as a welcoming, inspirational, and highperforming new standard in airport lighting.

According to LAX spokespeople, “The airport’s Curbside Appeal Project was designed to bring together the current key-but-separate-looking architectural elements of the airport’s iconic 1960s Theme Building, 2,000 LAX Gateway light pylons, and nine airline terminals and dramatically revitalize the facility’s look with new vibrancy, color, and energy to offer a world-class welcome to travelers and visitors alike.

“Designed to make the airport more visible, safer, and easy to navigate for pedestrians and motorists, the project involved the upgrade of wayfinding signage; the installation of a new canopy in front of Terminal 4; traffic and roadway improvements; and a retrofit of the Upper Level, World Way South, and Center Way roadways. The project also involved an overhaul of the 33-year-old high-pressure sodium fixtures that previously lit the airport’s highly trafficked Centre Terminal Area.

“LAX has a two-level horseshoe design with departures on top and arrivals on the bottom level,” explained William Wallett, a sales rep at Gexpro in Anaheim, Calif., which was involved in the high-profile lighting phase of the project since its launch several years ago. In an effort to more effectively light both levels from one aesthetically pleasing lightpole, “architects created a new pole with a ropeller design featuring one 20´ arm and another 8´ arm that became viewed as art pieces,” he said.

More than 90 highly customized, double-arm Y-shaped contemporary luminaires were required to light the unique and futuristic structures. A team from California-based Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design and architect AECOM selected Eaton’s LightBAR LED optical technology because of its asymmetric roadway distribution and narrow linear design.

Uniquely installed within recessed notches in each of the two arms to illuminate different levels and areas of the roadway, the LED technology met roadway lighting requirements while also providing uniform illumination for both the airport’s upper (departures) and lower (arrivals) levels. Additional uplighting for the poles themselves as well as a mile-long color-changing RGB lightband driven by a theater control system, “further ensures that visitors aren’t looking at a piece of concrete, but more of a light ribbon,” Wallett said.

“In the beginning, our role was to work through the budget on the initial phase involving the first 14 poles as well as to help coordinate the design, address installation issues, and bring the specified parties together,” Wallett explained. In the second phase—which involved the installation of nearly 80 more poles by a team of local contractors including Sasco Electric, Cupertino Electric, and Myers-Banicki—Wallett noted,“We made sure that the fixtures were correct, mockups were done accurately, proper revisions were made based on reviews of those mock-ups, and all of the controls and components were correct and compatible.”

An Inspirational Experience
Following the six-month installation process, which was completed in summer 2015, the 91 new LED street lighting products each consume only 413W compared to the previous 920W HPS fixtures.

In addition to the streetlights’ ability to be controlled and dimmed, the sizable energy reduction further affords the opportunity for airport officials to add additional architectural LED accent fixtures to highlight the unique poles.

“Completing this phase of the LAX Curbside Appeal Project is another important milestone in our ongoing multibillion-dollar effort to modernize and improve the passenger experience at LAX,” said Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Deborah Flint. “We wanted to create a remarkable experience that will benefit travelers and visitors to LAX by integrating state-of-the-art LED lighting and architecture to revamp the exterior curbside street lighting, while cutting energy use by half. With the new lighting scheme and lightband throughout the Central Terminal Area—as well as more distinctive way-finding signage and roadway improvements—pedestrians and motorists will find LAX more accessible.”

Although meeting the schedule demands for this project in conjunction with the custom nature of the materials proved challenging, Wallett agreed that the outcome was well worth the effort. “I give a tremendous amount of credit to the LA World Airports team for driving this project and upgrading the aesthetics of the airport, which was in need of a facelift to highlight Los Angeles as a prominent international destination,” he said. “With support from Eaton and all the other members of the team, they truly achieved their goal of putting LAX into the forefront of world airports.”

As for his and Gexpro’s role in the upgrade, Wallett concluded, “Lighting is critical to the face of LAX and to the safety, visibility, and aesthetic of this highly trafficked roadway, and we’re extremely proud of this project.”

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