Soaring Together
By: Susan Bloom

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Denver International Airport (DIA) is a wonder of modern aviation design and construction. Built when the city’s original Stapleton International Airport exceeded its design capacity and considered the newest commercial airport in the United States, the 53-square-mile DIA, located 25 miles from downtown Denver, hosts 53 million passengers annually (and can accommodate nearly twice that many when fully expanded to its master plan) and boasts 35,000 employees. And since upgrading the lighting in a number of its parking garage facilities with beneficial LED technology, the airport is honoring its commitment to being one of the most sustainable aviation facilities in operation.

“DIA is proud to be one of the most environmentally responsible airports in the world,” said Heath Montgomery, DIA spokesperson. “Among other activities, we collect and recycle deicing fluid, preventing large quantities of this fluid from entering our waterways. We also house four solar arrays, the second largest configuration of these at any U.S. airport. So we’re committed to investing in sustainability.”

In 2014, however, a new strategic plan for DIA had the airport investing even more in sustainable products and practices as an organizational goal and value.

“The plan involved making our runways and parking facilities brighter for pilots and passengers alike,” Mongomery explained. On the ‘land side,’ this included the upgrade of more than 5,400 outdated lighting fixtures in the multitier parking garage modules on the east and west sides of the airport, each of which contained thousands of parking spaces.

“LED lighting has really come to the forefront in aviation—LED runway lights are standard now, for example and all of our teams had been looking at this technology for a while,” Montgomery said. Specifically, DIA desired an LED solution to replace the garages’ 177W high-pressure sodium fixtures, “which created a darker effect with a yellowish tint and didn’t provide even lighting at the floor level,” he said.

As a city entity, DIA issued an RFP in spring 2014 and ultimately selected a team that involved products from Eaton’s Cooper Lighting business, distribution and management support from the Denver branch of Gexpro (a division of Rexel), and installation support from electrical contractor Dynelectric Colorado in nearby Lakewood.

Commencing in May 2014, the garage upgrade featured the conversion of nearly 5,000 high-pressure sodium (HPS) fixtures to 51W, DesignLights Consortium (DLC)-listed McGraw-Edison Valet LED fixtures, which delivered a more than 70% reduction in energy compared to the previous technology. Additionally, more than 700 73W Valet fixtures were used to upgrade 250W and 150W HPS products, while 27W Valet products replaced 115W metal halide surface mounted downlights.

“Like many HPS installations, the garages had a low CRI and looked dim,” said Gexpro Branch Manager Earl Celich of the initial look and feel of the space. “We helped with the upgrade design, offering a range of LED products for the DIA team to consider that would meet the airport’s specifications. This project required a small business enterprise to stage and store materials, which we’ve done for over a decade, so we also worked together with Dynelectric to manage that entity to provide the service we both needed.”

Completed in mid-January 2015 and resulting in overall energy savings of more than 45%, the upgrade will help the airport to save nearly $327,000 annually or $6.5 million over the expected 20-year life of the products.

The conversion is also estimated to reduce annual energy consumption by more than 3.4 million kWh per year (or 68 million kWh over 20 years), an annual carbon reduction that’s equivalent to the electricity used by 356 homes or the removal of 544 cars from U.S. roads each year. The long-lasting fixtures will also enable additional maintenance savings with fewer lamp replacements, reducing labor and materials costs, and qualify the airport for an over $600,000-plus rebate from its local utility.

 “Retrofitting with new LEDs was much more cost-effective for us than maintaining our old products and will save us hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in energy alone,” said Montgomery. “The whiter nature of the LEDs distinguishes colors better, produces more even illumination, enhances safety and improves visibility for drivers, reduces maintenance costs and concerns, and will last us for another 20 years—as long as we’ve been in business to date. We’re pleased with the results and think our passengers are too.”

“The look and feel of the garages is definitely brighter, cleaner, and whiter,” agreed Celich, who praised the team at Dynelectric for their diligent installation services as well as partner Eaton’s

Cooper Lighting, “which got us a large quantity of fixtures on a tight schedule.”

“The ROI in parking garages makes LED upgrades in these applications a no-brainer,” Celich said. “The fact that everyone’s not doing it is shocking.”

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