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Students, musicians and community members use the Concert Hall in the Performing Arts Center (PAC) on a daily basis. As a result, its lights stay on for most of the day, giving off large amounts of heat while continuously using energy. A few Western students are trying to change that, however. What is happening in the Concert Hall?                            The current lighting system, which uses incandescent lighting, will be replaced with LED lights by the end of Feb. 2016.

Photo courtesy of Emma Eliason.                      
If the grant the project received through the Sustainable Action Fund (SAF) will cover it, there is potential for the new lights to have color mixing technology, Fred Ramage, the operations manager for performance facilities, said. What inspired this project? Technical director and interim design faculty member Lon Butcher came up with a plan to cut the PAC’s energy consumption back in 2013. He turned to students he had worked with and asked if they’d be interested in making the project a reality. One of these students, Emma Eliason, now acts as the outreach coordinator for the project.  She set up a blog for the program titled “Concert Hall Lighting Project.” “Every student opts in to pay an energy fee, a sustainable energy fee, every school year, and that small fund per student gets piled into one big grant fund that is for students to utilize and take on projects like this,” Eliason said. According to the blog Eliason set up, installing LED lights will significantly reduce the PAC’s energy consumption and thus lower electricity costs. However, these savings may not completely offset the cost of the project. “It’s not going to entirely offset, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good project,” Nate White, the Sustainable Action Fund Grant Program Coordinator, said. “We’ll still save energy and it’s still something that the students and the Performing Arts Center wanted.” Part of the reason for this is that other upgrades were made, including adding more light controls, to act as a performance enhancer for the concert hall, he said. How much money and energy will this project save? Since the project is still in the design process, it’s unclear exactly how much the project will cost or how much energy it will save. “Once we get the bids from contractors and once they award a bid to one of them, we’ll know exactly what lights will be used so we can to an estimate,” White said. General estimates show that the switch from incandescent to LED lights for the lights in the house of the theater could jump from 10,000 watts to 2,000 watts, according to a graph from the SAF project poster. At the moment, the current lights are still being metered. Once it is determined what lights will be installed, they will be metered and compared to the current system’s data, White said.

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