September 04, 2014, BY Matt Hughes

New LED lighting at Gerhard Fieldhouse will save Bucknell more than $1 million in energy.

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Gerhard Fieldhouse on the Bucknell University campus is looking brighter than ever thanks to a lighting replacement project estimated to save the University more than $1 million in energy costs.

This summer, the Facilities Energy Management Team retrofitted 112 light fixtures in the fieldhouse — which houses a 200-meter track and facilities for basketball, tennis, volleyball, racquetball, squash, rock-climbing and field events — replacing 1,000-watt incandescent bulbs with 380-watt LED lights.

The project will pay back the University's initial $106,000 capital investment in under three years, and is expected to save $1.2 million in operating costs over the lifespan of the LED bulbs, which last 10 times longer than incandescents. The lights will also reduce emissions by 13 million pounds of CO2 over their lifespan, and conserve 500,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year, according to Campus Energy Manager Stephen Durfee. To put that in perspective, the average American household typically uses fewer than 15,000 kilowatt hours per year.

Durfee added that the project has also had less tangible benefits.

"We no longer need to use the old lighting ballasts that make loud, annoying buzzing sounds — a noise people often complained about," he said. "We have an improved lighting quality as well."

The project was undertaken as part of a strategic initiative by the departments of Athletics and Recreation Services to pragmatically cut carbon output and energy costs. Prior to this project, the Kenneth Langone Athletics & Recreation Center (KLARC) had already reduced energy consumption by nearly 40 percent over two years, saving nearly $275,000. The University hopes to increase that to 50 percent by the close of the 2015 fiscal year.

"Bison Athletics was proud to partner with the facilities staff in undertaking this lighting replacement project to help the University achieve its sustainability goals," said John Hardt, director of Athletics and Recreation. "This new LED lighting technology provides a durable and bright lighting alternative that provides a safer facility while also minimizing maintenance and energy use."

Overall, the University saw a 7.6 percent reduction in energy usage per gross square foot over fiscal year 2013, Durfee said, and additional system upgrades and efficiency projects are underway to achieve further reductions. Building automation system upgrades are underway at the Weis Center for the Performing Arts, the O'Leary Psychology and Geology Center, the KLARC and the Bucknell Co-Generation Power Plant. Use of real-time energy metering systems is also expanding, and the University Green Fund — which provides start-up money for sustainability projects proposed and implemented by students, faculty and staff — has a list of smaller projects in store.

"The campus community is really catching on to conservation efforts and there's a strong feeling of momentum here," Durfee said. "When we invest our hearts, minds and dollars into resource efficiency, the University saves operating dollars, it saves the environment through reduced CO2 emissions and water efficiency, and it creates a more sustainable culture going forward."