Athletic Lighting Project Brightens Sports Arenas

In conjunction with Harvard’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goal, Harvard Athletics facilities have been replacing their dimmer fluorescent lightbulbs with energy-saving LED bulbs to create brighter and more cost-efficient arenas for athletic practice and competition.

The Athletics Lighting Project, which began in the spring of 2012, has installed light-emitting diode, or LED, bulbs in the Bright Hockey Center, Gordon Indoor Track, Lavietes Pavilion, and Palmer DixonHarvard’s strength and conditioning center. LED bulbs use just one-fifth to one-quarter of the energy harnessed by traditional incandescent light bulbs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

“Our inspiration [for this project] was an opportunity to work with the Office for Sustainability and to help save not only Athletics energy but Harvard’s goal of a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2016,” said Jason Waldron, the Harvard Athletics Operations and Facilities Manager.

According to Waldron, all athletic centers at the University used 750-watt fluorescent bulbs before the installation projectmany of which he described as degrading in quality over time.

“The way our old fixtures worked was that they, when we first put them in, they would start out bright, but over time, their lighting output would diminish, and it would turn yellow or orange,” Waldron said. “There was an inconsistency of lights.”

Now, the four centers in which installations have taken place use 380-watt LED bulbs, which can last up to 10 years until they start to diminish, according to Waldron. “Not only are [the LED lights] brighter, and they are much brighter, and there’s a consistency throughout all the buildings,” Waldron said.

Women’s basketball coach Kathy Delaney-Smith agreed that the lighting was brighter, but she said her team has had “no conscious discussion” about the implementation of the LED lights.

“It’s brighter, and it’s a nicer light, sure,” Delaney-Smith said. “But I would say our players probably didn’t even notice.”

Autumne J. S. Franklin ’16, a hurdler on the track team, said she had not noticed a change. “I think it sounds like a good idea and definitely environmentally-friendly,” Franklin said. “But I didn’t notice so I guess that’s a good thing that we’re not losing anything by having the LED lights.”

According to Waldron, whose contractors work around athletic practices, he and his team hope to expand the Athletics Lighting Project to the Blodgett Pool, the tennis courts, and the Murr Squash courts. “We’re always looking to improve our lighting,” he said.

The Athletics Lighting Project was funded by the Green Revolving Fund, a $12 million revolving loan fund administered by Harvard’s Office for Sustainability. Recipients pay back the loans from the savings they make after switching to more energy-efficient, cost-effective alternatives.