Shining New Lights on Boston’s TD Garden

March 9, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

td_gardenLighting an arena as large and varied as the TD Garden in Boston involves a little bit of everything.

In addition to the element that generates the most attention – the sporting surfaces and concert stage — lighting must be installed in luxury suites, concourses, restaurants, garages, administrative offices and elsewhere. They must not interfere with each other. In addition, the size of the area lighted for the events differs markedly in size: For instance, a hockey rink is far bigger than a basketball court—and they both are huge compared to most concert stages.

These were among the challenges facing the team planning the lighting for the update of the 31-year-old venue, which is 755,000 square feet and seats 19,600 people. The overall updating of the arena is being done in three phases that began in November 2013. About 16,000 lights will be replaced.

The next step focuses on the lighting for the National Hockey League’s Bruins and the National Basketball Association’s Celtics, which won’t be operational until each teams’ next season starts. Specifications from the two leagues – which almost certainly will have very specific requirements to minimize glare and to ensure player safety and optimal performance — are being finalized.

The overall focus is on control, said Enis Pacavar, the Manager of Control Systems Solutions for Orsam Sylvania Lighting Solutions. The company is installing its Encelium advanced system that offers individual control to almost every light. In all, Pacavar said, there are more than 6,000 individual control points in the building. “On the control side, we upgraded the old system,” Pacavar said. “The other system was ten years old and limited in what it could do. It was basically [turning lights] off and on.”

One example is in the 88 luxury suites. A certain amount of light is needed so that people can read menus and otherwise take advantage of food services and other amenities. This must be done in a way that doesn’t interfere with the viewing of those elsewhere or outside the suite. For that reason, the individually controlled LEDs were installed at the back of the suites where the food service would take place. Likewise, in the administrative area virtually every light is individually controlled, Pacavar said.

Pacavar said that a number of considerations are taken into account when determining how dim to set the lights. It’s a tricky thing, since LEDs are brighter than legacy technology and potentially are more disruptive. “One of the metrics is that we asked promoters of the concerts – from Bruno Mars to Justin Timberlake – if the lighting had any impact and were asking concert-goers if they were able to see. After getting all the feedback we determined that lighting strength should be 18 percent. That was the equilibrium point” between people being able to see the show and other functions are possible,” Pacavar said.

No hard numbers are available for energy savings, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the savings should be significant. For instance, Pacavar says that the administrative level of the building is using about half the energy of the legacy lighting. The project also included the replacement of the 1,000 watt traditional luminaires with 220 watt LEDs. “It offers the same quality of light but uses a lot less energy,” Pacavar said.

Some specifics are available. For instance, 166 1,000 watt quartz halide luminaire house lights were replaced with 220 watt LEDs. In the management area, 386 2 foot by 2 foot 59 watt T-8 fluorescents were replaced by 37 watt LEDs. The bottom line is that the ability of LEDs to provide the same illumination with less wattage leads to great savings when large areas are being lit.

The control system also senses when areas are vacant and can adjust the lights accordingly. Such savings are harder to quantify, but valuable nonetheless. “It is the latest and most advanced control system,” Pacavar said. “It can do many things and works well with LED luminaires.”

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