Lighting Elevates Guest Experience

LEDs reduce zoo entrance lighting-energy usage.

The famous bronze gorillas that greet zoo visitors are now bathed in LED lighting.

The San Diego Zoo (SDZ), celebrating its 100th year and among the most famous in the world, is host to 5-million visitors each year. Located on 100 acres near downtown, the zoo is home to more than 3,700 rare animals. Its mission is much more than a park to watch animals in their native habitat; the zoo has become a world leader in conservation science and has dedicated global resources to saving endangered species.

It should come as no surprise that the San Diego Zoo is also at the forefront in providing an optimum experience for visitors during the day and at night. Seeking ways to save energy, reduce maintenance, and improve the lighting, it became clear to SDZ facility management that it was time to begin the move to LED lighting. The first step was to engage Angie Alvarado of Innovative Lighting Solutions, Carlsbad, CA, who had previously helped the zoo reduce energy use with indoor lighting retrofits. The new targets were the outdoor poles at the guest entrance that illuminated trees, walkways, and two famous bronze gorilla statues. The existing architectural poles were attractive, so the zoo wanted to retrofit the light source in the post top.

At this point Angie sought out Edward Newell, head of design and specification for RTM Lighting & Electronics, Vista, CA. “The Zoo planned to increase the hours it was open at night, and I saw this project as a classic solid-state lighting upgrade,” said Newell. “The zoo needed to increase light levels, improve the quality of light, reduce energy use, and lower maintenance costs. As it turned out, the 15 existing poles were made by three different manufacturers, so the challenge was to find a single lighting solution that was flexible enough to accommodate the different poles, but at the same time deliver great light.”

San Diego Zoo visitors’ evening experience is enhanced with LED lighting from EYE Lighting.

It turned out there was only one product that fit the application: LEDioc from EYE Lighting International, Mentor, OH. The LEDioc was designed for fast field retrofit of post-top luminaires, and preserves the optics and photometric performance of the existing luminaire. The zoo’s legacy light sources were 250-W metal-halide and 250-W mercury-vapor lamps, so the 37-W LEDioc represented an 85% reduction in energy use. Newell notes that zoo employees at first thought the new lighting was using more energy because it was so much brighter.

“We are very pleased with the new lighting,” said Kevin Haupt, director of facilities operations for the San Diego Zoo Global. “Everything under the new LEDioc lamps looks brighter and more vibrant, and we are convinced our guests will enjoy these areas of the park even more. We are constantly searching for new ways to reduce our overall resource consumption. On September 16, 2016, San Diego Zoo celebrated its 100-year anniversary, and we are trying hard to make everything better in our second hundred years; the new site lighting is a part of that.”

“The zoo plans to continue to improve lighting throughout the complex, and I look forward to working with EYE again,” Edward Newell concluded.


— Download technical bulletins and spec sheets.

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