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Hunt Library interior lighting to be addressed following exterior redesign

Credit: Alan Vangpat/Photo Staff Credit: Alan Vangpat/Photo Staff Credit: Courtney Wittekind/News Editor Credit: Courtney Wittekind/News Editor

On Saturday, Hunt Library celebrated its 50th anniversary with a light show comprised of standard lights shown every night, colorful changing patterns for special campus events, and examples of holiday designs for Hanukkah, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and the Fourth of July.

The exterior lights were funded by a grant from the Roy A. Hunt Foundation and designed by Cindy Limauro and Chris Popowich of C & C Lighting, LLC. Limauro is also a professor of lighting design in the schools of drama and architecture.

Efforts to redesign the library lighting began when Roy Hunt’s grandson, Bill Hunt, pointed out that half of the building could not be seen from Forbes Avenue at night. “Like many of the buildings on campus, the library disappears structurally at night. All you are seeing is the florescent lights inside, and then you’re seeing half the building dark,” Popowich said.

“Bill Hunt was crossing campus one night and noticed that the right side of the library was totally dark,” Limauro said. “He then contacted President Cohon about the look of the building at night, and President Cohon immediately asked me to take it on as a project.” The university had previously enlisted Limauro and Popowich to design the lighting for the Randy Pausch Bridge in 2009.

“When we were brought on board, we looked at this and thought: Here’s this blank canvas. What can we do with it?” said Popowich.
While the building’s aluminum structure and unobstructed location make it an ideal medium for lighting, Limauro and Popowich tried to make the library more than just a canvas. “The lighting needs to support the beauty and elegance of that aluminum structure and give it an enhanced presence on campus,” said Limauro. “We were looking at the best way to show off the structure of the building.... We wanted to reveal as many different facets of the building though color, light, and movement.” Popowich added, “The lighting uses green technology in the form of color-changing LEDs that can mix to white light or create dynamic color combinations.”

In addition to the library, Limauro and Popowich also lit up the canopy in front of the library. “The canopy in front of the building had not been lit in 20-plus years,” Popowich said. “It was another aspect of the library that was brought up, and the Hunts were very pleased to now see the engravings on the marble that had been lost at night.”

The lighting’s full capabilities were demonstrated at the 50th anniversary, showing a number of accelerated versions of different seasonal and celebratory themes.

“We’ve created a series of looks for the every-night version which is more classic, showcasing the beauty of the building in a more subtle way,” explained Limauro. “We probably have programmed 50 light shows into the computer that can be called up at any time.”
According to Limauro, the best thing about the lighting is its versatility. “The LED lighting fixtures can be programmed to create any kind of color that you might want.... Each fixture has its own control, so you have all this capability of really painting the building based on whatever idea you have in mind. The use of color also creates a sense of energy and activity to the campus at night.”
“It’s not a rock ’n’ roll light show, but that could be very easily done,” Popowich added.

In addition to lighting the building, the surrounding lamp posts are being replaced with LED street lamps. The new fixtures will not only save energy but will redirect the light to the ground and eliminate light pollution. The floodlights on Baker Hall and the Peace Garden side of the library have also been eliminated, saving further energy.

Limauro is also advising a three-person team of students who will be redesigning the interior lighting of Hunt Library.
“The interior of the library currently has lot of glare and the lighting is at a consistent level between study areas and stacks,” said third-year architecture major Grace Ding, who is a member of the team.

“As such, not only is the interior lighting not conducive for reading books and using computers, but the fact that most of the lights are on all the time mars the appearance of the library and exacerbates the already high energy usage of florescent lights.”
The team intended to solve all these problems at once.

“Our plan was to install dimmable LED replacement bulbs in the existing fluorescent fixtures. These bulbs are much more energy efficient, using about one-third of the energy of fluorescent bulbs,” Limauro said. “Also, these circuits would be placed on sensors so that when no one is occupying a space, the lights would dim to a minimum level. This would help reduce the lighting load in the day, as well as reduce the strong contrast between the light and dark parts of the facade during the night.”
Unfortunately, the relative novelty and high cost of LED technology have slowed progress.

“In our plan, this interior lighting would be implemented first, and then the exterior light lighting would be justified because of the energy savings from these first steps,” Ding said. Currently, Limauro and Popowich have implemented their plan backwards because they are waiting for the technology to catch up before proceeding with the interior.

Nevertheless, the team is still happy to see at least part of the plan realized. “It’s nice to have this great visual object on campus so that at night, it becomes an icon of the campus,” said third-year architecture major Arthur Notaro, another member of the three-person team. In addition to retrofitting interior lighting, Limauro and Popowich also hope more buildings will follow the example of Hunt Library in the future.

“I would like to see a master plan of light for the Carnegie Mellon campus in which the interior of each building could be relit to save energy,” Limauro said.

“New exterior lighting would highlight the unique architectural features of each building, increase a sense of safety, and enhance the visual look of campus in a way that is fitting for a world-class university.”