Case study

Wisconsin health system reduces energy footprint with LED luminaires

ThedaCare Health System saves more than $40,000 annually on energy and maintenance, while improving security of its outdoor spaces with LED luminaires

July 18, 2014

Acuity Brands

ThedaCare Health System saves more than $40,000 annually on energy and maintenance, while improving security of its outdoor spaces with LED luminaires.

Sustainability is not just a buzzword for the ThedaCare Health System in Wisconsin. It is an initiative the healthcare provider has consistently focused on for more than 10 years at its five hospitals and 30 facilities. As technologies develop, new opportunities arise for improving their hospitals’ impact on the environment. 

“From my perspective, healthcare organizations must lead the way in reducing fossil fuels,” said ThedaCare Sustainability Leader Paul Linzmeyer.  “The first thing we are working on is to reduce demand. If we reduce demand, that is less pollution going into the environment. While some of sustainability work is about saving money, it is really about reducing the amount of greenhouse gases going into the environment. Healthcare’s first obligation should be to do no harm to our environment — for health and safety reasons.”

In late 2013, a facilities energy reduction team led by Linzmeyer noticed that the outdoor lighting on some of the ThedaCare campuses was more than overdue for an upgrade. Weathered high-pressure sodium (HPS) and metal halide (MH) fixtures illuminated parking lots on multiple campuses, which emitted harsh, uneven lighting. 

As a first step, the lighting team targeted the system’s Theda Clark and Appleton Medical Center (AMC) campuses.  Both campuses feature large parking lots, one slightly more than 861,000 square feet (Theda Clark) and the other, approximately 916,000 square feet (AMC). AMC also utilizes a parking deck with parking ramps on four decks totaling 141,520 square feet.

The Theda Clark campus is located in a residential area, and facilities managers received multiple complaints from neighbors about lighting overflow from the parking lots on and into houses. Additionally, the pole lighting was comprised of two fixtures per pole, which required Theda Clark to hire electricians to replace the bulbs every three years. The dual heads also created hot spots and dark corners throughout the parking lots — creating a safety concern on the campus. 

ThedaCare worked with Élan Lighting’s design team and determined outdoor lighting would indeed be a good upgrade opportunity because of its quick return on investment. To further maximize investments, the team evaluated LED lighting. 

“LEDs are the best solution right now for lighting in general,” said Mark Zelten, Application and Sales at Élan Lighting. “It is certainly going to be the light source for decades to come. LED was the way to go for the Theda Clark and AMC campuses, and we wanted to maximize their investment.” 

Not Just About the Energy

While the decision to go LED was largely driven by the energy savings, ThedaCare also made security a top priority. Healthcare campuses are constantly seeing foot traffic from new patients as well as visiting family and friends. The campuses need proper illumination for safe navigation and wayfinding.

“Security staff was very concerned about light levels for safety,” said Steve Jencks, Construction Project Manager for ThedaCare. “They wanted to make sure the new lighting would provide better visibility both on-site, as well as through security cameras.” 

With the poor uniformity of the existing metal halide and HID lighting, the picture on security cameras was below par. Apertures were adjusting to lighter areas, but did not adjust well for visibility in the darker areas. ThedaCare knew the uniformity benefits of LED lighting could help solve this problem.

Once LED was determined as the best light source, the next step for ThedaCare was to identify a fixture that achieved their longevity, energy efficiency, visibility and uniformity goals — all in one affordable solution. 

Retrofitting for Sustainability

With the help of Élan Lighting, ThedaCare selected products from the Lithonia Lighting D-Series LED family from Acuity Brands® for both sites. By replacing the old metal halide and high-pressure sodium fixtures with new D-Series LED luminaires, ThedaCare achieved a more effective and even light distribution. The enhanced uniformity the new LED lighting provides allows security cameras to have a clearer picture when scanning the parking lots and garages.  

D-Series LED Area luminaires were installed in parking lots on both campuses. AMC also installed D-Series LED Wallpacks, D-Series LED Floodlights and D-Series LED Parking Garage luminaires. 

D-Series LED luminaires offer visually comfortable illumination for drivers and help increase energy efficiency and security, while reducing the maintenance burden of the hospital system. Additionally, improved light uniformity provided a brighter space that is actually less invasive to the neighbors near the campuses’ parking areas. Because the light is much more focused, the spill into surrounding neighborhoods is eliminated. 

“The new lighting in the parking ramp at the AMC campus looks very nice at night,” said Jamie Coenen, a ThedaCare Security Officer at AMC. “The new lighting is not too bright for the neighboring houses and makes it so much easier to see inside the ramp. The lights are mounted high enough that it does not affect your sight or disperse light outside of the ramp.”

Another advantage of LED is it dramatically reduces maintenance time and costs. The new LED luminaires can deliver a 100,000-hour expected service life, or up to 10 years of operation, as opposed to the three-year maintenance cycle before the retrofit. 

“One key aspect of this project is we no longer need to propose one-for-one solutions,” Zelten explained. “The new distribution patterns of the D-Series Area LED luminaires enabled us to reduce the number of luminaires. So the majority of the time when they had two fixtures on a pole, we can replace it with one fixture to cover the same area. Not only are we saving money on energy, we are saving them money on fixture cost because most of the time one fixture is cheaper than two.”

For the Theda Clark project, ThedaCare was able to reduce the number of fixtures from 84 (original fixtures) to 60 D-Series Area LED luminaires. “You can see a vast difference between newly lit lots with a more even distribution, and the yellow from the old lights that cast an ugly glow,” explained Jencks. “When we have foggy, frosty mornings, you can really tell the improvement of the LED.” 

Over a 10-year span, the Theda Clark project is projected to save the ThedaCare campus more than $89,500 on energy and more than $58,600 on maintenance. 

The AMC parking lot and garage retrofit is projected to save more than $25,000 each year because of the energy reduction. A tribute to the savings achieved with the D-Series luminaires — the Lighting Energy Efficiency in Parking (LEEP) Campaign selected the AMC parking project as the winner for the “Highest Percentage Savings in a Retrofit at a Single Parking Structure”. 

The LEEP Campaign effort is a collaboration between the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International, the Green Parking Council and the International Facility Management Association (IFMA). It is a recognition and guidance program that encourages facility owners and managers to take advantage of savings opportunities from high efficient lighting solutions in their parking facilities.

Additionally, the parking lot installation is estimated to save ThedaCare $6,500 in maintenance costs and will achieve a five-year return on investment.

Zelten gave the Lithonia Lighting D-Series high praise. “Honestly, the D-Series LED family is making converting to LED easy. It is just amazing for a designer – unsurpassed. If a designer is not using this family, they ought to be. We are seeing clear advantages of how we can use the fixtures, and how they add value to the end user.” 

The ThedaCare health system is applying for new capital and identifying additional facilities in need of similar retrofit projects. “We do not have a target yet on what our ultimate goal is,” said Jencks. “But, we are committed to continuous improvement  — that’s our metric.”


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