A New Light in Athletics

Installing new LED lights in the squash courts are (from left) Smith electricians Robert Dunn and Joshua Nietupski and electrical foreman Rene Coderre. Photo by Isabella Casini '17

Smithies may have noticed their athletic workouts are looking a bit brighter.

That’s due to efforts underway to change the lighting in all college athletic facilities from fluorescent bulbs to more energy-efficient LEDs. Once the transition is completed this summer, the lighting in Scott and Ainsworth Gyms, as well as the Indoor Track and Tennis Facility, will be nearly 100 percent LED.

Already, the change has nearly halved the amount of energy required to light the ITT, according to staff in Facilities Management. The upgrade to LED lights in all three buildings will generate an estimated $34,000 in annual savings for the college.

Theresa Collins, Smith’s assistant athletic director, is enthusiastic about the change. “We have very large spaces that require many lights,” she says. “We are pleased to work with Facilities and the Office of Campus Sustainability on improving the lighting in all of our facilities and having an impact on the college’s electrical bill.”

Dano Weisbord, director of campus sustainability and space planning, says the project is part of the college’s efforts to support plans by campus departments to become more sustainable. “It’s great that the athletics department was eager to work on this project,” he says. “I love that it will save a lot of energy and is improving light levels.”

Installing new LED lights in the Smith squash courts. Photo by Isabella Casini ’17

The project involves the installation of about 1,300 LED tubes, says Smith’s energy manager Matthew Pfannenstiel.

“The new lamps use half of the energy and last twice as long” as traditional fluorescent lights, Pfannenstiel says. “Additionally, they are constructed of plastic instead of glass, so there are fewer risks associated with breaking glass fluorescent tubes.”

The first portion of the project, completed in December, involved installing new fixtures in the Smith pool, the ITT, Ainsworth Gym and Scott Gym. The next phase involved replacing all of the fluorescent tubes in Ainsworth with new LED tubes.

The final stage, which will take place this summer, involves replacing light fixtures at the mezzanine near the Olin Fitness Center.

In addition to reducing energy consumption, the new lights are improving workouts, say ITT users.

John Brady, Mary Elizabeth Moses Professor of Geosciences, says the new lights make his regular tennis games more enjoyable.

“It is much easier to hit a tennis ball when you can see it,” Brady says, with a smile. “The new LED lighting is much brighter than the previous fluorescent lighting, and my tennis play has improved noticeably since the lights were replaced.”