LEDucation: Transforming the Oculus

by | Apr 1, 2021 | News

Photo Credit: Claudio Schwartz

On March 17th, I attended a LEDucation virtual session titled “Transforming the Oculus. The webinar featured Bernie Erickson, Executive Vice President of Facility Solutions Group and Samuel Updike, owner of At Full Lighting, who discussed their involvement in the lighting upgrade project of The Oculus.

The Oculus, known as the centerpiece of the World Trade Center complex in New York, was originally designed by Santiago Calatrava and opened in March of 2016. The building, which resembles a bird in flight, is a blend of a transportation hub, plaza, and shopping mall. Since the initial designs, LED technology has come a long way. Bernie and Samuel spearheaded the upgrade plans, with the goal of maintaining the original design while introducing updated LED technology and reducing energy and maintenance and costs.

There were various challenges that presented themselves to Bernie and Samuel during the design process. The first one was that the RGBW fixtures that they specified turned out to be larger than what could be accommodated in the originally designed space. This space limitation led the designers to retrofit a product in collaboration with Clarté that would fit into the existing openings between the columns. They were sure to change the angle of the lighting using non-fixed lights in order to fully illuminate the columns.

Another challenge in executing this project was that installation was made difficult in a public place with such high levels of traffic. With more than 250,000 visitors passing through each day, the project had to be worked on at night. The tall rift ceiling of The Oculus was also difficult to access, and the designers needed to purchase a lift titled “Big Red” in order to reach its highest point.

For the updated project, a total of 300 fixtures were installed and strategically grouped into different configurations. The designers chose to utilize ETC’s Architectural Control Processor for light management. The system is capable of dimming lights to the appropriate levels based on the time of day as well as weather conditions. Additionally, the system effortlessly receives color values from administrators using presets created to streamline the color changing process. These existing color schemes can also be altered and new ones created in order to honor holidays and people, like healthcare heroes, for example.

Bernie and Samuel are extremely proud of their project result, and the payback was impressive. They were able to achieve color saturation all the way up to the tips of the columns using newly manufactured, aimed fixtures, while reducing energy costs by 80%. The designers were also able to heavily reduce maintenance costs. Their visual upgrades to The Oculus enhance patron experience and exceeded stakeholder expectations.