California State University, Long Beach
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Collaboration Casts A Whole New Light On Student Creativity

Published: November 15, 2013

CSULB’s School of Art recently joined forces with Physical Planning and Physical Management to cast a whole new and more efficient light on student creativity.

“We worked with Facilities Management on a project to drastically reduce energy costs in our galleries by installing new state-of-the-art LED lighting,” explained Jay Kvapil, director of the School of Art and member of the university since 1986. “It took over a year of teamwork with Facilities Management’s Paul Wingco, the campus’ energy and sustainability manager; and head electrician Robert Leigh, to find just the right lights and get them installed. It’s a win-win story.”

An LED, or light-emitting diode light, allows current to flow in only one direction. When electricity is passed through the diode, the atoms in one material (within the semiconductor chip) are excited to a higher energy level. The atoms in that first material have too much energy and need to release that energy. The energy is then released as the atoms shed electrons to the other material within the chip. During this energy release, light is created. “LED lights have a variety of advantages including high levels of brightness and intensity, high efficiency, low amperage requirements, low radiated heat, resistance to shock and vibration, a long life and ease of control and programming,” said Kvapil.

“We probably have the most robust student gallery exhibition program in the country,” he said. “There are five galleries in the courtyard and two satellite galleries that are all for student exhibitions. Other schools have combination museums and student galleries. But all our galleries are for student shows. We host 150-plus shows every year. No other school in the country does that.”

When the student galleries were renovated in 2000, new lights were installed but eventually they wore out and became a source of frustration to the School of Art.

“Eventually, we decided that, rather than repair the lights we had, why didn’t we look into their replacement with something much more energy efficient? The new lighting project began in 2012 and it was frustrating that it seemed to take so long but that may have been a good thing,” said Kvapil. “This technology is developing rapidly. Vendors offered solutions which were either not quite right or completely wrong. Some were extremely expensive. But when these particular LED lights were brought in, bingo, we knew we had the right solution.”

School Of Art

Before the new LED lights were installed, the list of complaints about the galleries’ old incandescent lights seem to grow longer by the semester. “They were expensive and had to be replaced all the time,” Kvapil recalled. “They would get hot and when we wanted to move them, we would have to wait for them to cool. But our new LED lights are always cool to the touch. Plus, the color of light is really important to viewing art. We used to think our old quartz halogen lights were the best for white light, but when reviewing the variety of lights we were considering using, we put in one of the new LED lights next to one of our old lights. All of a sudden, we realized that the lights we thought were white were really yellow. Plus, each lamp has its own off-on switch so you can turn lights on and off individually instead of a whole run of lights. And the campus electricians were frustrated too, week by week patching up old worn-out lights. Once we agreed on a product, the electricians were great to work with and made a lot of other suggestions about how to improve the lights so that students could better use them. Head electrician Robert Leigh and his whole crew deserve many thanks and a lot of credit for this project.”

Energy and sustainability manager Wingco pointed out that the new LED lighting project will result in 26,670 kWh of electricity savings and associated utility cost savings of $2,700 per year. “The new LED lights will result in 82 percent energy savings for the campus but directly, the school will save money by not having to purchase as many replacement lamps because the new LED lights will last 15 times longer,” Wingco said. “It would also be good to note that the campus received a utility rebate of $6,400 for doing this lighting project.” Wingco encourages colleges and departments interested in more information to contact him directly by e-mail at or by phone at 562/985-8167.

Student participation in the new lighting was essential. “These galleries are really laboratories,” said Kvapil. “The School of Art is not responsible for mounting each student show. Every student is responsible for mounting his or her own show. It is considered a learning experience. And student feedback about the new LED lights has been very positive.”

Kvapil sees the School of Art’s commitment to energy efficiency as ongoing. “These new lights are in the largest concentration of track lighting in the school but there are other rooms set up for critiques of student work,” he said. “Now that we know the LED lights work so well, we hope to change all the track lighting.”