Problems arise with downtown parking garage lighting filters

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 | 9:30 p.m. CDT; updated 7:33 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 26, 2011

COLUMBIA — The show is over for the lighting demonstration at the Fifth and Walnut parking garage.

After the city received complaints from residents about the garage's bright lights, the Environment and Energy Commission approved a demonstration of photo-corrective films by independent lighting consultant Eric Sax.

During the trial period, each level of the garage sported a different type of filter, which changed the intensity, quality or color of the light. The films were similar to those used in theaters for stage-lighting effects.

However, the demonstration was taken down Monday, and the council is now considering other options in light of concerns about the filters' long-term viability.

Thermal imaging scans revealed that the filters raise the temperature of the light bulbs by several degrees, from the mid-70s to the mid-80s Fahrenheit.

"When they get hotter they won't work as well, " sustainability manager Barbara Buffaloe said. "It has the potential for voiding our warranty."

And although the filter demonstration was designed to be temporary, there have been enough problems with the filters falling off that parking utility is concerned about their long-term use.

"They're falling off every day," Buffaloe said. "We haven't found a permanent solution." 

Before the commission's November meeting, Buffaloe plans to talk with Walker Parking Consultants and the light manufacturer to determine whether the 10-degree temperature difference is significant enough to affect the warranty.

If it isn't, the filters could remain an option, but the council is now considering other options.

With the filter demonstration concluded, Buffaloe said a new display could go up to test the possibilities of shielding, tilting and reducing power to the light bulbs. This was the commission's initial plan several months ago before they decided to test the filters as a potentially more cost-effective solution.

A change order to install daylight sensors in the stairwells has been approved, Buffaloe said. The fluorescent lights should start turning off automatically during the day.

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