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Light up the night: LED REVOLUTION

(Originally published in Hotel Management, March 2011)
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By Katie Tandy
Associate Editor

Surrounded by equal parts controversy and excitement, MGM's CityCenter project is the largest privately funded project in the history of the United States, drawing a slew of architects and designers to craft the intricate complex of facilities.

Lighting the way was Ron Harwood, president of Illuminating Concepts, whose company served as the executive lighting designer for CityCenter. Harwood said MGM wanted the entire project to meet very high Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, but the anticipated stress on the lamps coupled with the intense use of power supply was extremely challenging to counter. Light-emitting diode lights immediately moved to the forefront of Harwood's lighting solutions, offering high-end design and a serious commitment to green initiatives. Harwood discussed the Aria Resort & Casino, a 4,004-room Gold LEED property, illustrating the design process. LED lights, though more expensive then the halogen, compact fluorescent or incandescents typically found in hotels, have a much longer life span, versatility and lower wattage, providing substantial cost savings in terms of maintenance, renovation and bulb replacements.

"We used very, very little incandescent lighting in Aria-LED replaced all the neon," Harwood said. "We used miles and miles of LED cove lighting, and the energy saving was 75 percent. We had to go room by room, square footage by square footage to check lamp types that were originally specified and change most of them; otherwise maintaining all those lamps could be a huge issue with facilities managers. In some cases the originally specified 50-watt lamp could be changed to 35. If you use less wattage, a less-intense light, the cooling bill goes down. In Las Vegas, that's a huge issue."

As the demand for LED lights swiftly rises, the manufacturing process is becoming increasingly standardized and upfront costs are beginning to drop for owners. While the tens of thousands of diodes made every year (mostly in Asia) are crafted on automated assembly lines, the basic diode is a blue LED and must be coated again and again to filter the color or add white.

"Everyone has a different approach," Harwood said. "LED lamp sources for use in hospitality and commercial applications have been around for only about three years. The changes they are going through are dramatic-the change in output has doubled in just a few years."

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