- London has unveiled the first phase of a 45 million pound ($56 million) art installment, Illuminated River, that lights up a series of bridges along the Thames River with multicolored LED light patterns.
- More bridges will be illuminated in subsequent phases — the next one coming this fall — for a total of up to 15 bridges.
- Aside from an initial 250,000 pound ($312,000) initial investment from London's Olympic Reserve, the project is completely covered by private funding. The installment is expected to remain for at least 10 years.
This project utilizes energy efficient technology to update the bridge lighting in a creative way. Signify (formerly Philips Lighting) provided the LED lighting system in accordance with artist Leo Villareal's vision. Both Villareal and the Illuminated River Foundation prioritized environmental considerations when designing the public art display, Jim Anderson, Signify global market segment manager, told Smart Cities Dive.
The LED lights are more energy and cost efficient than the conventional lights that had been on some of the bridges. LEDs tend to be 50-70% more energy efficient than halide or high-pressure sodium lights, Anderson said. Plus, they require little maintenance and last longer.
Bridges that had conventional lights previously stayed illuminated all night, but the new LED displays will turn off at 2 a.m. In addition, the project organizers "made a conscious decision... to respect the darkness," by requiring that the amount of light shining into the river could be no more than what had occurred with conventional lights. That can be challenging with LEDs because of their greater luminosity, yet their light is more easily directed and dimmed. Signify developed special baffling — light shields or diffusers — to reduce light waste.
"I appreciate what [the foundation] did for this project because they had strict environmental regulations. When we were doing mock-ups they had people in boats with light meters measuring the light spill into the river... They're also shutting the lights off during peak fish migration periods," Anderson said. "It's interesting to see how cities and requirements are evolving to accommodate things like environmental impact."
Displays like Illuminated River, which feature different colored lights, can get the same effect with LEDs as with conventional bulbs but with lower light intensity and at a fraction of the power consumption.
"If you have red, green, blue and white LEDs in a fixture, to get mint green, for example, you use green and white, not all the LEDs," Anderson said. "With traditional lighting you put a [color] gel on [the light] but it's still at full output."
The bridge project incorporates connected lighting software that scans the system for faults such as a fixture failure or tripped circuit. The software identifies and diagnoses system problems and sends an alert so issues can be fixed quickly.
Signify also developed a social impact software for Illuminated Bridge. It scans the digital world — social media, blogs, news platforms — to monitor and measure performance analytics of online project mentions, such as the frequency, sentiment, demographics and locations. The software is intended to help the foundation measure the project's overall impact and public benefits.