Lighting Makes a Difference at the U 

The University has been making strides toward energy conservation with the “It All Adds Up” campaign, encouraging the University community to join an energy conservation pledge (save water, hit the lights, turn off electronics, and take the stairs).


PTS adds to the U’s list of energy conservation accomplishments with the installation of high-efficiency lighting in all parking structures on campus.

The first locations that were converted in 2012-13 were Northrop Auditorium Garage, Church Street Garage, and Oak Street Ramp.  More parking structures were upgraded from 2014-15, including Nolte Center Garage, 19th and 21st Avenue Ramps, 717 Delaware Garage, 4th Street Ramp and East River Road Garage. The rest of the University parking ramps and garages were completed in 2016.

Surface lots are scheduled to be upgraded in 2017.

How It Began

This project started with an assessment of 13 parking structures on campus. A test in the 4th Street Ramp with sensors installed on different light fixtures showed that these lights were at full output for less than five percent of the hours in a day. 

The result of the assessment and test is a move to two LED (light emitting diode) fixtures. These lights have been proven to be more energy-efficient and significantly reduce long term energy costs while still complying with current lighting industry standards. 

New lighting shines brightly in the Northrop Auditorium Garage.

The annual energy savings compared to the existing energy usage is estimated at 52-58 percent (translating to an annual energy cost savings of approximately $350,000 per year if all covered level light fixtures are replaced in all of the parking structures). 

The cost of the lighting retrofit is approximately $3.3 million.

These LED fixtures are estimated to last 23 years with 24/7 operation at full light output.  That saves on maintenance and replacement costs as well.

New Features Added

Another aspect of this planned parking facility upgrade is the addition of two advanced sensor types: daylight-sensing and motion.

The first sensor is a daylight-sensing detector that analyzes the level of natural light inside above-ground parking structures and turns off lights during the day when adequate natural light exists to meet required lighting standards.   Light fixtures more than 60 feet from a wall opening will continue to operate 24/7. 

New bay lighting twinkles in 
this nighttime shot of Oak 
Street Ramp.

The second sensor is a motion sensor that detects vehicle movement and pedestrian activity and dims light fixtures when the parking facility is not occupied.  These sensors will control light fixtures in large sections or blocks to avoid the strobe light effect of individual fixtures turning on one at a time.  For safety and security purposes, light fixtures are dimmed to 25 percent of full light output as opposed to turning completely off. 

Next Steps

Additionally, PTS is participating in a campus-wide lighting project that updates the lighting in lobbies and stairwells of parking facilities.  That project is driven by Facilities Management’s Energy Unit.

While all these energy savings help boost the U’s conservation efforts, PTS plans to keep our mission promise of providing safe and convenient access to the University for everyone.  Our customers’ personal safety and security is always our number one concern.

Safety Is A Top Priority

Our mission has always centered around the safety of those accessing the University of Minnesota campus. That will never change.

PTS has emergency call buttons in elevator lobbies and stairwells that connect directly with the Department of Central Security.

Security cameras on campus, including those located throughout parking facilities, are monitored 24 hours a day by the Department of Central Security.

Don't Judge PTS Lighting Upgrade Prematurely!

Remember! A parking facility in the midst of a lighting upgrade is a work in progress. It is too early to judge the lights until they are all installed and working with the intended lighting controls.

Due to advancements in lighting technology, we are able to achieve our standard light levels while using less wattage (power).  The new fixtures being installed are light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures that provide light with better color rendering than the older High Pressure Sodium (HPS) light sources. Generally, the white light produced by LEDs results in better user perception than the yellow light of HPS sources. LED fixtures are able to provide a much more uniform distribution of light than traditional fixtures. These new lights are also more directional, allowing for better illumination of surfaces and people.  The old HPS fixtures need to over light areas immediately below the fixtures in order to have adequate lighting at areas further from the fixtures. This created an overly bright 'hot spot' directly below the light fixture. 

The new light fixtures use much less power to achieve more uniform, better lighting levels than the old fixtures. The system also has sensors which will allow us to better control light levels during different conditions.

During installation, certain areas will be turned off during the day as the electrical contractor has to turn off circuits in order to install the new lights and the temporary mix of LED and HPS fixtures. This may make areas seem darker than ordinary during this transition period.  A PTS review with the installation crews ensures that the full light level available is used as the project moves forward.

Please be assured that the new system was designed to meet all safety lighting levels as designated for our facilities.  While our energy savings do help boost the U’s overall efforts, PTS continues to keep our mission promise of providing safe and convenient access to the University for everyone.  Our customers’ personal safety and security is always our number one concern.