New Main joins Saint Paul’s night skyline


For years now, Metropolitan State’s New Main administration building has not only been the university’s most visible symbol but one of Saint Paul’s prominent landmarks—in the daytime. But at night? Not so much; it has largely been anonymous, in the shadows.

No longer.

Now you can literally see New Main in a new light. For some observers, the new LED (light-emitting diode) white lights illuminating the structure’s two west-facing towers is like the difference between, well, night and day.

“Lighting for New Main is significantly improved,” says Dan Hambrock, associate vice president for capital planning and campus services. “We’ve now joined Saint Paul’s night skyline.”

The hundreds of LED lights—compact bulbs that produce exceptionally bright illumination—enable a nighttime view of New Main from downtown St. Paul. And tens of thousands of daily motorists on I-94, U.S. 52 and I-35E can now more readily pick out Metropolitan State’s signature building in the evening.

“Our primary mission was to light up New Main’s exterior so the university’s most visible symbol could be seen better at night. We believe that mission has been accomplished,” says Robert Larson, a university development director.

The lights, tucked within four 11′ X 3′ sconces, enhance New Main’s aesthetic appeal by casting accent lighting up and down the 63-foot towers’ tan-brick façade.

Xcel Energy funded the equipment, design and installation of the $120,000 LED light project as part of an effort to demonstrate the viability of exterior LED illumination. Ongoing electrical and maintenance expenses will actually be far cheaper than using fluorescent or incandescent lights. The LED lights are more reliable, consume far less electricity (the entire connected wattage matches four 100-watt incandescent bulbs and one 30-watt one) and last perhaps 20 times as long as incandescents.

“The real savings are in the maintenance,” says Nancy Bagshaw-Reasoner, facilities director. “Much less staff time is required, because the LED lights don’t have to be changed out for a long time.”

Meanwhile, other energy-efficient improvements are regularly occurring across the university. For instance, metal halide lights in New Main’s Great Hall were recently replaced with more efficient induction lighting. In the past year, LED lights have been installed in elevators and lower-wattage fluorescents were also installed in all St. Paul Campus classrooms and in the library.

“We’re trying to be more cost-effective and energy-efficient across the board, which will reduce the university’s carbon footprint,” says Bagshaw-Reasoner. “We hope to raise the consciousness for what can be done and also model best practices for our East Side neighbors.”

Harvey Meyer is an Academic Writer/Editor at Metropolitan State.