One of the main symbols of New York City, the Empire State Building, has selected Philips as its partner to install LEDs on the building’s iconic tower lights.

The two organisations have developed a dynamic lighting system that will allow the building’s façade and mast to change lighting scenes in real time. In addition to greater control and management of the lighting, the new system will deliver the superior light levels for the design, as well as allow the building to highlight its architectural details.

The Empire State Building’s tower lights are used to recognise key milestones, events, charitable organisations, countries and holidays – a tradition started in 1932, when a simple searchlight was used to announce the election of New York-born Franklin Delano Roosevelt as president. To honor the United States Bicentennial, the building installed colored floodlights to illuminate the building at night, lighting up red, white and blue, leading to today’s popular Lighting Partner program.

The building is replacing its traditional light fixtures with LEDs as part of its 21st Century renovation. The new computerised system will allow customised light capabilities from a palette of over 16 million colors. The LED lights will replace the current palette of ten colors, which also takes a team several hours to change the building’s nearly 400 fixtures. Soon the building’s staff will be able to create and update customised lights, using new energy efficient technology.

“Throughout our $550m Empire State Rebuilding program, we’ve looked at every aspect of the building to make it energy efficient and install 21st Century technology, befitting of its position as the world’s most famous office building,” said Anthony Malkin, president of Malkin Holdings.

“It is time to update our iconic tower lighting. Initially, as we have both old fashioned high intensity discharge and LED lighting side by side, there will be no obvious difference to the public’s view. But in September, when the LED changeover is complete, we will see some differences. We surveyed the market for the most technologically advanced, energy efficient, and reliable lighting system to illuminate the international, iconic symbol of the New York City skyline. Philips Color Kinetics’ LED system will make our world famous tower lightings that much more magical.”

Using Philips Color Kinetics LED lighting technology will make it possible to control and focus the light exactly where and how the effect is desired. Ripple, cross-fade, particle and burst effects, previously not possible, can be automated to create unique lighting designs. The new Philips lighting system will also allow the building to minimise light spill, ensuring that light is focused on the façade and mast, while providing enough light to allow the building to be seen from anywhere in New York City.

“Lighting the Empire State Building has been a technical challenge and aspiration for us, and one that we have been working on with the building for years,” said Jeff Cassis, general manager of Philips Color Kinetics. “We have been developing our LED technology to create a solution that could achieve the right light levels and design for the building’s façade, while keeping true to the building’s identity as an iconic symbol of New York and building innovation. The result is a unique LED lighting system that creates as much light as the traditional light sources that it is designed to replace, yet one that can be adapted on the fly to redefine the New York City skyline.”