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Buffalo State's Signature Bell Tower Gleams Anew

Buffalo State's Signature Bell Tower Gleams Anew

Posted: December 19, 2017

The hours of daylight are diminishing as the winter solstice approaches. December 21, the shortest day of the year, is just nine hours, one minute, and three seconds long. The lights in Rockwell Hall’s bell tower will shine from 4:30 p.m. on, adding their glow to the Elmwood Avenue neighborhood.

“In winter, you can see a lot more of the work we do,” said Michael Carl, electrical designer in the Facilities Construction and Maintenance Department. That’s especially true of the college’s iconic bell tower, where old lights were replaced with LEDs. “The first set was installed last summer,” he said. “The lights in the belfry were installed in early December.”

A total of eight new lights were installed. The color of each light is programmed with a controller. It’s a big improvement over the old lights in several ways, including ease of access.

“With the old lights, somebody had to climb up a series of utility ladders to the belfry to put filters over the lights to change the color,” said Carl. “You had to keep an eye on the time to make sure you weren’t up there when the bells sound. They actually get hit by a hammer every 15 minutes. Imagine being up there at noon!”

The task was time-consuming and often cold. The lights themselves—plain 400-watt metal halide bulbs—were also dimmer. They generated so much heat, Carl said, that sometimes the filters melted.

The new lights are 100-watt, color-changing LEDs from Lumenpulse, and they use only about one-fourth of the power the old lights used. Each light has four colors—red, green, blue, and white—which can be combined to create hundreds of colors. “We use some red, some yellow, maybe some green to make orange,” Carl said. “We are working on standardizing the default colors.”

Different lighting effects can be created, too, but Carl is cautious about overdoing the displays. “We don’t want to go crazy,” he said, “but we can mark college events like homecoming or orientation, or holidays, or special causes.” Events Management will handle the requests for lighting the Rockwell tower.

Carl is an electrical engineer who worked in an architectural and engineering firm before joining Buffalo State in May 2013. He reviews the lighting plans for new buildings and helps plan upgrades to existing lights. “We retrofitted most of the campus lampposts with LEDs,” he said. “We have more than a thousand on campus, and the old ones use 250 to 400 watts. The new LEDs provide the same brightness but draw just 50 to 100 watts.”

Carl is finetuning the new lights and their controller. “It’s exciting,” he said. “The bell tower is a landmark in this area. Next, we’re going to brighten the lighting on the clocks up there.”

In the meantime, as Western New Yorkers endure the longest nights of the year, the Rockwell Hall tower shines against the darkness and symbolizes education’s power to dispel the shadows cast by ignorance and fear.

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