Chicago Botanic Garden: Light for Growing and Learning

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The Chicago Botanic Garden is a beautiful and unique garden nestled in the heart of downtown Chicago. Since it’s opening in 1972, the Chicago Botanic Garden has expanded to include 27 gardens and four natural areas. The Garden has matured into one of the world’s great living museums and conservation science centers and now hosts garden tours, youth and adult programs, and an accredited graduate and undergraduate degree program. In 2015 alone, more than one million people visited the Gardens! Due to the diversity of activities happening at the Chicago Botanic Garden, it is essential that the facility’s lighting is optimized for both plant growth and their educational programming. The permanent collection at the Chicago Botanic Garden has over 11,000 different species of plants, including trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, and tropical plants. It is this quantity and diversity of plants that makes the Gardens so impressive.

The established practice for greenhouse growers is to install high pressure sodium (HPS) lamps and use them to increase light intensity and extend the photoperiod of the plants to increase yields. This practice can be arduous for large greenhouses like the Chicago Botanic Garden in both equipment and energy costs. Another disadvantage of HPS lamps is the heat generation that can be detrimental to plant growth and photosynthesis as well as increase the building’s cooling requirements significantly. The Botanic Garden wished to replace their 750 W and 1000 W (HPS) lights for URSA Lighting’s LED luminaires that generate less heat.

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URSA Lighting developed a lighting simulation for the Chicago Botanic Garden that included replacing the existing HPS lights for energy-efficient and long-lasting Helios 320 W luminaires. URSA’s Horti-Lighting team designed the lighting such that it delivered even photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) to all areas of the greenhouse. URSA’s Helios 320 W LEDs were also integrated with an automated control system that senses the ambient lighting and weather conditions and responds accordingly.

URSA’s Helios 320 W are robust, solid-state semiconductors that emit narrow-spectrum light to maximize PAR. The long-term operating cost for URSA Lighting’s Helios 320 W LEDs are lower for a number of reasons. First, they are more efficient than HPS lamps at converting electrical energy into light. This means that less energy is required to produce high amounts of PAR compared to an HPS lamp. Secondly, less energy is lost as heat so the Helios 320 W LEDs run cooler than an HPS lamp. This means that greenhouse growers can decrease their HVAC use, which translates into additional energy savings. Lastly, the long-term operating costs are lower because Helios 320 W lights are low-maintenance. They have a long run time of about 50,000 hours with no decay in light output. In comparison, the traditional HPS lamps must have their bulbs changed every 15,000 hours.

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The new URSA Helios 320 W LEDs installed at the Chicago Botanic Garden provide staff, guests, and most importantly, the plants with the light they need. The Helios 320 W light is water resistant, so it withstands the wet, humid conditions within the greenhouse. Integrating the Helios 320 W LEDs into the automated control system enables the greenhouse growers to control their facility such that the optimal amount of light is delivered at all times of the day and throughout the year. Greenhouse lighting that adjusts with the sun’s intensity can increase electrical efficiency and cost savings – there is nothing easier than having the sun manage your lights!

Because LEDs are more energy efficient than HPS lamps, they produce more light using less energy. The heat output from URSA’s Helios 320 W is minimal and the Chicago Botanic Garden was able to save about 20% on their HVAC costs. Because LED’s also have a long lifetime, the client does not need to worry about ongoing bulb replacement. Chicago Botanic Garden is saving about $2,000 per year on replacement bulbs and about 48% on their operational costs.

URSA’s luminaires have empowered growers and scientists at the Chicago Botanic Garden with the ability to enhance the lighting for their diverse plant collection. By integrating URSA’s lights with automated light sensing and control, each greenhouse room and plant species receives the optimal amount of light. LED lights are anticipated to replace HPS lamps in most greenhouse operations as a result of their reduced electricity consumption and improved light quality.

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