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Proving the Promise of an LED Project

Looking back at the Salk Institute LED retrofit project, 4 years later.

In 2015, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (La Jolla, California), invited FSG to design and install a lighting upgrade project at their world-renowned research campus.

FSG lent our guidance and capabilities to the project, working closely with management and staff to make sure their lighting and energy conservation goals were met while the vital work performed at the institute was not disrupted.

History of the Salk Institute

The Salk Institute is a remarkable collection of buildings designed by Louis Khan. With strong lines and dynamic angles, the buildings bring to mind the concept of “cutting edge,” which is certainly a phrase that describes the research taking place there.

The campus was designated a historical landmark in 1991 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In fact, one of FSG’s top challenges in this project was designing a lighting solution that could fit within the original fixture casings in the buildings.

The Importance of the Salk Institute

Founded in 1960 by Jonas Salk, famed discoverer of the polio vaccine, the Salk Institute is now home to hundreds of top scientists from around the world. Their fields of study range far and wide, from research on diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, to neurobiology and plant biology.

Projects like these are built on the promise of maintenance and energy savings for years to come. It’s vital to work with a partner that has a track record of delivering on that promise years later.

Flashback to 2015

When FSG was called on to upgrade the lighting at the Salk Institute, the goal was to improve the overall energy efficiency as well as the lighting consistency of the labs. In a 2015 interview with Tim Ball, Salk Institute – Director of Facility Services, he said, “because of our historical nature, we wanted to maintain the existing light fixture housing as well as take advantage of LED technology.”

“As a result of the installation, we’ve been able to reduce the lighting load by about 78%.”

Tim Ball, Director Facility Service – Salk Institute

Below is the original case study video filmed after the project was complete:

Four Years Later

This past week, we had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Ball about the original 2015 retrofit project. We wanted to discuss how the project has performed over the last four years and whether it has continued to meet their goals and expectations.

“Considering the complexity of the install, taking into account the unique nature of the lighting, we are more than happy with both the savings realized and the predicted payback time.”

Tim Ball, Director Facility Services – Salk Institute

In the 50 months since the solution went live Mr. Ball said that Salk has saved more than $600,000 in energy and maintenance costs. Given anticipated rate changes he said, “We anticipate a 10-year payback for the entire project cost.

Considering the complexity of the install, taking into account the unique nature of the lighting, we are more than happy with both the savings realized and the predicted payback time.”

Mr. Ball went on to say that, looking back, he was pleased with the planning and execution of the project overall, especially considering the inherent hurdles that come with a work environment like that of the Salk Institute facility.

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