One of downtown Buffalo's landmarks is looking a little different, as the county has installed the equipment to turn off lights in the Rath Building for the first time in decades as the heart of county government.
Since the building opened in 1969, its lights have been visible day and night, year-round. County Energy Development Director Eric Walker said it was not built to have the lights turned off and the heat from the lights helped keep the building warm.
However, as the county moves into energy conservation, neither is true anymore.
County workers have replaced every one of the 15,000 bulbs in the Rath Building with LEDs and have installed a new building management system that will allow those lights to be turned off when no one is working in that section of the structure. The county estimates the new lights will last at least 20 years and save a lot of money.
"We now have control over those lights and we can turn them off floor-by-floor and section by section of the building at different times of the day, depending on the occupancy of the building, and so they are set to default off at 6 p.m.," Walker said. "There will be emergency lighting, of course, that will remain on 24/7."
Installation of the new bulbs cost around a $250,000, with a large part of that bill paid by National Grid. Preliminary figures show substantial savings in electric bills.
Walker said the county is doing an energy audit of all of its buildings, looking toward energy conservation, perhaps with insulation and double-pane glass. There has also been some effort to offer advice to county employees on how to apply these energy conservation techniques into their own homes.
"We have an inter-departmental Green Team that meets quarterly to talk about how to green our general operations," he said, "and a lot of that turns into these periodic lunch-and-learns about how you take this stuff home. And so we are trying to incentivize people engaging in sustainable practice, not only in the Rath Building, but in their daily life."