Tuesday, October 11, 2011

LEDs help restore Katrina-ravaged New Orleans Lakefront Airport

LEDs recently began being installed on a wide array of lighting fixtures to illuminate the exterior and interior of the iconic New Orleans Lakefront Airport (NOLA).

Started in 1929 and built on a man-made arrowhead peninsula jutting into Lake Pontchartrain, NOLA was opened amid great pomp and circumstance in 1934. Some 10,000 visitors from the United States, foreign countries, and local New Orleanians attended the airport dedication dubbed at the time as “the air hub of America”.

Recognized as a monument to the political ego of then Governor Huey P. Long (who was a freshmen Senator in 1934), NOLA, was considered an architectural masterpiece. It was an Art Deco wonderland featuring murals by noted artist Xavier Gonzalez, Friezes by Enrique R. Alferez, and an array of stone wall and floor treatments.

Unfortunately, much of the terminal’s splendor vanished shortly after the Cuban missile crisis of the 1960’s when the building’s exterior was encased in cement panels and the second floor balcony overlooking the grand lobby was enclosed. More recently, the building sustained sever exterior and interior damage when it took on 100+ mph winds and five feet of water as Hurricane Katrina pushed Lake Pontchartrain inland.

As a result, the guardians of Louisiana’s endangered works of architecture braced itself for the building’s last rites, but instead, thanks to the foresight of Robert Lupo, Chairman of the Board, and Louis Capo, Director of the Non Flood Protection Asset Management Authority, and a special pool of FEMA money earmarked for historic restorations, a celebration is being planned. The terminal’s concrete tomb has been stripped away to reveal the original beige aggregate façade and nearly 150 windows that were bricked in 50+ years ago.

One of only a handful of art deco terminals still standing in America today, has a refurbished exterior with exquisite details is once again in plain view.

The project, a labor of love for Alton Ochsner Davis, who leads the architectural team headed by project architect Paul Dimitrios of Richard C. Lambert Consultants, is scheduled for completion in late spring or early summer of 2012.

Lighting representative Melinda Herring Keller worked closely with Paul Dimitrios, and senior electrical designer Ron Kirsch of Marrero Couvillon and Associates to plan and specify the requirements of the LED luminaries.
On the exterior, LED Architectural Floodlights with horizontal spot reflectors closely graze the terminal’s façade to define the relief of the façade and the sculptured friezes. The spot reflector, fixed at a precise mounting point and angle creates a dramatic effect on the center sculpture over the terminal’s main entrance known as The Spirit of Aviation.

Down light cylinders are used on the terminal’s back façade. These sturdy luminaries were selected to withstand the brunt of any future tropical storms and the corrosive, coastal atmosphere associated with the area.

The series of luminaries are powered by pulse-start systems, and the energy savings and lighting benefits from pulse-start systems (vs. standard probe-start ballasts and lamps) include increased lumens per watt, improved lumen maintenance, extended lamp life, reduced warm-up time and improved color consistency.

For interior illumination, specification grade down lighting light the priceless original Gonzalez murals as well as retail spaces, offices, and the bar area in the terminal.

Standard LED lighting luminaires are used in the terminal’s lobby, offices, and kitchen.
Wall sconces mark the way along a corridor leading to the tower on top of the terminal. Here, tourists and New Orleanians alike experience a 360 degree view of the airport, the city, and Lake Pontchartrain.

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