Case Study Details

LOCATION: Chicago, IL

PRODUCTS INCLUDED IN THIS SOLUTION

City of Chicago Pioneers New White Light Technology to Achieve Brighter, Safer & More Energy-Efficient Street Lighting

The City of Chicago has used lighting to transform two major Chicago thoroughfares – Lake Shore Drive and Western Avenue – to shed their familiar coppery glow and boast brighter and more energy-efficient street lighting.

Charting New Waters

Electronic white light technology, such as ceramic metal halide (CMH) and induction, can dramatically improve the look and feel of roadway lighting, leading to increased foot traffic, fewer collisions, lower crime rates and improved visual feedback for closed circuit television. They also use significantly less energy and last longer than traditional high-intensity discharge (HID) products.

These benefits are precisely what made CMH luminaires the ideal replacement for Chicago’s existing high-pressure sodium luminaires. There were five key performance factors that ultimately led the city to select CMH for street lighting: lumen output per watt, reduced lumen maintenance, long rated life, and lower initial cost than LEDs and induction.

The City turned to Hecker & Co. electrical contractors, who involved KSA Lighting, a manufacturer’s representative for Acuity Brands, to design, develop and supply the material for the project. As a result, the City of Chicago is among the first in the United States to install this type of technology on such a large outdoor scale.

Making Chicago’s Vision a Reality

According to Paul DiTomo, KSA Lighting Vice President, “the one downfall of electronic white light technology is it runs very hot, and managing that heat safely was one of the toughest challenges we faced. 

“Acuity Brands dedicated several hundred hours of lab time throughout five weeks to perfect the solution. This dedication is what truly separates the company from other manufacturers.”

Another challenge was meeting desired light levels using existing pole spacings and mounting heights. This required Acuity Brands to design a custom system that properly reflects and distributes light using the existing pole infrastructure. 

The end result was a cobrahead style luminaire – the American Electric Lighting MasterColor Elite TMW system – designed to house a white light source. Chicago’s Western Avenue now features 210-Watt MasterColor Elite drop lens cobraheads and Lake Shore Drive features 315-Watt MasterColor Elite flat glass cobraheads. Hecker & Co. has installed more than 5,000 of these cobrahead fixtures to date.


Acuity Brands estimates that the City will experience approximately 25 percent energy savings over the legacy product, with the added benefit of reduced maintenance costs.