Chicago-Area School District Lights Up its Learning Environment with LED Luminaires


During the spring of 2014, Community Consolidated School District 59 in Arlington Heights, Illinois – a suburb of Chicago – decided to make changes to improve the overall learning environment in its schools. After considering the positive impact new lighting could have on students and teachers, Superintendent Art Fessler was excited to get behind the project. Classroom by classroom, the school district planned to make a dramatic change with new lighting.

The schools throughout the district were using T8 fluorescent fixtures, which needed to be updated for controllability and light quality. Providing teachers with control of the classroom environment was a top goal of specifying a new lighting and controls system. And, if the district could achieve energy savings as well, that would be a bonus.

“We wanted to provide the classrooms with a sustainable and energy efficient lighting choice that would be standardized throughout the entire school district and yet able to be controlled on a classroom-by-classroom basis,” said Tony Rossi, executive director for facilities and operations for the district.


As part of the plan, the district worked with KSA Lighting, a premier lighting agency that represents Acuity Brands in the metropolitan Chicago area, to coordinate re-lighting 480 classrooms across 14 of its campuses, including 11 elementary schools and three junior high schools, with integrated LED lighting and controls from Acuity Brands.

“The fixtures are controlled by Acuity Controls nLight system, which is a simple and easy system through usage of a cat 5 cable daisy chain from fixture to fixture then to a multiple scene wall control station which allows flexibility in the multiple levels of lighting scenes, yet giving local control to the teachers in each individual classroom,” said Jerry DeRousse, sales representative at KSA Lighting. “The existing (old) fixtures only had two levels of lighting, high and low, limiting the levels the teachers were needing, due to the usage of new types of AV equipment, and the changing need for computers and flat screen monitors.”

To activate, coordinate and manage the project, Acuity Brands engaged Graybar, a leading distributor and supply chain management company. Graybar effectively kept the project on schedule and within budget so that by summer 2014, more than 5,000 VT Series LED luminaires from Lithonia Lighting® were installed. The LED luminaires are integrated with the nLight® controls system from Acuity Controls – which achieves controllability down to the room-level like the district wanted.


With the new energy efficient lighting, there was an immediate 40 percent reduction in wattage used, which resulted in dramatically lower energy costs – even when classroom lights are left on. The school district also reduced maintenance costs attributed to lighting due to the long-lasting LEDs, which do not need to be replaced nearly as often as the T8 fluorescents.

“The new lighting upgrade has been a great opportunity to provide our classrooms with a more dynamic, 21st century look that is flexible and inspirational to the students,” said Rossi. “Plus, incorporating controls has also made the upgrade user-friendly for the teachers.”

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