Northwest Airlines Passenger Tunnel: 2001–present

    Detroit, Michigan, USA

    Photo Credits: Justin Maconochie Photography

    Reliability reigns at airport

    In 2001, Color Kinetics delivered a programmable, full-color lighting solution that has been operating with no lamp or luminaire replacements for over 100,000 hours as of April 2012.

    In October 2001, Northwest Airlines, Inc. unveiled a one-of-a-kind multimedia experience in the Edward H. McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) in Michigan. The terminal's 244 m (800 ft) passenger tunnel uses intelligent LED lighting technology from Color Kinetics to create a unique and pleasing experience for travelers moving between main Concourse A and Concourses B and C.

    SmithGroup, a leading organization of architecture, engineering, interiors, and planning professionals, created a setting for the tunnel's ever-changing, mood-enhancing sound and light environment. The tunnel features sculpted art glass panels, translucent vinyl stretch ceilings, spacious 54-inch-wide automatic walkways, and advertisement-free walls. A combination of 2493 m (8,180 linear feet) of iColor Cove (now specified as PureStyle Compact Powercore, IntelliHue) and 230 ColorBlast 12 full-color, intelligent LED luminaires (now specified as Blast Powercore) from Color Kinetics displays three different light shows, each programmed and augmented with music specially scored and synchronized by Mills James Productions, a creative media company headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.

    To create an immersive experience within the passenger tunnel, six rows of customized iColor Cove luminaires, each specially fitted with a narrow 30° lens, were installed behind custom hand-etched glass panel. Each row of luminaires was aimed to direct light at a different angle, while the Blast luminaires were aimed to highlight the arched ceilings. Besides emergency lighting, Color Kinetics luminaires produce the only lighting used in the tunnel, allowing passengers to enjoy a brief respite from the hurries and stresses of travel.

    SmithGroup turned to Color Kinetics for a low-maintenance, programmable lighting solution that would last for many years without the need for lamp or fixture replacements. Because passengers use DTW continuously, SmithGroup needed a lighting solution that would reliably operate round the clock. Color Kinetics LED lighting proved to be the right choice: As of April 2012, the luminaires have been operational 24 hours a day for approximately eleven and a half years, or about 100,000 hours of uninterrupted use - and they're still going strong. To put this in perspective, incandescent lamps have a typical rated life of 4,000 hours, while the best long-life fluorescent lamps have a maximum rated life of 35,000 hours.

    Not only do Color Kinetics LED luminaires deliver effective light for a considerably longer period of time than either incandescents or fluorescents, they can be digitally controlled to project dynamic, color-changing light - something that conventional light sources simply cannot do. The luminaires' digital intelligence was a great advantage to Mills James Productions, who were able to use an external, third-party DMX lighting console to deliver the lighting effects and coordinate them with the musical scores.
    Project credits


    SmithGroup, Inc.

    Others Involved:

    Gasser Bush Associates

    Electrical Contractor:

    Mills James Productions

    Lighting Design:

    Smith Group, Inc.

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