Iowa Capitol About to Get a New Look

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- An Iowa lighting company that has worked on several national landmarks is at the Iowa State Capitol this week testing brand new LED lights.

Project manager Jim Berns said Oskaloosa-based Musco Lighting is responsible for lighting the White House, the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore and the Flight 93 Memorial.

The goal of the Capitol project is to remove the orange glow that’s currently thrown on the building.

“It’s basically to try and render the Capitol in closer to the color it appears during the daytime. There won’t be any color changing or fancy shows. It’s just to highlight the structure and the features of the structure itself,” Berns said.

The LED lights will replace the high-pressure sodium lights that have been around for about 30 or 40 years.

The official demo will take place Tuesday night, potentially green-lighting the project. If approved, Musco would donate all of the lights, only costing taxpayers installation rates.

“The estimate for the electrical work is about $225,000. So it’s fairly significant, not only on the ground but up on the Capitol as well,” said Janet Phipps-Burkhead, director of the Department of Administrative Services.

The new lighting system will eventually pay for itself. The LED lights use between eight and 10 kilowatts of energy per hour, a big switch from the 32 kilowatts per hour the current set up uses. And they look better.

“It’s kind of the same type of lamp you would see on your streetlights. So it doesn’t do a good job of rendering some of the colors and the features that are present on the Capitol stricture,” Berns said.

Practical and pretty -- exactly what the state is looking for.

“I’m not sure you can make the Capitol look better,” Phipps-Burkhead said. “But certainly they think they can at night. And it’s such a hallmark building that this is what we want to do.”

Musco will be working on the lighting for the rest of the week, making tweaks to the set up before a final approval is made.

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