The lights of the Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza, colloquially referred to by Rice students as the “rainbow building,” have come back on after months of darkness. The cause of the darkness was simple: old age.
According to Property Manager Robin Harrison, just like any common household lighting fixtures, the ones on top of the decade old building were susceptible to burning out.
“The original roof lighting began to degrade over time just like any LED fixture would,” Harrison said. “Replacing components like the transformers and emitters would have also proven problematic in terms of maintaining their original watertight condition.”
Harrison also said that the light shows that are a hallmark of the building are actually a byproduct of this degradation.
“We attempted to combat the degradation by running shows that included color-changing features so that the negative visual effects of certain fixtures being off or in partial operation were minimized,” Harrison said.
Eventually, the lights became too degraded to run at all. They were shut off, and the search for alternatives began. For months, the building’s management explored different solutions until finally, a set of LED light bars was settled on.
“There are over 100 four-foot fixtures. Because the panels create four isosceles trapezoids that are inverted and mounted at about 45 degrees with respect to the face of the building, the linear fixtures leave the...corners without light,” Harrison said. “ We added floodlights at each corner to fill these areas in.”
The new lighting system is an upgrade, offering a brighter glow and expanded color capabilities.
“The lighting levels produced by the new configuration are about twice what we had with the original fixtures,” Harrison said. “The LED technology has advanced and the results are a more intense light and an expanded library of features. The lights run on an astronomical clock that uses local sunset and sunrise times as the trigger for starting and stopping the shows. We are pleased the lights are back on and hope our neighbors at Rice enjoy them once again.”
And Rice students do enjoy them. Some students enjoy them more than others, but most can agree that they are a positive presence in the Houston night sky.
Wiess sophomore Newsha Nikzad said, “I think it’s nice...I don’t think it has a significant impact on my life, but I think it’s a nice thing to see.”
“I am a huge fan of the lights being back on,” Brown freshman Jared Beshai said. “Especially with the lights changing and everything. Oh yeah, it’s dope.”