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American Tobacco Campus

Durham, NC
Outdoor Lighting

American Tobacco Campus surpasses sustainability goals with the switch to energy-efficient LED lighting from Cree in campus parking decks.



In the early 2000’s, Capital Broadcasting Company purchased a historic cigarette factory and tobacco warehouse in Durham, NC with the goal of repurposing the space into a hub for local businesses. More than 100 tenants later, American Tobacco Campus serves as an office and entertainment district, home to successful businesses, favorite restaurants and popular tourist attractions.

With innovation and technology at its forefront, American Tobacco Campus pioneered a campus-wide sustainability program that included changing the lighting in the campus’ three large parking decks to Cree® LED lighting.


Previously lit with metal halide fixtures, the three parking decks at American Tobacco Campus can house up to 3,068 vehicles and, when combined, consumed a large portion of the energy used on campus. American Tobacco Campus, working with BridgePoint Construction, considered all of their lighting options before making the decision to change to LED.

“We were considering fluorescent and LED options,” said Shelley McPhatter, project manager and President of Bridgepoint Construction. “After looking at the Cree® VG Series, we knew that the energy savings, maintenance savings and light quality that the fixtures provided made Cree the best choice.”

American Tobacco Campus installed 840 Cree VG parking garage luminaires, designed to deliver optimal, low-glare illumination and unrivaled energy savings. Additionally, the fixtures were installed with motion sensors and multi-light levels, providing maximized energy savings by only using the light when needed. Cree 304™ Series canopy lights were installed at the deck entrances, and Cree Edge™ Area fixtures were installed on the top level of each deck.

“The Cree Edge™ Area lights at the top of the decks weren’t part of the original project,” said McPhatter. “Once we saw energy calculations from the Cree® VG Series, we realized we could have fewer fixtures while saving energy. It was a no-brainer.”


At the beginning of the parking deck project, American Tobacco Campus estimated savings of 50% in energy costs with the switch to Cree LED lighting. The actual savings exceeded expectation.

“We have been delighted with how this program has worked for us,” said Rick Polley, General Manager of American Tobacco Campus. “With metal halide, we used roughly 593,040 kw/h and spent $35,405 in energy costs per quarter. With the LED fixtures, we’re using about 139,930 kw/h and spending $12,482 per quarter. That’s a 76.4% decrease in energy consumption and energy cost savings of 64%.”

And the savings don’t stop at energy costs – American Tobacco Campus is also saving time and money needed for facility maintenance.

“Because all of our tenants use the parking decks, it was impossible to perform the required re-lamping of our previous metal halide system during the day,” said Steve Hill, Operations Manager at American Tobacco Campus. “With Cree® LED lighting, we have eliminated overtime hours and costs associated with maintaining our lights.”

With more than 4,000 employees working on the American Tobacco Campus, creating parking structures that are safe and secure for those who use them is essential. The improved light quality and uniformity seen with Cree LED lighting provides peace of mind.

“The Cree® LED lighting has really helped our security operation as well,” said Hill. “There are no shadows in the deck, and the light is very uniform which really helps when reviewing security footage – the lighting shows the true color of clothing and cars, which is important to our security team.”

Combining unmatched light quality with impressive energy savings and reduced maintenance, Cree LED lighting helps American Tobacco Campus provide safer and more efficient parking structures for their tenants – all while keeping sustainability and energy conservation top of mind.