Altman Lighting helps brings Audubon Zoo's new 42ft bat-cave to life as part of $3m investment - Installation

Altman Lighting helps brings Audubon Zoo's new 42ft bat-cave to life as part of $3m investment

Unique project required specialised lighting techniques to help make the 200-plus new inhabitants feel at home in New Orleans and visible to the public
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Creatures of the Night Bat House - 2

Located in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Audubon Zoo offers visitors an exotic mix of animal encounters from around the world. 

Their latest attraction is the opening of a 42-foot, transparent flyway entitled “Criaturas de la Noche” filled with more than 200 short-tailed bats. 

With bats being nocturnal animals, special consideration was required to ensure not only were the animals comfortable in a more natural setting, but also use lighting which would encourage them to become active and visible to visitors.

Chalice RGBW

Chalice RGBW

To achieve this, the design engineers at the zoo worked with lighting experts LEA-Inc. who provided a combination of Chalice RGBW recessed (see picture right) downlights and pipe-mounted LED luminaires from Altman Lighting.

“It was the zoo’s vision that when you walk into the exhibit, it needed to look as natural as possible to make the visitors feel as if they are walking through the Mayan ruins on a dark and creepy night," explained Mike Gonzales, LEA-Inc. Controls Specialist.

“Coming into the room from the outside, it takes your eyes a moment to adjust, but once they do, you really get the full effect with all the sights and sounds, and it looks great.

“We have done quite a few projects over the years with the Audubon Zoo, but nothing as unique and specific as this installation.

“Inside the actual bat enclosures, we have a total of 13 recessed Chalice 50W LED RGBW fixtures,” continued Gonzales. “We then have 12 pipe-mounted Chalice fixtures for the walkways, and they are all controlled via a DMX lighting control system. It was a design necessity that we have an RGBW recessed fixture for the bat enclosures, and the Altman Chalice LED stood alone as the lighting technology that could meet the specification.”

“It was the zoo’s vision that when you walk into the exhibit, it needed to look as natural as possible to make the visitors feel as if they are walking through the Mayan ruins on a dark and creepy night,” added Gonzales. “Coming into the room from the outside, it takes your eyes a moment to adjust, but once they do, you really get the full effect with all the sights and sounds, and it looks great.”

As construction moved forward on the bat house, the design team began to finalise the placement of the lighting instruments that would accentuate the design. Requiring a RGBW recessed fixture for the internal areas of the habitat, there was only one technology innovation that emerged to meet the challenge.

With the installation complete, the programming of the lighting design became an integral part of the exhibits success. Understanding that the animal activity inside the bat house would be essential to giving visitors the desired effect, the circadian rhythms of the nocturnal creatures is cued by the programming.

“What was most interesting about the design was that the animals inside the exhibit are on a reversed circadian rhythm,” explained Gonzales. “Since they needed to be active during daytime when the visitors are at the zoo, we created the nighttime looks to trigger their normal nocturnal activities. Once the park closes, the Chalice fixtures then begin their colour temperature transition shifts into daytime looks so that the animals can go to sleep, and the process continues on a continuous 24-hour cycle.”

Now open to the public, the “Criaturas de la Noche” Bat House is filled with vampire bats, ringtail cats, red-eyed tree frogs, giant cave roaches, and even Costa Rican zebra tarantulas. All part of an exciting glimpse into life after nightfall in the jungle, the Creatures of the Night are not the exhibits only unique inhabitants.

“Since this was one of the premier attractions of the new addition to the Audubon Zoo, we needed to create a memorable visitor experience,” concluded Gonzales. “Going through our research, we couldn’t find any other lines out there in the recessed format, so by offering a RGBW recessed fixture, the Altman Chalice LED Series was perfect for the project.”

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