For the past decade, the world's tallest free-standing tower practically disappeared after sunset, lit only to comply with air safety guidelines. But a new lighting design for the CN Tower, carried out with 1,330 LED fixtures, has transformed it into a vibrant piece of Toronto's skyline, day and night.

In 1997, Canada Lands Co. (CLC), which owns the 1,815-foot tower, turned off the incandescent bulbs that illuminated the structure because they were costly and inefficient. Ever since, CLC has been seeking environmentally friendly and economically feasible technology that would let them turn the lights back on. COO Jack Robinson says, “We constantly upgrade, but we've been waiting for 10 years for a responsible approach to lighting, and it finally became available with recent developments in LED technologies.” To carry it out, CLC hired Boston-based lighting company Color Kinetics Inc., whose $2.37 million design was unveiled June 28.

The new lighting scheme will require 60 percent less energy than when the CN Tower was lit by traditional bulbs. More remarkable, it will use 10 percent less energy than it did for the past decade, when the tower was essentially unlit. Each fixture is approximately the size of a shoebox and has a lifespan of 10 years. Turning on automatically each day from dusk until 1 a.m., the CN Tower's new lighting is fully programmable, with millions of possible color and design combinations. It was red on July 1 for Canada Day and red, white, and blue on July 4 to honor America's Independence Day. The lighting is also directional, to minimize interference with nearby hotels, offices, and residences.

Toronto Mayor David Miller says the lighting design provides “a fresh, new face for Toronto's most prominent and iconic landmark,” adding that “the use of LED technology not only gives the tower a bright and festive glow, but is an environmentally smart way to do it.”