New Willis Tower antenna lights can change color in a matter of seconds

The iconic twin antennae atop Chicago’s Willis Tower can now display a wider variety of colors as well as intricate animations thanks to a newly installed quick-change lighting system.

While in the past a two-person crew had to climb to the skyscraper’s 109th and 110th floors and swap color pallets over each individual floodlight by hand, the upgraded LED array can change its hue remotely and in just a matter of seconds.

By comparison, the previous process could take up to four hours and hinged on favorable weather conditions. In addition to saving the time, hassle, and risks associated with manually changing the colors, the new system is expected to reduce antenna lighting-related energy consumption by 70 percent, according to the building’s owners.

The ability to instantly change the lights combined with the new system’s virtually unlimited number of color options will likely see the 1,729-foot-tall twin spires change their complexion more often. The Willis (formerly Sears) Tower receives on average 30 lighting change requests each year and typically swaps between eight basic colors in honor of various national holidays, special events, and charitable causes.

Meanwhile, at ground level, work continues on the skyscraper’s new three-story, wrap-around podium structure. Designed by architecture firm Gensler, the addition replaces the old fortress-like base with new lobbies, retail spaces, dining options, and a glass-topped atrium. The $500 million Willis Tower overhaul project is expected to be complete by late 2019 or early 2020.

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