Meet the man behind the Duke Energy Center lights

Anyone who’s been in uptown Charlotte, or near it, at night, is familiar with Duke Energy Center, which is owned by Wells Fargo. It’s the 48-floor skyscraper that looks like it has a handle on top, kind of like the world’s biggest cheese grater. But what makes it unique is its light shows. Every night the sides and top of the building are lit up with colorful light displays.

I talked to Bob Bertges, who heads Wells Fargo’s Corporate Properties Group in Charlotte and was the leader of the development of the Duke Energy Center, including the light program.

Q: How do you decide how to light up the building each night?

A: We have a committee and that committee has a set of criteria. So people submit requests by emailing The reason we created the lights is to really connect our company to the community. And so the committee looks at requests and honors the requests that are in support of events that are community-related or good causes.

Q: Is there a way that people can find out what the lights are for on a particular night?

A: When we first started, it was kind of funny because people would interpret it and there’d be lots of chatter on Twitter and whatnot. And we thought, “We ought to just create a Twitter account and tell people what it’s for.” So the Twitter handle is @wflightsclt.

Q: How much of the time is the building lit to honor a request?

A: Historically we’ve lit the building for a special cause about two-thirds of the time. But that’s really changing. It’s probably up to about 75 percent of the time now, heading towards 80 or 85 percent.

Q: What about when there’s no special request to honor?

A: We don’t ever leave the building dark. We’ll turn … on a standard white light and then one of the things that a lot of the people in Charlotte enjoy is … every hour on the hour we do a three minute sort of “sparkle show.” And that way people can see the building changing colors and know that it’s the top of the hour.

Q: How many light fixtures are used in the display?

A: There’s a total of 507 different fixtures up the sides of the building and across the top of the building. We can make it virtually any color in the rainbow.

Q: What’s the process like of lighting up the building?

A: You’d think it would be really complex but it’s not. We can use an iPad to program the colors. And in fact, one of the things we do is for the Panthers games, we have a representative up in the press box for night games. And when the Panthers score a touchdown and it’s officially a touchdown, they can push the magic button and the building lights up and goes ballistic with a very colorful display celebrating the touchdown.

Q: How efficient are the lights and the building?

A: It’s less than $5 a night. We use really energy efficient lights. It was the largest platinum LEED certified building in the country.

Photo by, courtesy of Wells Fargo.

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Jody Mace Charlotte on the Cheap @cltcheap @jody_mace