|As outdoor advertising companies introduce or expand their digital LED billboard inventories, they face the challenge of where to install them along existing highway routes. What’s true in real estate is true for outdoor advertising placement: location, location, location. However, where do you place digital LED billboards when print boards already occupy the best placement? One solution is to “swap out” a premium, print-billboard location and replace with its digital counterpart.
R. Scott Lewis (New Canaan, CT), who has designed spectacular-sign structures in Times Square since 1991, and many print/electronic-billboard structures throughout the northeastern U.S., has transformed several existing, print-billboard structures into their heftier, digital LED billboard counterparts.
Lewis discussed some of the technical details in these structural conversions. First, the local municipality must agree that an electronic billboard can replace its print counterpart. “Sometimes when we see the billboards, in the best of possible worlds, they’re in good enough shape that a billboard conversion would be very straightforward, with one type of sign face replacing the other,” he said.
When a print billboard needs refurbishment to improve its physical support capabilities, Lewis recommends reinforcing various parts so it can support a much heavier digital billboard. If the billboard structure can’t be converted, the company should simply consider another billboard site.
The evaluation begins when the sign’s base and the structure’s foundation are first measured. An ultrasonic, thickness-measuring device determines the wall thickness of the torque tube. Rusted spots can be reconditioned, or removed and replaced with new metal. Corrosion that’s reduced the original metal thickness by 15% or more has created significant problems that probably spell removal.
Occasionally, Lewis finds an original billboard structure built for a lower wind load than allowed by current building codes. “When you change from print to digital billboards, the new building codes need to be followed, because you’re substantially changing the use of the structure and must design for both a higher wind pressure and also for the greater weight load of the LED cabinets,” Lewis said.
In one instance, Lewis found a usable billboard structure with an undersized foundation. The 30- to 40-year-old frame was assembled with vertical trusses. The sign structure pre-dated the concept of a single-size billboard structure. The existing billboard frame had adequate reserve-support capacity for the additional weight of a digital billboard, but its foundation was questionable – the soil was rather soft, and the original support piles were old enough to have been made .So, Lewis’ designed an expanded foundation for the base, which required driving additional piles into the new foundation setup. “Because of the physical restrictions around the billboard, we weren’t able to get pile-driving equipment into place, because the billboard structure was too close to a railroad right-away,” Lewis said. “Instead, we had to use a mini-pile driver and drill the piles in place around the foundation. The only other issue on the front of the billboard sign was to bolt on some new support brackets to allow the proper attaching of the LED sign cabinets to the billboard structure.”In another billboard infrastructurereview, a full-flag, single-pole sign’s two sign faces were displayed in a V-configuration. Having considered whether to convert both billboards from print to LED displays, Lewis realized the horizontal, 30-in.-diameter torque tube would be overstressed and couldn’t support one LED display, let alone two. To give the sign structure extra strength, Lewis designed a diagonal steel tube (known as a “kicker”) that supported the torque tube, which kept the LED display in place.