Science Projects

Combating and Educating about Light Pollution

Looking for a Solution

The Lighting Industry

It may be surprising to know that the lighting industry are also against light pollution and have sought, through their design engineers, to find solutions to mitigate the problems of light pollution. The lighting industry have readily acknowledge that the Campaign for Dark Skies (CfDS) have made a significant and positive difference to the attitude of the lighting industry in respect to lighting during the last decade. Michael Simpson, former chief engineer at Phillips Lighting and in 1995, President of the Institution of Lighting Engineers (ILE), wrote in the Lighting Journal (June 1995) "the astronomical lobby has been particularly effective in persuading us that direct upward light must be reduced".

The Institution of Lighting Engineers, along with the CfDS published, and later in 1994 revised, the Guidance Notes for the Reduction of Light Pollution. Contained within were simple, practical solutions for lighting engineers and for those installing light fixtures, to reduce light spill and thereby reduce light pollution. These guidance notes are now universally referred to within the lighting industry within the UK.

As a result of the need to reduce light pollution, many lighting manufacturing companies are now offering a range of lighting fixtures that offer excellent light control and thereby reduce light pollution.


Local Planning

Many local councils have adopted lighting clauses within their local plans. A local plan describes the principles by which the respective council will implement planning guidelines. If such plans contain clauses on lighting, then poor quality lighting schemes should never get beyond the planning stage without being requested to improve the quality of the scheme if necessary. One is required to be vigilant to spot the schemes being submitted to the local planning committee. Examples of such planning clauses can be found on the Campaign for Dark Skies web site.


Road Lighting

Early on in the Campaign, the CfDS lobbied the British Standards Institute to update the road lighting standard (BS 5489) which would inevitable result the use of road lighting fixtures that offered excellent light control. The results of the changes in this standard can now be seen throughout the UK road system by the use of 'full cut-off' lighting. In essence, these light fixtures throw all their light output onto the road and none into the night sky or onto surrounding land, everyone agrees this is an efficient use of light. It will take many years to replace much of the poor quality UK road lighting stock (much of which is around 30 years old) as it comes to the end of its design life.


Sports Floodlighting

Recent advances in floodlighting design now means that sports arenas can be floodlit adequately without having to illuminate the surrounding area and a significant amount of the night sky above the sports arena. Asymmetric parabolic reflectors are able to control the light distribution sufficiently to avoid spilling light into the night sky and effectively direct the light to the pitch area.

Consideration should be given to night-time curfews so that floodlighting does not extend beyond a certain time - perhaps 9pm.


Security Floodlighting

Security floodlights are often installed by home-owners to provide additional security. Unfortunately, most are installed with the beam shining almost horizontally. This practice creates intense glare and deep shadows causing 'glare blindness' and the inability to see into the dark shadows. Frequently, the lighting is too bright with typically the 300-500 watt lamps being used.

These floodlighting fittings should be mounted higher up and aimed in a downward direction. Consideration should be given to using lamps of lower wattage as 'glare blindness' is diminished and there are fewer dark shadows.

It has been frequently shown that 40 watt lights are adequate to illuminate porches and driveways without compromising safety or security. The energy usage of these lights can be greatly reduced with the new compact fluorescent lighting.

Passive Infra-Red (PIR) detectors should also be used to switch the lamps on. Care should be exercised so that the PIRs do not switch on with animals such as cats and dogs entering in the beam area.

As mentioned above, there is no evidence to show that fitting security lighting actually deters burglars. What has been shown to increase burglaries is access availability such as open doors and windows (often described as opportunistic burglaries) often coupled with the thrill of the risk taking on behalf of the burglar. There is no independent evidence to show that the presence of night-time lighting has an effect on burglaries. However, it must be acknowledged that people FEEL safer when there is security lighting present.


Church Floodlighting

As described above, these schemes should have local support. In our experience in canvassing local views, these schemes frequently do not have the support they are often purported to have. As these schemes require permission from planning departments, then one needs to object to them at the planning application stage.

The Hampshire Astronomical Group has successfully fought a number of these schemes.

What is interesting is the statements often made by church leaders to our politicians and world leaders on the need to conserve our planet's resources and protect the environment. Despite this they vigorously support the external floodlighting of their churches. But the amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) released in order to keep a 500W floodlight burning throughout the night is considerable, estimated to be about a ton of carbon dioxide emitted by power stations over the course of a year!


Decorative Floodlighting

Floodlights should be carefully aimed at any building ensuring that there is no over-spill. Another method of reducing light spill is to mount the floodlights at the top of the buildings and illuminate downwards rather than the other way up.

The Royal Fine Arts Commission published a booklet entitled 'Lighten Our Darkness' which gave suggested lighting levels for public decorative lighting. Generally the recommendation was to lower the lighting levels on the buildings.


Sky Beams

Until recently their use was largely unregulated. As a result of a number of court cases their use is now brought within the planning regulations under the section on advertising. It was the Guildford vs. Harpers ruling that finally nailed this issue. From now on, if anyone wishes to use a sky beam or space flower, planning permission must be sought. It is at this point one is able to object and possibly stop the use of the beams.

Sky beams must also not be used where they could constitute a danger to others. Airports is an obvious area, but as described previously, near major roads could also be looked upon as dangerous. There have been many reports by police that motorist have mistakenly reported the sky-beams as sighting of UFOs. Clearly this is a distraction to the motorist.

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