30 Nov Careful and Considerate use of Garden lighting in the Landscape
By Mike Gambino
All of us live under the same sky (even non-astronomers), and all of us need quality outdoor lighting (even astronomers). Careless use of outdoor lighting damages the night time environment in many ways for everyone, often decreasing security and safety or even creating hazards through glare and distraction where none would exist without the lighting.
It should be noted that the well planned and executed Quality Garden variety low voltage landscape lighting is rarely a major contributing factor to the diminishing of the night sky. In regards to lumen output (brightness) levels are relatively low. On the other hand large unshielded fixtures at commercial parking and new car lots, gasoline station lighting etc. are another story.
Quality lighting brings other substantial benefits as well. Lack of glare and excessive contrast brings improved visibility, especially to the aging eye. Elimination of wasted light saves money, energy and resources, which in turn reduces air pollution, water pollution and carbon dioxide emissions caused by energy production and resource extraction. Good lighting returns a sense of balance to the night, and gives a quality appearance to our towns and cities when the sun goes down. Careful and considerate use of lighting at night, using light only when it is needed, where it is needed, and as much as is needed and no more, would reveal the stars in all but the largest cities. Compared to typical outdoor lighting practices, such “quality lighting” on average puts less than half the light into the sky, in some cases even less than one-tenth as much.
But poor lighting practice is rampant. Careless and excessive use of lighting in our outdoor environments causes extensive damage to the aesthetics of the night, at the same time that it compromises safety and utility, the very uses for which it is usually installed. Bad lighting hurts everyone. It starts a cascade of negative consequences – beginning with the loss of our views of the night sky, continuing through falling levels of safety and utility, irritation of neighbors and wildlife, disturbance of the rhythms of day and night that are vital to many natural systems, damage to the aesthetic appearance of our communities, wasted monetary and natural resources used to produce wasted light, and increased air pollution and carbon dioxide levels from wasted fossil fuels. There is nothing good that comes from bad lighting.
Most bad lighting can be blamed on the fact that the user is unaware of the issues of visibility and utility, how they are enhanced by good lighting and compromised by bad. Much is known about how lighting affects our ability to see, to be safe, and to use the nighttime environment. Much remains to be learned. Though the science of lighting has made tremendous strides in the understanding of quality lighting and visual perception, our communities will not benefit from this knowledge until we raise our awareness and expectations, and demand both quality lighting and dark skies.
A lighting code is the vehicle for a community to express its expectation for quality lighting and dark skies. If it is well written, implemented and enforced, the amount of improvement that can be achieved with both reduction of sky glow and improvement in visibility on the ground. Effective shielding standards will reduce the amount of light escaping into the sky by fifty percent or more compared to typical unregulated lighting practice. In the majority of cases, these shielding standards will also virtually eliminate glare. In applications where over lighting has become a common practice, such as in service station canopy and much convenience store lighting, will reduce unnecessary lighting, glare and stray light by even greater proportions. And, unlike other forms of pollution, the elimination of light pollution in all its forms actually saves money. Quality lighting costs less than bad lighting, in the long term and even usually in the short term. Everyone wins when lighting is done right.
This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 28 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to www.Gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .
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