32 Dark Skies : Seeing the Stars Again

Dark skies, free from much light pollution, allowed many of us to see a big part of the Milky Way Galaxy when we were children.  As we have grown, humanity has developed more land and seen the need to illuminate those new features with artificial light.  There is a compromise that provides less energy consumption and reduced nighttime lighting glare, while improving the quality of the artificial light.

Rand Soellner, AIA of the HOME ARCHITECTS, pllc, just earned a 100% score on a CEU (Continuing Education Unit) as part of his continuing education required each year for his various state Architectural licenses and as a member of the American Institute of Architects.   This particular course, was called: “Overexposed: A Newfound Appreciation for Dark Skies, a Model Lighting Ordinance, and LEDs may Help Maintain Night Vision by Reducing Outdoor Illumination Levels.”  The course was offered through Architect magazine, a division of Hanley Wood.

Most people probably take nighttime lighting for granted, however, it consumes a chunk of our nation’s and World’s diminishing energy resources and has undesirable effects beyond the intended object/area of illumination.

During the last 50 years, HIDs (High Intensity Discharge) lamps have been among the choices, with mercury vapor and low-pressure sodium and mainly the all-pervasive orange-yellow HPS (High Pressure Sodium).  The hoped for desire of illuminating features on or near the ground is to illuminate those objects; not scatter the light into the sky.  This, unfortunately is the result with most “cobra-head” parking lot and streetlight HPS fixtures.

And here’s something most people probably do not know: like many of our nation’s laws, which do not conveniently apply to our elected officials (gee, I wonder how that happened?), nor do Energy Codes apply to our Cities, States, Federal Government or utility companies.  The State of California, a leader in many environmental programs in our country, enacted “Title 24: Building Energy Efficiency Standards.”  It contains restrictive lighting requirements.  It was initially adopted for interior spaces in the 1990s.  The 2005 edition addressed exterior lighting.  The idea of Lighting Zones was introduced.

A Model Lighting Ordinance (MLO) was proposed by the International Dark Sky Association and the IES (Illuminating Engineering Society).  In 2011, the MLO was approved.
There are 5 Lighting Zones proposed, intended to following most County and Municipal Land Use Plans:
LZ0-Environmentally Sensitive (no artificial lighting),
LZ1 -Single and two-Family Residential (low ambient light),
LZ2-Multi-Family & Institutional (moderate ambient light),
LZ3-Commercial Areas (moderately high ambient light),
LZ4-Special Cultural & Entertainment Districts (extensive lighting).

It is optional, across the USA for municipalities to adopt the MLO.  If they did so, less lighting energy would be consumed and less light pollution would exist.  The MLO policy is similar to  ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES 189.1P: Standard for the Design of High Performance Buildings, except they also include residential lighting.  However, only private property use is covered.  The MLO’s road and highway section is optional.

tags: environmental lighting, custom residential design, atlanta, chicago, boulder, aspen, denver, telluride, huntington, charleston, los angeles, california



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