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Let There be Light…But Not Too Much

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Glenn Hasek

Does your property light pollute? Perhaps you have not even thought about it but light pollution, as defined by the International Dark-Sky Assn., is “the inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light.” A big thank you to UpSpring PR for making me aware of some of the issues related to light pollution and what can be done to minimize it. They cited four expert opinions in their recent e-mail to me. (To see how bad light pollution is near you, check out the NASA Blue Marble Navigator.)

In a nutshell, light pollution can have many negative impacts on wildlife and ecosystems, it demands a lot of energy, can impact human health, and can cost you a lot of extra money.

In their e-mail, UpSpring PR first quoted Peter Bowles, Founder and Managing Director of British lighting manufacturer Original BTC. “Light pollution is a huge problem,” Bowles says. “Generally, people refer to it in the context of not being able to see the stars, and we can help in this area by reducing the upward emissions. Outdoor lights around the house and in hospitality spaces should have closed tops or covers to reduce upward light…directing light down creates an inviting and relaxing ambience while reducing light pollution.”

“Outdoor lighting that is intended for buildings and pathways needs to be targeted,” Bowles adds. “It is best to use directional light or spotlights that illuminate only what is needed, rather than falling in places where it is not needed…Eliminating any light that isn’t necessary from outdoor lighting schemes is essential for not disturbing wildlife. In the extreme, baby sea turtles can perish after they hatch if too much artificial light along the coast attracts them inland.”

The Impact of Dimmable Lighting

Mary Maydan, Founder and Principal of Maydan Architects, says in her company’s new projects they are making sure that all the outdoor lighting they specify is dimmable. “We are also using a lot of new outdoor light fixtures—such as pendants and modern chandeliers—that have canopies that limit the spread of the light. These hanging fixtures can be attached to outdoor overhangs, creating intimate and romantic environments that mimic indoor dining rooms without creating a lot of light pollution.”

“Another important design element to consider in the context of light pollution is surrounding trees,” Maydan says. “We have always been fans of tall screening trees at the perimeter of a lot. In addition to being beautiful and providing privacy, their height reduces light traveling to and from neighboring properties.”

Carefully Manage Glare

Jonce Walker, LEED AP, Certified Sustainable Building Advisor, and Fitwel Ambassador, as well as the Director of Sustainability and Wellness at HLW, recommends lighting that has a BUG rating that aligns with LEED, or lighting that mimics natural systems (circadian). If more workspaces move outdoors, the need for artificial lighting diminishes which will save energy. However, other comfort issues need to be carefully managed such as glare.”

Maud Capet, Senior Designer at Wilson Associates’ Dubai Studio, says, “At Marriott Taghazout Bay, the use of retractable glazed façade panels which can slide sideways and be pocketed to disappear in the walls allows the public spaces to be completely open to the outside. This meant that the materials used not only followed the same design inspiration but were also conscientious to the natural surroundings. Working closely with a lighting designer we were able to use clever lighting solutions that made the space functional without compromising the natural habitat of wildlife and local vegetation.”

Rely on an Expert

Relying on an expert is key when minimizing light pollution. The International Dark Sky Assn. website includes lists of experts located around the world. There are many located in the United States.

Green Lodging News recently reported that the ADERO Scottsdale opened as a Marriott International Autograph Collection Hotel on October 1. With its elevated views of Arizona’s famed Four Peaks and McDowell Mountain Range, ADERO will be Scottsdale’s only Dark Sky Zone resort with a modern guest experience inspired by the surrounding Sonoran Desert. After enjoying a day’s adventure, guests can take evening telescope tours of the galaxy led by official “Dark Sky Zone” guides.

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