Dark Skies or Safer Streets – Are we taking a holistic approach?

It’s clear that the lighting industry should take a lead in providing solutions that both respect the environment and protect our dark skies, but how do we balance this with the differing requirements of the people who use those spaces?

Do we focus too much on the numbers and compliance, and does this result in spaces that are not inclusive by design?

And how can we deliver engaging places and spaces that people love to be in?

Clare Thomas, our Head of Applications and Solutions for Logic has explored this in depth and written her first white paper on the subject. This paper explores how technology can help support a more holistic approach.

Key Considerations

Clare first focused on the current key considerations when providing lighting for public spaces, namely compliance / standards, energy usage, ecological issues, making streets safer and technology. She then explored each topic in more detail.

Compliance / Standards

Guidance for outdoor lighting in the public realm is typically provided within two standards: BS EN 13201 Road Lighting, and BS 5489-1 Design of Road Lighting. Whilst there is great guidance given across both sets of documents, we tend to only focus on the requirement tables that describe minimum performance.

Energy Usage

So, with climate emergencies having been declared by many local authorities in the UK, there is a clear focus to try to reduce carbon emissions, and street lighting accounts for a significant proportion of these.

However, where public funding is made available for these schemes (e.g., SALIX), tenders are structured to favour those who can work the numbers most effectively – the lowest energy consumed to deliver the level as close to the required class using the lowest capital cost.

Ecology

There is a growing awareness of negative impact of light pollution and of poor-quality lighting installations on both people and the wider ecosystem, particularly on insects and protected mammals such as bats.

There is legislation and standards to support this, and an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has been set up to look at this topic, and whilst we clearly need to ensure that schemes that we’re providing minimise impact of light pollution and obtrusive light, does this mean that we disregard the people we’re actually providing light for?

Safety

Especially during the winter months, lighting is really an essential service. Not only does it facilitate the safe movement of people, but good quality lighting, together with other environmental and behavioural considerations also contributes to a feeling of safety.

With cases like Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa being in the news, this is a key subject for many local authorities and funding has been made available through the Safer Streets Fund made available by the UK Government.

The safer streets fund takes a holistic view of the space and supports other interventions such as CCTV, physical security and intruder alarms but also recommends good lighting to distribute an appropriate amount and quality of light.  But Clare asks the question: is it just about higher illumination levels or do we also need to consider how the space is lit?

Clare thinks we need to have a holistic approach. “One of the things I’ve seen is a publication called Get Home Safe – Safe by Design by Women for Women published April 21, by Women transport planners. It’s a fantastic document that looks a journey through the first and last ‘mile’ from a woman’s perspective. What’s great is that it describes a woman’s journey home from an evening shift working in a hospital, and how she approaches the journey.

It really resonated with Clare, as she recognised a lot of the topics covered.

Technology

Finally, she mentioned technology. Working in a technical industry Clare recognised that often the industry looks for a technical solution and looking for a technical answer that meets only one or two of the considerations does not mean that it is a good solution.

Conclusion

Clare believes that part of the issue is that lighting is usually treated as a separate entity or function within the Local Authority, rather than a service that supports other things. For example, you need good lighting to support your active mobility strategy, but they’re often separated.

Fundamentally there is no right or wrong answer, no ‘one size fits all’ approach, whether standards, contracts, or technology, and certainly the last couple of years has taught us that change is inevitable, so maybe we need to think a little differently to find balance.  

Good design and a collaborative approach mean you can use technology to help deliver long term, flexible and sustainable solutions that deliver value to both you and the community using them.

Basically, it’s about creating spaces and places people love to live in.

Get in touch with Urbis Schreder today and find out more.

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