There are many activities involved in creating lively, safe and sustainable spaces in the city. Just like pavements, good roads, accessible amenities are part of public spaces so too is lighting. It is one of the primary aspects of urban planning. Over the course of the last few decades, the understanding, planning and design of lighting has changed.
There have been many shifts in perspectives like the move from road lighting to lighting focussing on pedestrians. It is now more appropriate to design and implement night time illumination in terms of lightscaping rather than lighting. To understand the aspects of lighting design for urban public areas it is also important to know the advantages of lighting.
Here are the top 10 benefits of lighting:
Safety is the essential advantage of lighting. By illuminating roads, parks and other public spaces, we reduce the risks of accidents and injuries. Lighting is especially important for driving in the night. Whether driving on the motorway or in residential areas, good lighting improves visibility and minimises the risk of accidents. With a growing number of people in urban areas opting for sustainable modes of transportation, cycling has become extremely popular. It is an added necessity to ensure that we are able to ensure the safety of cyclists. Well-lit public spaces also provide pedestrians the much needed sense of security to step out after sundown.
When planning and developing architectural or location based landmarks a key aspect to facade/landscape design is lighting. Well designed lighting can enhance landmarks like boardwalks, promenades, sea front or lake fronts. These create beautiful ambiences and add charm to the night time facades and architectural views of the city.
Bright lighting also look very beautiful in night markets. The hustle bustle of the market complements a brightly lit street with vendors, shops and hawkers all selling their wares.
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3. Reduce crime
People working in night shifts, students finishing up late in the night at university, happy-go-lucky walking back home after a night out are all subject to the risk of crime and violence. While there are many measures taken to ensure pedestrian safety, it is quite natural for people to feel uncomfortable if the lighting is insufficient. Well lit areas are known to reduce the chances of crime. A brightly lit park or pathway deters criminals and boosts the confidence of pedestrians.
4. Aids in geographic orientation
As a tourist it is easy to lose one’s way in a new place, the situation would be worse if you are out in the night. Illuminating focal points like fountains, buildings, bridges, towers, sculpture, et al serve as geographical landmarks to help people with geographic orientation and assist in wayfinding. Well designed lighting complement the features of the landmark. The lighting can also be used to highlight architectural and landscaping elements of the area to create recognisable focal points. This exercise also help in adding a charming aura to the city in the nighttime which would be appreciated by tourists.
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5. Historic Impact
Well-lit historic details draw attention to the uniqueness of an area. Including lighting design for historical landmarks have manifold benefits. Besides the obvious tourist attraction, these give locals a great sense of pride about their history and are also known to have economic benefits.
a) Clink Street tunnel in London
The Clink Street tunnel project is part of the Light at the End of the Tunnel (LET) program. The program was launched to transform the 10 km stretch of disused Victorian viaducts south of the Thames River in Central London.
This stretch consists of 97 roads and pedestrian tunnels, many of them are dark and unwelcoming to pedestrians. The hope is that invigorating and unifying these areas with light will encourage investment, leading to jobs and other economic growth for the riverside communities.
b) Light Rails by Artist Bill Fitzgibbons
Built in 1931, this Art Deco railroad underpass in Birmingham, Alabama is a vital gateway between the heart of downtown and a new urban space called Railroad Park. In recent years the dark tunnel had deteriorated into an unwelcoming and potentially dangerous area, so the city hired sculptor and public artist Bill FitzGibbons to create a lighting solution that would encourage more pedestrian traffic. Titled LightRails the installation is composed of a network of computerized LEDs that form various lighting patterns in the previously darkened underpass.
6. Economic Impact
a) The Bay Lights, San Francisco Bay Bridge
THE BAY LIGHTS will be seen by over 50 million people in the Bay Area with billions of media impressions globally; infusing significant resources into the region for a substantial period, creating jobs and contributing to local businesses. And, the storytelling that will follow will forever cement this once-in-a-lifetime experience into the hearts and minds of billions.
An informal economic impact assessment conservatively estimates $97 million dollars will be added to the local economy as a result of this project.
7. Creates a sense of drama
Of course if the building and city are well known, the right kind of lighting is the “cherry on the top”. There is no example better than the “Lighting the Sails” at Sydney Opera House. This form of illumination, which has been met with unanimous, worldwide success.
The dramatic lighting of the sails of the Opera House gained widespread popularity with the 2012 Vivid Sydney Smart Lighting Festival.
While lighting has its inherent advantages, but there are many questions being raised about the energy efficiency of street lighting. It is important to make sure that energy conservation is an essential part of planning and implementing lighting. There are few options that one could consider for this.
The most obvious solution would be to ensure that all street lighting is solar powered. This means that each street lamp is affixed with a solar panel on top which charges the power source through the day.
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b) Trigger Based:
If solar panel lighting is expensive or not conducive to the local environment, one could also consider sensor based lighting. This means that the lights will be triggered by motion sensors and will turn on only when movement is sensed. This kind of lighting is also effective if lights are in remote areas and regular maintenance is a problem.
c) LED Lighting:
This is the latest technological option for public area lighting. LED lights are low in energy consumption and have a longer shelf life than incandescent lights. LED Lighting options have gained popularity over the last few years to the point where a fast developing country like India have launched a nationwide replacement of streetlights to LED. It is stated that “the eco-friendly LEDs will help curb release of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere by 44,000 tonne per year”.
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Better lighting makes safer spaces and create spaces for interaction. Lighting plays an integral role in community building.
Space for access and inclusion have gained relevance. All levels of urban planning now include methods to create accessibility and inclusion. Lighting is a primary tool to help achieve this.