Dark Skies Lighting And Lighting Design: What You Need to Know

Jul 28, 2023 | Design

Dark skies lighting is a hot topic in lighting and lighting design at the moment.  At one time, once the sun went down there was only moonlight to light the way outdoors, but now, those days are long gone. For over a century, outdoor lighting has been the norm, but while it offers a host of benefits, from improved safety to enabling evening commerce to thrive, it also raises a major issue – light pollution. To address this problem, the dark skies movement has arisen, aiming to minimise the amount of excess light in the night sky.

What Is Light Pollution?

Sometimes called photo pollution, this problem can be harmful and disruptive to both humans and wildlife alike. In cities and towns in the UK, the glow in the sky can be so bright that it entirely obscures the view of the stars, and it has been estimated that over half of the country’s population cannot see the Milky Way.

Yet, obstructing our view of the night sky is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the issues raised by light pollution. Year-on-year, there has been an increase in artificial lighting around the globe by around 6%, and not only is the amount of light changing, the type and location of the lighting is affecting wildlife.

The negative impact of light pollution has been recognised for some time, and countries have begun to take action, reducing the amount of light that can be seen from space by almost 30% since the 1990s. However, during the same period of time, the number of dimly lit areas has increased by around 40% and the number of brightly lit areas has increased by almost a fifth.

Why Is Light Pollution A Problem?

Light pollution doesn’t just create problems for astronomers who want to see the stars in all their glory. It also disrupts ecosystems which, in turn, threatens the well-being of nocturnal wildlife while having a negative impact on animal and plant physiology. Animals’ migratory patterns become confused, relations between predators and their prey become altered, and the competitive interactions between animals are also changed.

It isn’t only animals that can experience adverse effects. Humans are also dependent on circadian rhythms and these are regulated by dark and light. When humans experience light exposure while trying to sleep, their production of melatonin is often suppressed, resulting in sleep disorders, fatigue, stress, headaches, obesity, and even cancer.

Of course, light pollution also causes energy wasting, with lighting being responsible for a quarter of electricity consumption around the world. When areas are over-illuminated, energy wasting occurs, and this not only results in extra expensive but also a larger carbon footprint.

It’s no wonder then that the dark skies movement is so important.

What Is The Dark Skies Movement?

This campaign exists to reduce light pollution around the world by changing the types of lighting fixtures that are being used. It has been proven than well-designed lighting fixtures can help to reverse light pollution’s negative impacts.

The dark skies movement states that outdoor lighting should be:

  • Only switched on as and when it is required
  • Only used to light the specific area that requires it
  • Designed to minimise emissions of blue light
  • Pointing downwards and fully shielded
  • No brighter than it needs to be for visibility

As lighting technology gets better and more efficient and the setting of the sun no longer means outdoor activities must cease, this brings a world of possibilities both commercially and domestically for us to enjoy our outdoor spaces, but, this also brings its own set of drawbacks. We must be considerate in the way we light outdoors, this is no longer contained within the walls of our homes

Light pollution caused by improper positioning or overuse of outdoor lighting is having detrimental effects on ourselves, as well as our planet. From wildlife to the weather, excessive use of artificial light can have a harmful impact and is as easy to see as the fading of our stars

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is working to combat these detrimental effects and provide guidance on how to use outdoor lighting without the damaging consequences. From informative data to limitations on excessive light use, they aim to bring back the stars and reverse the negative impacts of light pollution

As members of the IDA, Lightmaster have the tools and knowledge to help you make the right choices for your home and the planet!

How Can Lighting Design Help To Reduce Light Pollution?

Lighting design has a vital role to play in reducing light pollution and achieving the goals of the dark skies movement. The right type and colour of lighting must be used in the most appropriate locations to minimise sky glow and reduce glare whilst also facilitating visibility at night. Although this may sound simple, it can actually be surprisingly difficult for home and business owners to manage independently without professional guidance. It can be all-too-easy to use the wrong colour of LEDs in outdoor light fittings, or to install lighting in poorly chosen locations so that visibility is compromised causing a safety hazard. This is why it makes sense to use the services of a professional lighting designer to ensure compliance with the Dark Skies principles.

Why Use A Professional Lighting Designer To Comply With The Dark Skies Movement?

Lighting designers can adopt the following principles to ensure Dark Skies compliance:

  • Installing shielded lights – lighting designers keen to ensure Dark Skies compliance now opt for modern shielded outdoor lighting fixtures which allow the light to point downwards so glare is minimised and light pollution slashed significantly but night-time visibility isn’t compromised.
  • Opting for LED lighting – LEDs are becoming the standard go-to for lighting designers both indoors and outdoors thanks to their excellent energy efficiency which saves money and also reduces carbon footprints. Lighting designers often opt for lower-wattage LEDs outdoors as smaller punchy fittings, correctly placed can perfectly light the required space.
  • Selecting the right colour light – blue light has been found to harm not only wildlife and nature but also humans. Although LEDS are extremely energy efficient, they also contain a larger amount of blue light. Lighting designers, therefore, choose LED lights that have a colour temperature under 3000 Kelvin, opting for warmer colours with a lower colour temperature such as low-spectrum LEDs.
  • Lighting only essential areas – lighting designers have the expertise to know precisely where light is most needed and to use lighting solutions in the most efficient way so as to ensure maximum visibility with minimal light waste. By using timers or sensors with outdoor lights, lighting designers can also ensure Dark Skies compliance.
  • Choosing the correct brightness – lighting designers have the skill necessary to work out the minimum brightness level required for safe navigation in the dark and ensuring the lighting solutions selected meet that minimum without causing excess sky glow.

If you need to find outdoor lighting solutions that can help you to achieve your visibility and aesthetic goals but that won’t cause excess light pollution, you can rely on our talented team of experienced and professional lighting designers. We can work with you to create an exterior lighting design scheme that works for you and for the environment.

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