Advancing the effective use of light for society and the environment.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Lighting Research Center students help to transform historic monument

The lighted Bennington Monument in Bennington, Vt.

At a special Veterans Day ceremony on November 12, 2003, the historic Bennington Battle Monument glowed like never before, drawing cheers from the approximately 150 spectators on hand. Just after dusk, Vermont Gov. James Douglas threw the switch for the first time, and the special energy-efficient lights slowly brightened to their full power, illuminating the state’s tallest structure. Four beams of light carefully aimed to avoid light pollution, trespass and wasted light provide the effect, and providing the research for the new lighting were students from Rensselaer’s Lighting Research Center (LRC).

The question of lighting the 306-foot obelisk had been the center of debate that stretched back several decades. Last year, local officials contacted Professor Russell Leslie, associate director of  the LRC, asking him to examine the issue. Professor Leslie turned the question into a student project, and LRC graduate students set about developing a lighting design that would satisfy proponents of lighting the monument as well as those opposed to the idea. Concerns over light pollution, glare trespassing onto neighbors’ properties, and other issues prompted often heated debate.

Leslie, who is also an architect from Shaftsbury, Vt., said the LRC’s involvement served two purposes. “It served as an educational opportunity for our graduate students, and as a source of objective information for Bennington residents.” Leslie stressed that the Battle Monument is an important landmark in the region, and that residents should be fully informed before making a decision about lighting it. “Rather than take a position on the idea, we wanted to examine the social, political, economic and technical issues surrounding the issue of lighting the monument,” said Leslie.

The students held two public forums in Bennington. Leslie’s “Lighting Workshop” class gathered concerns and questions presented at the first meeting, then studied the issues raised, and prepared a presentation for the second forum, held a couple of months later. Those issues include cost, energy efficiency, light pollution, appearance and maintenance. The students also looked at other communities that have illuminated similar monuments.

LRC Professor Janet Lennox Moyer’s advanced lighting design class also worked on the project, developing a lighting design to demonstrate what the monument could look like if it were illuminated. The students presented their findings at the second public forum. After discussing policy, economic, tourism and aesthetic issues, they moved the meeting to the monument and demonstrated their proposed lighting design.

State Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, who had worked to secure funding and helped to push through the legislation needed to light the monument remarked that the LRC student demonstration had shown that the monument could become a beacon. The monument will be lit 150 nights a year, from dusk to 10 p.m. Energy cost estimates have been placed at about $50 to $60 a year.

The Bennington Battle Monument memorializes the Battle of Bennington, fought during the American Revolution. At the lighting ceremony, Leslie said, "I think it was nicely done. It will be an asset to the community." Among the crowd were dignitaries, television news crews and local residents.

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About the LRC

The Lighting Research Center (LRC) is part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is the leading university-based research center devoted to lighting. Founded in 1988, the Lighting Research Center has built an international reputation as a trusted and reliable source for objective information about lighting technologies, applications, and products. Its mission is to advance the effective use of light and create a positive legacy of change for society and the environment

2004 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180 USA.

Rennselear Polytechnic Institute