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                             Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Troy, NY -  9/18/2002

Lighting Research Center Working to Reduce Light Pollution

Produces special publications for municipalities, engineers, planners

The Lighting Research Center (LRC) is working with Connecticut Light & Power to reduce light pollution in that state. The LRC has produced three new publications to help municipalities in Connecticut reduce light pollution. A seminar will be held to assist municipal personnel in using the new publications. Street Lighting and Light Pollution, The Efficient Street Lighting Design Guide, and Street Lighting Design Checklist will be made available to municipality representatives through the Connecticut Light & Power Web site, and through the LRC Web site.

Street Lighting and Light Pollution is a white paper that provides information to municipalities, specifiers, designers, and other decision makers in Connecticut about street lighting and light pollution. Street Lighting and Light Pollution

  • outlines Connecticut legislation limiting the types of luminaires that may be used
  • discusses issues that should be considered before embarking on a lighting project
  • defines light pollution and many of the issues that surround the topic
  • summarizes good lighting practices
  • describes how municipalities can work with designers or planners to ensure that their lighting installations meets their objectives.

The Efficient Street Lighting Design Guide provides examples of specific types of typical street lighting designs and presents alternative options. Although no publication could illustrate all the possible outdoor lighting scenarios, this design guide identifies practical approaches to designing efficient street lighting while considering light pollution issues. The design guide is customized for users in Connecticut and covers designs that are often used in that state.

Street Lighting Design Checklist helps decision makers think about their street lighting projects. The checklist covers lighting objectives such as safety, economic development, aesthetics, and energy efficiency. The checklist asks people involved in lighting projects to consider the goals for their projects and what the most appropriate ways to achieve those goals might be.

LRC researcher Michele McColgan, Ph.D., says the publications came about because a new state law in Connecticut requires municipalities to use full cutoff luminaires for any new or replacement public lighting, but many municipalities lack information about how to use these luminaires effectively. "Connecticut Light & Power came to us about this problem," says McColgan, "and we proposed this project as the way to meet the need. They asked us to produce the three publications and follow up with a seminar in which municipal employees can learn directly from LRC staff members."

McColgan thinks that the LRC may do the same for other groups in the future. "With all the pending legislation," she says, "there will be a need for this kind of information in other states, too."

People all over North America are concerned about the effect that outdoor lighting has on their ability to see the night sky. Legislation often requires a reduction of the amount of light street lights put on roads and the use of full cutoff luminaires, which some people believe decrease sky glow.

"But there's more to it than that," McColgan says. "We want to go about this in a scientific manner, recommending measures that we know through research will do the job, and full cutoff luminaires are really designed to reduce glare, not light pollution. So we think the matter needs more study, especially in the area of light that's reflected back up from the ground. A new luminaire classification might be needed."

McColgan sees a continuing need for work on this topic. "We spent almost a year putting these publications together, and it's been a useful project--one we're pleased to have been a part of," she says. "Next I'd like to see us get involved in more research projects. Research and education go hand in hand, and both are going to be required if we're to succeed in reducing light pollution."

About the Lighting Research Center
The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the world's leading center for lighting research and education. Established in 1988 by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the LRC conducts research in solid-state lighting, light and health, transportation lighting and safety, energy efficiency, and plant pathology. LRC lighting scientists with multidisciplinary expertise in research, technology, design, and human factors, collaborate with a global network of leading manufacturers and government agencies, developing innovative lighting solutions for projects that range from the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to U.S. Navy submarines to hospital neonatal intensive-care units. In 1990, the LRC became the first university research center to offer graduate degrees in lighting and today, offers a M.S. in lighting and a Ph.D. to educate future leaders in lighting. With 35 full-time faculty and staff, 15 graduate students, and a 30,000 sq. ft. laboratory space, the LRC is the largest university-based lighting research and education organization in the world.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America's first technological research university. The university offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in engineering; the sciences; information technology and web sciences; architecture; management; and the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Rensselaer faculty advance research in a wide range of fields, with an emphasis on biotechnology, nanotechnology, computational science and engineering, data science, and the media arts and technology. The Institute has an established record of success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace, fulfilling its founding mission of applying science "to the common purposes of life."