This week on the Bright Ideas series presented by Acuity Brands®, Eric Gibson, Director of Outdoor Product, returns– and he’s joined by Rochelle Rivers, the Director of Sales. Last week’s episode with Eric covered important design considerations when designing with outdoor lighting. While light output, uniformity, and glare were important factors, the impact of light pollution was another. This week, Eric and Rochelle plan to help us dig deeper into some of the negative impact that manmade, artificial lighting has on plants and animals.
Ultimately, the responsibility of balancing the needs of the people in the space and the environment falls upon the designer. One of the locations with the most visible impacts of artificial lighting on a natural environment is coastlines.
LIGHTING: A MAJOR CONCERN IN COASTAL AREAS
Beaches along the southeastern part of the United States are key conflict zones, because they are very big vacation hotspots filled with condos and restaurants and commerce. However, these areas are also a key nesting habitat for sea turtles.
Believe it or not, artificial lighting actually does have a major impact on sea turtle populations. It’s vital for new hatchling sea turtles to get from their nest to the ocean in the quickest amount of time to avoid predators and other dangers. They’re guided into the waves by an instinct to follow the reflection of the moonlight on the water.
Unfortunately, when you have a lot of artificial lighting lining the beaches, the sea turtles sometimes can get confused and go in the wrong direction – into populated areas with dangerous roads and predators.
It’s vital that people find a way to balance their own needs for lighting in buildings and outdoor spaces with the preservation of creatures like these. Fortunately, there are some viable solutions.
HOW DOES AMBER LIGHTING PROVIDE A SOLUTION?
In the particular case of sea turtles, biology shows that their eyes have adapted for the marine environment full of blues and greens. However, much in the way that human beings’ eyes cannot pick up on infrared or ultraviolet light, the ocular senses of turtles don’t pick up as much on the amber and red hues, because it is not common in their natural habitat.
Since human beings can see amber lighting and other warm colors, focusing on those styles of lighting for coastal properties is a viable compromise to illuminate spaces without endangering as many animal populations.
In the past, cities used high-pressure sodium and low-pressure sodium sources with more of a yellowish tint. Because they have very little blue light, from a turtle’s perspective those fixtures are non-functioning and practically invisible. However, those older fixtures are also not as energy-efficient as newer light sources
Instead, there are LED options for these situations which come in a wide variety of color temperatures, including amber, oranges, and reds. For coastal lighting in particular, there are two different types of amber-colored LEDs that may work best.
THE TWO TYPES OF AMBER LEDS FOR COASTAL LIGHTING
The first amber LED is phosphor-converted. As most LEDs are blue, these particular LEDs are then covered with a yellowish phosphor. The blue light excites those phosphors, and so the fixture instead emits an amber-colored light. That is the most common amber light available, and it’s also exceedingly stable and efficient.
The second option is a true amber LED, also known as limited-wavelength amber. Early computer screens with their yellow tints were actually pure amber LEDs. These lights are visible on an extremely narrow wavelength, so they have an extremely low environmental impact. However, true amber lights are not quite as efficient or stable as phosphor-coated LEDs. As temperatures rise, their output will actually decrease as well.
For some coastal lighting decisions, their choice between true and coated amber lighting may be determined by local legislation. In some places, particularly in Florida, there are regulations in place which require only true-amber LEDs near beach locations.
Sea turtle nesting areas range all the way from Galveston, Texas up to North Carolina beaches, so designers and contractors should check local jurisdiction requirements before making a selection.
OTHER LOCATIONS TO CONSIDER AMBER LIGHTING
Beyond just beaches, areas near observatories may also be subject to similar amber lighting regulations. Because light pollution can end up preventing professional astronomers from viewing the sky through the fog of normal light fixtures, the use of narrow-band amber sources in those areas can aid observatories in more easily filtering out obstructing light sources and end up with a very clear view of the night sky.
To find out more about the positive impact of amber lighting on coastal areas, visit acuitybrands.com/amberlighting and check out their true amber as well as their phosphor-converted LEDs. Next week, the Bright Ideas series will explore another aspect of the company’s drive to better the world around us – starting with the history and impact of women in the lighting industry.
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