A design firm called Civil Twilight won Metropolis Magazine’s Next Generation Design Competition for what they are calling a Lunar Resonant Street Light. This is a street light, LED of course, that gauges how much light it emits based on how bright the moon is on a particular night. A street light that alters the amount of illumination based on moon phases is a very interesting idea – so many questions come to mind:
Are the same amount of lumens present when the moon is in a “full” phase?
Do the lunar resonant lamps try to emulate moon illumination levels?
What is the total reduction in operating costs based on this design?
Comfort and safety are concerns, of course, since we all live in America The Real – and apparently it’s not the amount of illumination that makes you susceptible to being a crime victim, it’s the contrast from very brightly lit areas to poorly lit areas, like the stereotypical “dark alley.” The question of comfort is a major issue, especially from person to person. Is there a standard? From the Metropolis Magazine article:
Since the off-loading days of the 1930s, we’ve become accustomed to the feel of brightly lit streets and parking lots. But ironically, studies have shown no link between outdoor lighting intensity and crime or accident rates. What’s more dangerous, Willis says, is the drastic variation in light levels within an urban area. As you drive, for example, from a well-lit major thoroughfare to a darkened residential street, your eye does not have time to adjust, and your vision is impaired. Moonlight is much more even, he explains, and that makes it more effective for human vision. By filling in only what light is needed, lunar-resonant streetlights would help restore this evenness and actually improve nighttime visibility. “We’re interested in the question of standards,” Willis says. “Do you need to be able to read a newspaper in the middle of the night outside, and is that really worth all of these other things we’ve lost?”
I certainly love this idea – I am trying to theorize its effectiveness between a large metropolitan area and a rural-esque area, like the difference between downtown Peoria, Illinois vs. downtown Fort Worth, Texas. It may sound silly, but I sometimes wonder, when at places like a street carnival or outdoor festival, what it would have looked like if lit by flame torchieres, or lower intensity lighting in general. Would having less light improve the enjoyment factor for people? HID street lamps are often, for me at least, pretty harsh at night. Something considerably more even and less “retinally offensive” – could it work on our enjoyment of the outdoors as well as the enjoyment of a heavier wallet?
One thing is for sure – over the last week or so, the evenings in Denver are filled with the beautiful light of a full moon, and every evening my lighting artist brain stares out the window at the back yard, marveled at how wonderful it is to see so well at night.