Urban Lighting Research Transdisciplinary Framework—A Collaborative Process with Lighting Professionals

Over the past decades, lighting professionals have influenced the experience of the night by brightly illuminating streets, buildings, skylines, and landscapes 24/7. When this became the accepted norm, a dual perspective on night-time was shaped and the visual enjoyment of visitors after dusk was prioritized over natural nightscapes (nocturnal landscapes). During this time, researchers of artificial light at night (ALAN) observed and reported a gradual increase in unnatural brightness and a shift in color of the night-time environment. As a consequence, ALAN has been identified as a relevant pollutant of aquatic and terrestrial habitats, and an environmental stressor, which may adversely affect a wide range of organisms, from micro-organisms to humans. Unfortunately, lighting professionals and ALAN researchers usually attempt to solve today’s sustainable urban lighting problems distinctive to their fields of study, without a dialogue between research and practice. Therefore, in order to translate research knowledge as an applicable solution for the lighting practice and to minimize the impact on the environment, a collaborative framework involving a transdisciplinary process with lighting professionals is crucial to potentially bring the practice, research, production, decision-making, and planning closer to each other. This paper presents a framework to help reduce the existing gap of knowledge, because appropriate lighting applications depend upon it. Access to less light polluted nightscapes in urban environments is just as important as access to unpolluted water, food, and air. This call for action towards sustainable urban lighting should be included in future lighting policies to solve the urgent environmental and health challenges facing our world.

A Finer Point on Vision

As an IES Member, I look forward to each issue of LD+A and read them with great interest as they are often very informative. To my surprise, the Research article (May 2019, p. 76) has an error which should be corrected.

Assessment of Citizens’ Actions against Light Pollution with Guidelines for Future Initiatives

Due to the wide reach of media reports about scientific research and technological tools such as the world wide web (WWW), the Internet, and web browsers, citizens today have access to factual information about the negative impact of artificial light at night (ALAN) on their dark skies, and their health and well-being. This means they can now make educated decisions and take the necessary steps to help protect themselves and their communities from disruptive light pollution. Whilst this action is positive and welcomed, unfortunately, according to collected data, not all such initiatives have been successful. Although our understanding of this groundswell movement is deepening, further studies are required to complete a worldwide picture of the current situation. This paper therefore investigates the various actions taken by citizens, as well as the challenges, methods, and tools involved, regarding good practices initiated by grass roots activism on how to reduce existing and potential light pollution. The results of a comparative analysis of 262 international case studies (lawsuits and online petitions) reveal that, since the 1990s, there has been an increase in the number of legal cases related to light pollution due to the rise in public awareness, the availability of scientific knowledge via the Internet, and the ability to take accurate lighting measurements and perform lighting simulations. Also, in the last decade a new tool for digital participation in the form of online petitions has established a new movement of citizen action to mitigate the effects of light pollution. Based on this information, a seven-step framework involving recommendations for citizen action has been developed. It is expected that this new knowledge will benefit those citizens planning future efforts involving the development, implementation, and monitoring processes of outdoor lighting. Additionally, it might support the evolution of planning and policy approaches that are sustainable and necessary to improve the application and installation of ecologically/biologically responsible illumination for towns, cities, and natural habitats.

Light Symposium. Connecting health research with lighting practice

Thanks to state-of-the-art medical and environmental research, our current understanding about the impact of light and lighting is improving at a rapid rate. While the evolution of lighting technologies offers promising design possibilities, it also poses new challenges to planners and the general public. This is further complicated by the fact that today’s modern indoor lifestyle means we can be completely disconnected from nature and natural light. Instead, we live under artificial skies in man-made environments. To answer the need for cross-disciplinary talks and in order to bridge the knowledge gaps in the field of architectural lighting design, in 2007, the concept of a Light Symposium emerged at the Professional Lighting Designers Convention (PLDC) in London. Michael F. Rohde, a German lighting designer and professor at the Hochschule Wismar (HSW) in Wismar, was inspired to create an interdisciplinary event where light and health could be holistically addressed and connected with research and practice.

Biophilic Design: A Trend Watch

During the 20th century, many people migrated to cities for employment and economic opportunities, abandoning farming and natural landscapes so their direct connection to the countryside and nature was lost. This process continues to this day with unprecedented urban growth, in fact, it’s estimated 68% of the world population will live in urban areas by 2050. Due to the evolutionary disposition of humans, when people live in an urban habitat they will still seek to restore their lost relationship with plants and the natural world.

Follow the Light. Where to search for useful research information

Architectural Lighting Design (ALD) has never been a standalone professional discipline. Rather, it has existed as the combination of art and the science of light. Today, third generation lighting professionals are already creatively intertwining these fields, and the acceleration in scientific, technological and societal studies has only increased the need for reliable multidisciplinary information. Therefore, a thorough re-examination of all aspects of ALD and how it relates to those particular changes is an urgent necessity. Further research is required to develop a new body of knowledge about ALD so that lighting professionals can improve their expertise in the field and receive better remuneration for their complex work. In the near future, we should be aiming for professional recognition as experts and join other recognised professions such as: architects, doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers etc. While lighting designers (LD) need to constantly update and reexamine their knowledge, they face two dilemmas. First, WHERE should they search to obtain useful information on lighting in related fields? And secondly, HOW should they successfully evaluate the viability of this information in a time of “Google-isation”, Wikipedia, “lobbying” and data manipulation.

Global Approaches to Reduce Light Pollution from Media Architecture and Non-Static, Self-Luminous LED Displays for Mixed-Use Urban Developments

K. Zielińska-Dąbkowska , K. Xavia – Sustainability – 2019
Urban environments have become significantly brighter and more illuminated, and cities now consider media architecture and non-static, self-luminous LED displays an essential element of their strategy to attract residents, visitors, and tourists in the hours after dark. Unfortunately, most often, they are not designed with care, consideration, and awareness, nor do they support the visual wellbeing and circadian rhythms of humans. They also increase light pollution which has an adverse effect on the environment. The aim of this study was to estimate the scale of the negative impact of 28 non-static, self-luminous LED shop window displays within a real-life city context along the main shopping street Banhofstrasse in Zurich, Switzerland. An experimental field measurement survey investigation was performed to identify visual luminance with commonly available tools such as a luminance meter and a digital reflex camera for luminance photography. Moreover, the most important global approaches to reduce light pollution were evaluated in the form of existing guidelines, technical standards, and laws, all of which should be considered when specifying illuminated digital advertisements. A literature review and survey results both confirmed the extent of the problem and highlighted, too, the need to better measure, apply, and manage this new technology. The authors’ proposal for improvements involve practical recommendations for the design and implementation of future projects which can positively guide and direct this growing trend.

Home Sweet Home. Connecting the dots for healthy evening residential illumination

During the twentieth century, lighting designers would commonly use incandescent light sources for residential homes as they provided a visual comfort, with high quality colour rendering properties, along with relaxing ambient atmosphere. Unfortunately, it’s now difficult to buy incandescent light sources because they have been banned in many countries (https://bit.ly/2GwN2Wv). This article addresses some of the challenges in regards to health, brought about by the changeover to new LEDs and other related technologies, and tries to offer some context on how to keep up with these rapid transformations. While we know it’s necessary to limit blue-rich light at night (as it prevents melatonin production and impaires nocturnal sleep), and that it’s important to maximise exposure to the blue wavelength of light in the morning (to trigger circadian timing, increase alertness), there are other issues that are misunderstood and often ignored. This includes flicker from LEDs and electromagnetic fields (EMFs), which can be produced by smart home lighting technology.

Human Centric Lighting. The New X Factor?

We live in challenging times, and one could even claim we’re experiencing a revolution in lighting with LED technology taking over the world. Part of this rapid change involves a concept called Human Centric Lighting (HCL). In Frankfurt this year, during Light+Building, it was the buzzword, with nearly every second manufacturer’s stand claiming they had figured out the special formula necessary to create perfect HCL illumination. But how can such claims be legitimate when we know so little about the full and complex impact of artificial lighting on human biology, let alone how to responsibly apply this new approach?


Ever since we began illuminating the exterior of the slender skyscrapers built during the of 20s and 30s in XX century, urban lighting has been considered a way to beautify cities, and make them more visually prominent and safe. At that time, we knew so little about the impact of lighting on humans, flora and fauna, so it never occurred to lighting designers then, that their actions would have harmful consequences. In those days, it was all about demonstrating the power of light and technology at night. Thankfully, in the last two decades in particular, professional lighting designers have recognised they have a responsibility and moral obligation to use lighting with far more care, caution and restraint. This has been largely driven by the vast research that’s accumulated in different fields involving astronomy, biology, medicine, ecology etc. – all of which confirms that artificial light at night has far-reaching negative impacts that go far beyond what we could have first anticipated. Today, we are not only accountable for designing illuminating urban elements such as buildings, squares, landmarks, and parks etc. so they look visually pleasing and are energy efficient. Most importantly, our designs must be as safe, sustainable, and as responsible as possible. It’s imperative we acknowledge what’s at stake because the general public is watching us, demanding improved, healthier lighting.