Road lighting must be tunable to humanise the environment

April, 2015

Regular readers will know my views on the use of light to beautify cities after dark. But what I have not focused on consistently is how this relates to street lighting. I recently covered this in an address to the New Zealand Road Lighting Conference in Auckland.

I believe that 'tunable white' lighting is needed on our streets. In non-technical terms, this gives the user the option of finely tuning the light to an intensity that is suitable for the occasion. For example, a light illuminating a footpath outside a bar in the early evening may be suited to a warm colour temperature. This creates a warm ambience and feel-good atmosphere. But if there was an emergency, the colour could quickly be adjusted to flood the area with a brighter and cooler alternative.

This would allow for security and other concerns when necessary, but let the beauty of the environment shine through for the rest of the time.

There are light intensity standards for roads that must be maintained, so tunable lighting would not be an option there. But there is no reason that footpaths could not use this option. It would make a huge difference to New Zealand cities after dark. We could become the Paris of the Southern Hemisphere

I emphasised at the conference that we must educate civic authorities about this, particularly in Christchurch. That's because there is a major opportunity right now in the Garden City for this to happen.

I told delegates that while I'm not a quantitative street light expert, I do have a passion and interest in how we humans feel and react to light and I have had award winning success in this area.

I believe that value comes from creating a warm environment that supports mental health and well-being and that puts heart and soul into cities. Value comes from people wanting to work and play and be tourists in the spaces we create. It's effective lighting that does that.

Those who heard me at the conference were left in no doubt about my views. I concluded with the following quote. "If the whole world is a stage, then I want better lighting."

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Lighting Council New Zealand
Illuminating Engineering Society of Australia and New Zealand
New Zealand Green Building Council
Standards New Zealand
Association of Lighting Designers
Pure Advantage - Green Growth for Greater Wealth
New Zealand Retail Interior Association
Canterbury Employers´ Chamber of Commerce