The ability to gather, enjoy the outdoors, and create memories with friends and family plays a big part in our everyday lives, and the need for outdoor public spaces is growing nationwide. On top of building the infrastructure, adequate lighting is one of the most common design requests parks and recreation officials receive from patrons.
Lighting can clarify the layout of outdoor spaces by emphasizing walkways, focal points, gathering places, and building entrances. More importantly, it boosts safety after dark. In recent years, the trend of using energy-efficient technology and reducing environmental impact in lighting design has proliferated in the country’s construction space. Park administrators, in particular, have chosen to use solar lighting technology for many of its projects.
Park Safety After Dark
Three major areas of concern with lighting include 1) safety after dark, 2) energy efficiency, and 3) trenching and wiring. Lighting can be used to enhance safety and increase park usage. The metropolitan areas in Los Angeles, California were troubled by frequent gang-related crimes, especially during the warm summer months. After the local parks and community leaders adopted a program called Summer Night Lights, which extends the nighttime operating hours in eight parks to ensure the safety of children and families from violence in the neighborhoods, they achieved overwhelmingly positive results. The Summer Night Lights program doubled in size its second year and has become a national model for reducing crime by keeping the lights on a little longer.
Energy Efficiency for Parks & Recreation Areas
Modern lighting technology and fixtures are maximizing park resources and making it easier to adopt energy-efficient, cost-saving strategies. For example, the New York Power Authority will spearhead an effort to install 500,000 LED street lights by 2025 in New York, the largest municipal lighting system in the country. The program, called Smart Street Lighting NY, could cut energy use by 482 gigawatt hours annually, saving taxpayers $87 million a year according to New York Government. Since LEDs use only a fraction of the power of incandescent or sodium-vapor bulbs, they can be powered by solar panels, which makes them standalone lighting systems that eliminate wiring, trenching, and other installation costs associated with grid-tied lights.
Off-Grid Lighting System
Solar lighting can be installed in environmentally sensitive areas and locations far removed from the existing electrical grid, making them a popular choice for park projects around the country. Since the costs of trenching and wiring are avoided, solar lighting is the most cost-effective solution from day one. The system is not subject to brownouts or blackouts and can power through extreme weather like hurricanes for five days without sunshine. The environmental benefits and savings on electricity costs make solar lighting a compelling option for park construction. It can also help projects qualify for LEED points.
Strategic Approach to Park Lighting Design
After understanding the technology and applications of different lighting systems, parks and recreation officials should consider a holistic approach to customizing the lighting design based on their city’s specific requirements. The advent of LEDs and solar power systems has also given landscape architects more opportunities for creativity, turning parks into landmarks and therebye drawing more visitors. If you have questions regarding the specifics of lighting design, such as the hierarchy of lighting types and intensities, placement of lighting, consistency of lighting, and coordination with park signage, etc, feel free to reach out to the Lighting Experts of Greenshine New Energy.