LRC Parking Lot Lighting Study

Submitted by anuszn on Thu, 03/21/2019 - 12:35
Parking Lot Image

When pedestrians walk across a parking lot, is the lighting adequate enough for them to see their surroundings? And how can companies reduce their energy costs to light up their lots and still allow pedestrians to feel safe?

The Rensselaer Technology Park Campus has partnered with the Lighting Research Center (LRC) in a study to find out. The LRC is part of the School of Architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “The goal is to identify combinations of light source color, light level and lighting uniformity that support optimal visibility for pedestrians while using the lowest amount of energy possible,” says Jennifer Brons. Brons, an LRC research scientist, is leading the study efforts with Jeremy Snyder, director of energy programs, and John Bullough, director of transportation and safety lighting programs.

The study will focus on five parking lots around the Technology Park in North Greenbush. The companies whose lots will be used are CDPHP Fitness Connect, GE Healthcare, United Group, Virtusa and MetLife. The lots were chosen based on their differences from one another. “For example, MetLife’s parking lot uses newer lighting technology, and the lighting is more uniform than in some of the other lots that contain older lighting technology,” Brons says. Participants will visit each lot and will be asked to fill out a questionnaire. Their answers will be compared to results from LRC laboratory studies and computer modeling to predict how pedestrians respond under different lighting conditions.

The LRC researchers are now looking for a few dozen study participants in the early spring within the Capital Region. For more information, contact Jennifer Brons at bronsj@rpi.edu.

Uniformity = Better Lighting Quality, Energy Efficiency and Cost Savings

The study, in collaboration with the Lighting Energy Alliance and Natural Resources Canada, is part of the LRC’s ongoing LED (light-emitting diode) research to evaluate parking lot lighting performance. “Our studies so far have shown that switching from older light sources to new LED lighting can reduce energy use by at least half, and that’s on top of the energy savings from being a more efficacious light source. Lowering light output reduces light pollution as well,” Brons says. 

When the LRC first embarked on this research, the goal was to answer the following questions: If the lighting could be evenly distributed across a whole parking lot, could the total light level be reduced to save energy and still have people feel safe and secure? And if so, could LEDs be used for this purpose? The answers to both questions have been a resounding yes.  “We found that more uniform and more bluish white light can help pedestrians feel safer and at the same time help companies save money on their lighting,” Brons says. “Our study in real-world parking lots at the Technology Park will help us verify our previous lab studies and guide the design of future parking lot lighting.”

“This is a prime example of the ways in which our partnerships with the rest of the Rensselaer community benefit faculty researchers while potentially impacting on our tenant companies in positive ways,” says Rensselaer Technology Park Director Karl Lampson. “In this case, the potential benefit to our companies might be in upgrading their parking lot lighting to reduce operating expenses and provide a better quality of lighting. In addition to safety aspects of proper lighting, LRC studies are important in assisting landlords manage light levels in a responsible manner, thus abating some of the negative effects of light pollution on wildlife ecosystems and on human health.”