Light is more than light
We generally find illuminated surroundings pleasant. But light can also be experienced as an annoyance - when glare impairs road safety, for instance. That is why lighting today has to meet a range of different, often conflicting requirements. Our experts explain how interdisciplinary lighting design leads to the right solutions.
Light is an issue that is becoming ever more important. But why?
Tillmann Schulze: In Switzerland, about 80 percent of the population lives in urban areas. In these places today, in the era of the 24-hour society, artificial light is increasingly displacing the darkness of the night hours. More and more people feel that too much lighting at night is disturbing and harmful.
Nicolas Jauslin: Yes, although good lighting makes us feel safer and more comfortable, light emissions can also have a negative effect; for example, light can cause insomnia and glare can interfere with road safety. While lawsuits arising from excessive illumination are still a rarity today, this will likely change.
Laurence Duc: If the legal climate surrounding light develops the way the noise issue did a decade ago, it will set enormous gears into motion. In this regard, the updated implementation guide on avoiding light emissions published by the Federal Office of the Environment (FOEN) - the subject of one of our white papers - will have a huge impact. The new implementation guide lays the groundwork for future benchmarks and regulations. Once the guide is published, the relevance of the subject will increase significantly.
Markus Deublein: The implementation guide is currently the only regulatory guidance for communities and designers. The document makes an instrument available to them that enables them to carry out lighting design based on the current state of the art. The guide also offers protection against potential complaints. It is crucial that the new implementation guide not only sheds light on the technical aspects, but also examines various other issues: from ecology to safety and public space.
Walter Moggio: It is precisely this range of disciplines that makes the issue highly topical and challenging: lighting not only touches upon aesthetic and technical matters - far from it; it also affects many other areas. Emotional aspects also play a role in whether one feels comfortable or not in a given context.
How does interdisciplinary lighting design achieve the goal?
Walter Moggio: An integrated modern lighting concept ensures that we consciously give darkness back to the night - but without neglecting other areas. If, for instance, we were to completely abstain from artificial lighting, electricity costs would of course be lower. But people would feel unsafe and urban planners would be beside themselves because the city would be less attractive.
Tillmann Schulze: If, on the other hand, we massively increase lighting to elevate safety, more people would have trouble sleeping, drivers may be distracted, and some animal species would suffer a severe negative impact. Interdisciplinary lighting design ensures that at the end of the day all concerned feel as comfortable as possible. Such aspects also come into play in our design for the new Hardturm Stadium in Zurich, where we are responsible for the safety planning of the surrounding area.
Markus Deublein: At the new Hardturm Stadium, the safety of motorists is not the only relevant traffic consideration; the many pedestrians and cyclists also need a safe environment. They are especially at risk because they are harder to see. Through the correct use of light and guidance systems, we can better protect pedestrian and bicycle traffic. At the same time, measures for these target groups cannot be allowed to adversely affect others.
Laurence Duc: These examples demonstrate that when we change something in one area, it quickly creates an imbalance. We can call attention to these mechanisms and conflicting goals at an early stage: We have experts from a range of different disciplines, but at the same time, we have a generalist view of the big picture.
How does that benefit our clients?
Nicolas Jauslin: Our services span a broad range. We assess lighting design from a bird's eye perspective and chart the relationships between various aspects. When necessary, we provide detailed answers to technical questions on such issues as lighting architecture and public safety, environmental planning and ecology, urban and site development, road safety, and economics.
Walter Moggio: Our goal is not for more or less light, but putting the right light in the right place. This varies depending on the context. Integrated lighting design, particularly in the urban planning setting, discerns new questions, provides interdisciplinary responses, and becomes an important urban planning discipline.
Laurence Duc: Lighting design is also a process in which various stakeholders have to be brought together. If our clients neglect to include key players, we call their attention to it. If they wish, we can also mediate between different interests.
Markus Deublein: Failure to include important stakeholders is a recurring theme. Lighting concepts for communities are often limited to issues such as power consumption, technology and economics. In short, which lights should be replaced, where, and at what price? Often the question of "why" is not adequately addressed.
Tillmann Schulze: This is precisely the question we seek to answer. To do that, we analyze not only the numbers, but we also conduct interviews with selected stakeholders, such as police and local residents. Our systematic overall concept, then, is not just a recommendation of which type of lighting should be installed where. Rather, it shows which actors the community should involve in order to account for the different requirements.
Nicolas Jauslin: If you approach lighting design with the big picture in mind, you increase acceptance. Whether the issue is certain types of traffic or specific animal species, you can show that you have accounted for every important aspect, which increases appreciation for the chosen solution. Interdisciplinary lighting design can also save money. Ultimately, fixing problems after the fact is more expensive and complicated than performing systematic analysis from the beginning.
The project team:
Markus Deublein is the contact person for road safety. He advises various decision makers through statistical analyses of accidents, as well as offering advice on efficient safety management. As a member of the Standards and Research Commission of the VSS and a lecturer at the ETH Zurich, he is actively involved in the continuous improvement of traffic safety.
Laurence Duc is a biologist with sound knowledge of every aspect of the environment and applicable legislation. She has provided support for numerous environmental reports and also has broad experience in organizing and conducting expert workshops. She advised FOEN in updating its implementation guide on avoiding unnecessary light emissions.
Nicolas Jauslin is geographer who deals intensively with issues relating to the content and urban planning aspects of site development. In his work, he places a high premium on balancing interests and finding common ground between stakeholders. He believes that the issue of light and lighting will take on new importance for site development with the publication of the FOEN implementation guide.
For more than 20 years, Walter Moggio has been working with natural and artificial lighting. As an independent lighting architect, he consults, designs and supports European cities on the issue of indoor and outdoor lighting, and has been teaching since 1996. A winner of the Swiss Light prize, “Prix Lumière”, he has a special affinity for all-encompassing concepts that prove themselves over the long term. As an architect with an electrotechnical background, he bridges the gap between technology and aesthetics.
The political scientist Tillmann Schulze is responsible for the issue of urban safety, among others, and advises municipal authorities, as well as organizations such as the Swiss railroad (SBB) and private developers. For him, proper lighting is one of the most important ways to improve people’s sense of safety in public spaces.