Light Pollution

The International Dark-Sky Association (warning: garish site design) defines light pollution as:

Any adverse effect of artificial light, including sky glow, glare, light trespass, light clutter, decreased visibility at night, and energy waste.

I first heard about these guys when a commenter in Architectural Record complained that a picture caption that lauded a building for “lighting up the night sky in Kansas City” was insensitive.  Inappropriate taking of anger out on a figure of speech aside, the organization is compelling.

Being a longtime big city resident, I don’t tend to notice the fact that at any time there is noise and people and light.  In fact I find it kind of reassuring.  I always know there hasn’t been a nuclear war and people are nearby if I yell for help.  The city is the most comfortable place to walk alone at night — in the suburbs, no one can hear you scream.

At the same time, anyone who’s taken the 405 through Long Beach at night has seen the Chemoil refinery lit up like a Christmas tree (disappointingly, I can’t find a picture anywhere, but it’s like this shot of Long Beach harbor, times ten), will tell you their are limits.  One of Dark Sky’s initiatives is reserves that will preserve low-lighting levels in certain areas, such as around the Mont Megantic ASTROLab in Quebec (an observatory).

This isn’t going to top my list of pollutions we need to fight anytime soon, but surrounding light norms are something architects should be taking into account with the lighting design of their buildings.  Stargazing and restful sleep are at stake!

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