Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A LEED Gold Certified Glare Bomb

Last Monday night I got the chance to review some new street lights in the City of San Marcos, CA (More on that later). One of our stops was next to a brand new fire station. It pulled my focus away from the street lights. The station has been certified as an environmentally friendly building getting a LEED Gold Certification.

LEED is short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. New building projects can be certified as Silver, Gold or Platinum (the best).

The new fire station got a Gold certification, which is pretty good. I assume that they must have lost some points for the way they have chosen to illuminate Old Glory. As you can see it is what many people call a "glare bomb".

You can see the glare from the light in the photo above. The big problem here is the the vast majority of light here misses the target and much of it ends up in the sky. Light that misses the target is wasted energy and not what you would expect at a building that has received special recognition for being environmentally friendly.

Here's the view looking directly at the flag pole:

Note the shielded, downward directed street light in the distance on the right.

Now let's look 180 degrees in the other direction:

Yes, that is the shadow of the pole and the flag being cast into the sky.

From the International Dark-Sky Association's Outdoor Lighting Code Handbook: “ IDA generally supports the old tradition of lowering flags at sunset.”

Yes, you can lower flags at night. You can also illuminate them from the top down. Both of which would be more environmentally friendly than the practice in place here and better for the night sky.


Jim Benya said...

LEED does not require respect for the night sky. If a design team wants to get a dark sky point, they have to produce a stupidly large amount of documentation, so most projects don't go after this otherwise low cost, easy-to-get point.

Problem is bad lighting design. A straight up narrow beam spotlight with good shielding is also a good choice as there is very little Rayleigh scattering to cause sky glow. Or top down. Or better yet take down the flag and stop wasting energy!

Jim Benya

Anthony Arrigo said...

The best option is Jim's final suggestion. Out of respect, you're supposed to take the flag down each night. Leaving it up and flooding the night sky with light is the lazy way to do it.

jg said...

Great Glarebomb, Scott!
I like to tell people that displaying a flag is patriotic but bad aim is not. Then there's the patriotism on autopilot thing. Whenever I see a flag that is in shreads (because once properly lit, it's forgotten), I photograph it as part of my stars and strips series. I posted a few examples inspired by a similar flag lighting here.