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New York State Has Adopted a New Law for Outdoor Lighting and It's a Big Deal
Governor Cuomo has just signed into law the “Healthy, Safe and Energy Efficient Outdoor Lighting Act” and it’s a pretty big deal. First, I’ll take you through some of the basics of the law, then I’ll give you my take.
Basics for Luminaires
If the fixture initial output is 1800 lumens or greater the fixture has to be “fully shielded.” For the purposes of this law, “fully shielded” essentially means no light above the horizontal plane of the fixture. Historical style luminaires may emit up to 2% of its light output above the horizontal plane.
The New Rules
The law puts IESNA recommendations into effect for most exterior applications. Here’s the text of the law:
(B) IF A LIGHTING RECOMMENDATION PUBLISHED BY THE ILLUMINATING ENGINEERING SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA APPLIES, FULL CONSIDERATION IS GIVEN TO THE MINIMUM MAINTAINED LIGHT LEVEL ADEQUATE TO MEET THE RECOMMENDATION;
(C) IF NO SUCH LIGHTING RECOMMENDATION APPLIES, NO MORE THAN THE MINIMUM MAINTAINED LIGHT LEVEL ADEQUATE FOR THE INTENDED PURPOSE IS USED;
The way I read that is if there is a minimum level to be reached for a given application-say an exterior parking lot, then the IESNA minimum will be considered, but if there isn’t a defined recommendation then no more than the minimum level of light for the given purpose (walking to your car) shall be considered.
This next point is a big one, the state is going to think about roadway lighting in a passive-first way. Here’s the text of the law:
FOR ROADWAY LIGHTING UNASSOCIATED WITH INTERSECTIONS, A DETERMINATION IS MADE THAT THE PURPOSE OF THE LIGHTING INSTALLATION OR REPLACEMENT CANNOT BE ACHIEVED BY INSTALLATION OF REFLECTORIZED ROADWAY MARKERS, LINES, WARNINGS OR INFORMATIONAL SIGNS, OR OTHER PASSIVE MEANS
What that essentially means is that if a stretch of road doesn’t have an intersection then the first thought to lighting or re-lighting it will be to use passive means first – minimizing how much electric lighting is used. That is a huge shift in thinking.
There are a host of exceptions, including sports facilities, airports, under bridge lighting and many others, however even for the exempted fixtures, all efforts must be made to minimize light pollution and sky glow.
Dark Sky Preserves
In addition to specifying fixtures that are fully-shielded there are additional considerations for Dark Sky. Local authorities will now have the ability under the law to nominate areas as “Dark Sky Preserves.” These areas are to be designated based on damage that artificial light could do to them, whether because of the natural environment, astronomical observations or for citizens desiring “views of unpolluted night skies.” The nomination of the preserves go to the governor’s office for final approval.
There is little detail about what the rules for these areas will be, but it does seem they will more strictly enforce Dark Sky recommendations.
As a side note, recent International Dark Sky Association standards recommend that exterior fixtures use a CCT of 3000K or lower (you can read more here.) This led to conjecture that future exterior lighting in the state would require 3000K, however from what I’ve read in the bill, there is no CCT recommendation. Also, as far as I have read, there is no requirement that the fixture is IDA-FSA labeled.
On the rules, codifying IESNA recommendations essentially formalizes best practices in exterior lighting. It also applies pressure downward in terms of light levels. This is very important for the retrofit market. Right now, property owners ask to match their current light levels for things like parking lots and walkways. The problem is that most of the time, these areas are over lit, contributing to light pollution. By moving those recommendations downward (as the IESNA has done) the law encourages less electricity use and less light pollution. Enforcement mechanisms interest me here. For new construction it seems easy to review this under the law, but it’s difficult for me to envision how this law will be enforced in the retrofit market.
On passive-first lighting, only time will tell how this thinking will be reflected in the state’s roadways, and what primary considerations will be used to determine if a stretch of road needs street lighting. It seems unlikely that much of NYC will be affected since there are so many intersections, but for areas with long stretches of road, it’ll be interesting to see how the state chooses to light these areas.
You can read the full text of the law here. Tell us what you think in the comment section.