The new sustainable lighting research project, funded by the Campus Sustainability Fund, aims to create a campus-wide plan for future lighting projects at the UW.
Thursday, May 12, 2016

By Spencer Kelty
The Daily

A team of UW researchers has begun working on a project to create a roadmap for future lighting on campus, focusing on sustainability and efficiency for outdoor lighting installations on campus roadways, walking paths, and buildings. 

“Exterior and interior lighting have gone through significant advances, in both energy efficiency control and luminaire technology,” UW professor and project leader Christopher Meek said. “That, combined with networking capabilities, controls, and a better understanding of what makes a high quality visual environment, have all changed quite a bit in the past five to 10 years.”

The project will include graduate and undergraduate students, who will use it as an active learning experience. The work will be integrated with Architecture 435, a class taught by Meek, which will cover the principles of environmental lighting. The class will give students hands-on experience with the project while they contribute to the research. 

The lighting project is mostly funded by a grant of approximately $50,000 from the UW Campus Sustainability Fund (CFS) for the 2015-16 school year. It also receives funding from the Northwest Energy Association. 

Kelly Douglas, a graduate student working at the UW Integrated Design Lab, is leading several key parts of the project, including securing CFS funding. 

“As projects across campus are developed, the lighting is replaced on a project-by-project basis, and we want to make sure that all these replacement efforts are happening in a way that is conducive for people navigating and experiencing the campus at night,” Douglas said. 

According to the CFS website, the project envisions “a campus with truly sustainable exterior lighting that enhances the campus experience, mitigates disruption to wildlife patterns, and operates with the most efficient use of energy.”

The project team includes faculty and student representatives from the College of Built Environments, the Integrated Design Lab, the Office of the University Architect, and Seattle City Light’s Lighting Design Lab.

One particular goal is to create a plan for a 40 percent reduction in lighting power consumption through implementation of new low-energy technologies as well as motion sensor devices. Much of this reduction will be achieved by using more efficient LED lights to replace the old high-pressure sodium fixtures. 

The project intends to follow three phases. 

Phase one is currently underway, and will continue through summer quarter. The team will collect data and create a basis upon which the lighting guidelines will be based. This includes a student survey to gain a sense of current opinions toward campus lighting. The survey is available here:

Phase two will take place during fall quarter. Lighting strategies will be assessed, students will engage with the Lighting Design Lab, and a knowledge base will be built as to which lighting strategies will be practical. 

Phase three will begin in the winter and continue through next spring. The team will synthesize the results from phase one and the information found in phase two to create the finished roadmap.