New London Architecture

Effective lighting strategies can help post-Covid recovery

Thursday 29 April 2021

David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly

Benjamin O’Connor

Director
New London Architecture

Clarisse Tavin

Group Manager, Major Projects and Programmes
City of London Corporation

Pearl Figueira

Planning Officer, Department of the Built Environment
City of London Corporation

Mark Major

Senior Partner
Speirs Major

Ben Eley

Interim Head of Design
City of London Corporation

Florence Lam

Arup Fellow | Global Lighting Design Leader
Arup

Alex Lifschutz

Director
Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands

Lighting can play a crucial part in London’s post-covid recovery by stimulating the night-time economy and creating a safer, more attractive city environment. But although new advances in technology including LEDs have helped in terms of energy use, more should be done to encourage building users and local authorities to cut down light pollution for the benefits of people and wildlife alike. 

Those were just some of the key messages to emerge from City Nights: the future of lighting in the City of London, a webinar which looked at the Square Mile’s ground-breaking lighting strategy in 2018, resultant 50% savings in replacing 30,000 lights with LEDs, and plans for a planning advice note to improve buildings and their settings in the future.

Clarisse Tavin of the City of London Corporation kicked off by running through the City Lighting Strategy – the first of its kind ever produced by a London borough. ‘Street lighting has a huge impact and is bigger than we realise and impacts on night-time activities and people, especially at night’, she said. Indeed, it affects some 1.6 million people working at night in London, and lighting is a ‘very powerful tool to encourage people to spend more time outdoors’. ‘As London emerges from the Coronavirus crisis, these public spaces are becoming more and more important’. The City replaced its 30-year-old equipment – some 20,000 lights – across the Square Mile and appointed Speirs Majors to help it with a new strategy to help create a more ‘walkable, inviting and enjoyable’ place for everyone. In doing so it managed to save 2 million Kw as well as 864 tonnes of carbon, being able to use a management system to dim levels by 30% on roads and 60% on side streets and alleyways; a total of 50% cut in energy consumption. With the COVID recovery it was important to work collectively, she added and for street lighting and building lighting to be part of the same story.
City planning officer Pearl Figueira talked about the next step, a proposed planning advice note for lighting, ‘an exciting and important issue in the City’. ‘Lighting is a crucial tool for the City to support the night-time economy and its role as a world business centre, and to the culture mile’, she said. 

Speirs Major partner Mark Major said his firm had been looking at the ‘layers’ of lighting that exist in the City, concerned with not just the quantity, but the quality, with darkness accorded as much importance as the light. The work extended to looking at the colour temperature across the Square Mile, levels of illuminance and scale of equipment, producing a series of character studies. ‘The starting point for the whole planning advice note is to take a much more sustainable stance towards lighting design’, he said. ‘What we are looking for is to benefit from the social uses of light, and the economic uses of light. It’s been very interesting in the last year understanding quite how critical the night-time economy is to all areas, not just in the City of London’. That, he added, will be a fundamentally important point as we come into recovery, but will need to be balanced with environmental impacts, and lighting should be brought earlier into the planning process, with planning applications required to acknowledge the ‘lit context’.
Other points made at the webinar referred to the importance of light as a safety feature, especially in the aftermath of the Sarah Everard tragedy, light as a ‘precious commodity’, technology allowing city areas and streets to be dimmed or brightened as appropriate, visual brightness of buildings and light spill, maintaining the difference between day and night, and the importance of light on wildlife. Arup’s Florence Lam told the audience about her firm’s research work on town centres and their role in the recovery of local and national economies, proposing that local authorities prepare a ‘business case for lighting’. Finally  Lifschutz Davidson director Alex Lifschutz – who has worked on the Illuminated River project – had a proposal to help reduce light pollution in the name of the climate crisis. ‘Personally, I would equip every planning officer with a light meter and some kind of tax app, and just tax people for the light they put out’.
WATCH THE FULL WEBINAR RECORDING


David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly

Benjamin O’Connor

Director
New London Architecture

Clarisse Tavin

Group Manager, Major Projects and Programmes
City of London Corporation

Pearl Figueira

Planning Officer, Department of the Built Environment
City of London Corporation

Mark Major

Senior Partner
Speirs Major

Ben Eley

Interim Head of Design
City of London Corporation

Florence Lam

Arup Fellow | Global Lighting Design Leader
Arup

Alex Lifschutz

Director
Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands


City of London

#NLACity


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