Light pollution from industrial development projects is receiving increasing attention from stakeholders. There is mounting concern over the cumulative effects of light pollution and the impact of obtrusive lighting on local wildlife, marine animals, and humans near development sites. To address these concerns, as well as regulatory requirements, lighting assessment professionals have developed standards for measuring and modelling the level of artificial light exposure and support the analysis of potential impacts to sensitive receptors.
Traditionally, lighting assessments have employed quantitative analysis to understand the change in lighting from existing conditions relative to light level thresholds. This involves measurement and modelling conducted by lighting professionals that applies an understanding of the physics of light with industry-specific software and standards. While this approach is typically applied to addressing regulatory limits for obtrusive lighting, quantitative results alone can be a poor communication tool for non-technical audiences.
To improve the communication of lighting design for a broader audience, Golder has developed an integrated visualization approach that uses modern 3D modelling software to clearly illustrate how a planned lighting design will appear in real life.
What does Quantitative Lighting Analysis involve?
Quantitative methods for lighting assessment are focused on three key forms of potential light pollution:
- Light Trespass: unintended lighting of adjacent areas
- Glare: objectionable brightness from a light source
- Sky Glow: brightening of the night sky
Lighting assessments typically apply established technical methods and metrics based on recognized standards developed by the International Commission on Illumination (CIE), the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) and related guidelines and literature. This analysis uses lighting design layout information, light fixture specifications, and industry standard hardware and software to measure and model light levels. While this approach is technically appropriate, it does not characterize the visual experience of artificial lighting and its effect on the night-time visual environment.
3D Modelling and Visualization
A solid understanding of quantitative light analysis and lighting design parameters is critical to make visualizations of lighting designs both accurate and natural in appearance. 3D modelling uses inputs consistent with those used in quantitative light modelling and assessment including lighting layout dimensions, luminaire profiles, and key viewing locations. The visualization process involves the collection of night-time photographs calibrated to represent the existing night-time viewing conditions, 3D modelling of light sources and light emissions, and the compositing of the night-time photographs with simulated images of the lighting design. This allows for the modelling of virtual lights, reflections off surfaces, and scattering in the atmosphere using the same inputs as the quantitative light modelling.
The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project
The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project is being proposed by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and involves the construction and operation of a three-berth marine container terminal in Delta, Canada. Located next to existing terminals at Roberts Bank, the new container terminal would provide an additional 2.4 million twenty-foot-equivalent units of container capacity.
Golder’s lighting team carried out lighting assessments as part of the federal environmental assessment by an independent review panel. As part of the ongoing consultation with Indigenous groups, the port authority asked Golder to develop night-time simulations to help visually illustrate the potential effects of the proposed project lighting design.
Simulated images of project-related lighting were developed for five viewing locations selected to represent a range of accessible viewpoints in the communities of Delta, Richmond, and the Southern Gulf Islands. Lighting design information and night-time photographs were collected, and Golder developed a 3D model of the proposed project lighting design and key project structures (e.g., the marine terminal area, gantry cranes) in 3D modelling software. Simulated images were rendered within the modelling environment and composited with photographs to create natural looking panoramic images of the project site.
Developing a strong communication tool for visualizing lighting impacts that illustrated the predicted qualitative lighting results of project expansion resulted in better communication and understanding of potential project lighting effects between the port authority and Indigenous communities.
What is the future for this lighting approach?
Golder has seen an increase in demand for light assessment for large projects from both stakeholders and regulators. A notable example is that assessing light is now included in the recent Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines Template for Designated Projects under the 2019 Canadian Impact Assessment Act. Golder believes this innovative approach to integrated light assessment and visualization will quickly become a valuable tool for responding to social and regulatory concerns. Some challenges persist as the complexity of quantitative light modelling and 3D technology advance, but Golder’s technical team continues to advance its approach with new technologies. There is the potential to present simulations in fully immersive virtual and augmented reality environments for audiences to experience in real-time.
As environmental assessment policy and practice evolves, this approach of combining quantitative and qualitative methods will allow proponents to have the flexibility to address social and regulatory concerns for light pollution through a scalable suite of technical analysis or graphic tools. This approach supports the current quantitative methods of analyzing artificial light effects and provides better options to communicate in a more meaningful way to stakeholders affected by large projects by allowing them to visualize the changes to their night-time environment.