View from the top

Beijing – Shanghai, 6th May 2010

As I write this I am back in Shanghai but last night I flew from Chengdu to Beijing for a project coordination meeting this morning, this time attending a kick off design meeting for a shopping mall renovation. As we approached Beijing airport I had a splendid view on the city as it was a (rare) clear cloudless sky. Of course because of our profession we always look at the lighting. So I looked at the endless stretch of city lights, a mix of fixed and moving (cars) lights, glaring and non glaring lights, sodium and metal halide lights, as well as some colored lighting from mainly signage.

As lighting designers one of our tasks is to minimize (avoid) light pollution. In other words to control the amount of spill light. There is sort of first and second degree spill light. The first is the spill that trespasses the boundary of the area that is to be lit and then there is the light at spills above the horizon. In case of lighting vertical planes it is even more obvious as “spilled” light directly disappears into space. 

With my “view from the top” I could clearly see a few things. A lot of lights were shining directly at me, in other words lights with a direct upward spill to the extend that I could see the light source from the plane (= wasted energy)! I assume from badly planned area or building flood lights. That was contrasting very strongly with some of the road lighting that had no noticeable upward spill and clearly showed the road and the brightness distribution as a reflection on the road surface, nearly like a live Dialux visualization. Though the lighting was predominantly (yellow) sodium lighting I did notice some roads and areas in a whiter light (purposedly?). 

What struck me most in the end was the enormous stretched out area so brightly lit still (I arrived around midnight !), the sheer size of the city, its busy road arteries all lit, the buildings, etc. I can but imagine the amount of energy that was being consumed (and wasted!)…

06. May 2010 by Martin Klaasen
Categories: lighting and the economy | Leave a comment

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