Light Pollution

Case example: How bad lighting increases light pollution

Update January 11, 2017

The light emissions and light pollution from 1644 Highland Rd. West, in Kitchener, still continue. Any efforts to communicate with businesses at this location or requests to be put in contact with the building owner have been ignored.

It really surprises me how property owners and business owners who do not live in my neighbourhood are content to disrupt it and pollute it like this.

The roof top flood light that was installed late 2015 for the dance studio leasing space, still continues to blast light everywhere and up into the night sky. It’s like a stadium light. It is also, I find, very distracting when driving past along the road as the this flood light is very very bright and not shielded in any way.

The lighting at this building was modified in late 2015. Brighter bulbs were added to front wall pack lights and a large stadium like flood light was installed on the roof. This is creating large amount sky glow (light pollution). It is not environmentally friendly, wastes energy, adds to carbon emissions and works against City of Kitchener efforts to protect the environment and help reduce climate change.

Brightening of the night environment like this disrupts communities and neighbourhoods, adding unneeded and unwanted artificial light at night, effecting people’s sleep. It also disrupts wildlife (bird migrations Spring and Fall, and predator/prey scenarios.

This should not be allowed. The light changes at 1644 Highland Rd., W., should be turned off or fixed immediately (changed to full cut off, down light only).

I am currently in touch with local officials to take action against this ongoing problem.

Update October 1, 2016:

Blue skyglow being creating in the night sky by a large unshielded flood light at 1677 Highland Rd, West, in Kitchener.The large flood light is now being turned on again at night at this location. This photo I took the night of Oct 1, 2016, clearly shows again the blue light dome being creating in the night sky by this large unshielded flood light and the two (now brighter) wall pack lights. This is from the exterior lighting at 1677 Highland Rd, West, which had been changed in 2015. It is once again blasting artificial light at night everywhere at insanely bright levels and glare.

I noticed though that sometimes the flood is off and the wallpack lights still on overnight. On another night I noticed the flood light and wallpacks were all turned off after a certain time. Inconsistent on/off from my random observations. I am not sure if a timer has been added or not.

A timer is a good start to fixing this mess of exterior lighting but the flood light needs to turned off. It’s obnoxious and severely polluting the night.

The wallpack fixtures should be changed to full cut-off down light fixture designs. The light is directed down to the ground where it is needed instead. The current fixtures in use allow light to shoot everywhere and up into the night sky. This disrupts the nocturnal environment.

I am thinking perhaps with the dance studio renting space that the property owner/landlord added the flood light and changed out the bulbs in the two wallpack lights to brighter/higher wattage bulbs, in order to provide light into the parking lot directly in front of the dance studio. For customers coming and going. This was the cheap way to do it at the environments expense!

The property owner should invest in proper full cut-off parking lot (pole mounted) lights if he/she wants to provide light in the parking lot for the dance studio customers. Simply adding a massive flood light and increasing the brightness of other lights is a bad choice, bad for the environment, wasting energy and polluting the night sky by increasing skyglow in Kitchener.

I am working to see Officials start targeting property owners and businesses in Waterloo Region that cause light pollution much like other cities and towns across Canada are by enacting light pollution bylaws. This is ongoing work in progress.

Original post:

Unshielded light sends light everyone and up into the night sky at this Kitchener, Ontario commercial building.
An unshielded flood light added to the roof of this Kitchener commercial building sends artificial light everywhere (light trespass) and up into the night sky.

This is an example of how bad lighting increases light pollution. This is from a newly installed large flood light that is roof mounted and also wallpack lights that have had the bulbs changed to far brighter ones. Now, imagine a whole city of bad lighting as you look at the photos and read more.

Light pollution is the term used to describe artificial light at night that is poorly implemented and creates three main problems: skyglow, light trespass and glare.

Bad lighting not only sends artificial light up into the night sky creating a glowing veil that hides the stars, but it is also wasting large amounts of energy and contributing to climate change. Light pollution affects people as well as wildlife, plants and even our air quality. [1]

This roof top flood light was installed not long ago at a commercial building at 1644 Highland Rd, West in Kitchener, Ontario.

Large flood light illuminates the night sky. Turned on and off photos.The reason behind putting this light up, as best as I can surmise, was to illuminate the parking lot more, above and beyond the existing lighting already in place for this purpose.

The problem is this new flood light is not shielded, it is excessively bright and is not just illuminating the parking lot but also everything else within distance of it, including the night sky.

The light from it also extends beyond the property line and spills across the road running past this building. The glare from this light is so bad it can create a visual distraction for drivers.

Clearly the implementation of this light was not well thought out and without any regard for the night environment, light pollution and nearby community.

With the flood light being so overpoweringly bright, the glare from it makes it harder for people’s eyes to adjust and see properly.  Also makes the parking area look darker due to this glare and how are eyes adjust to bright sources of light at night versus less lit areas.

What would work? Reduce the brightness first off. The brighter/higher wattage bulbs put into the wallpack lights are overkill. If the bulbs are not changed then at least full cut-off down light wallpack fixtures should be used instead. Direct/aim the light down to the ground, not up into the sky.

Have the timer set to turn off the flood light and the brighter wallpack lights when the business closes. These offending lights should stay off over night. These are common sense best lighting practices but you’d be surprised how many property owners are unaware of or will not do.

Implementing the above would be far more effective and efficient.

A light pillar is caused by bad unshielded lighting.
A light pillar is created by a single flood light on the roof of a Ktichener, Ontario building. An example of how bad lighting increases light pollution.

Not knowing who the building owner is, I contacted the two businesses I knew were located at this address. My thought was other businesses are interested in being good neighbours within their surrounding communities, perhaps the businesses and owner of this building would be as well.

The first contact was made to Erb Transport Group but they did not reply. A little over a week later, I contacted the dance studio in this building. I did not hear back from the dance studio owner either but it was only a couple days later that this garish flood light was turned off at night, and stayed off for a few nights. I assume the dance studio owner spoke with the building owner about the problem.

Update, Feb 15th: Unfortunately this light is now back on full force and left on all night when no one is around. This light has nothing to do with safety or security. It’s in addition to the 6 other lights already functioning on this part of the building.

Update, Feb 17th: the flood light is now off again at night. I am not sure what is occurring. Hopefully it stays off over night now.

Kitchener is drafting for a lighting bylaw in 2017 updates. Other cities and towns in Ontario and across Canada are doing the same or have already implemented a lighting bylaw.

Here’s a list of the lighting bylaws we know off and more is being added. Kitchener is a little behind on this and really should already have had a lighting bylaw in place after all these years.

This particular example of bad lighting serves as a good example of why one is needed.

light-pollution-4-728What makes this worse though is just up the road on the corner there is a Tim Horton’s, gas station and variety store, all in one building, that turns off all the outside lights during the overnight hours. There is also the Fieldgate plaza which since 2011 has been turning off 50% of the parking lot lights which are full cut off (the right kind of light). Within this plaza Shopper’s and Sobeys also cooperate with turning off unnecessary outside lighting. How do I know this? Because I spoke with plaza developer 5 years ago now and he was more than willing to help correct the problem and be a good neighbour within the community. That’s what more businesses and property owners should be doing.

You wouldn’t set up a loud speaker and blast music into your neighbours yard or into their home would you? Outdoor lighting is no different; it’s a nuisance. If your outdoor lights are spilling light onto your neighbours property or into their windows at night or up into the night sky creating skyglow,  it’s no different than blasting your music. You are engaging in light trespass and polluting. It is not right. It may even be violating bylaws for your city or town, many of which are implementing outdoor lighting nuisance bylaws to control this increasing problem.

Bad lighting increases light pollution but you can help reduce it. Always shield your lights (it’s the neighbourly thing to do), don’t over do it on brightness (more light does not mean better or safer) and turn them off over night if you’re inside not outside. It will save you energy, reduce your contribution to climate change and help protect our night sky for all to enjoy!

Shawn Nielsen

My story began nearly 40 years ago looking up at the Moon with a small collapsible telescope my Father had. Encouraged by my parents, who bought me my very own telescope, a 4.5″ reflector, I began to explore the night sky from my family home backyard. Today I do astrophotography from my home in Kitchener, Ontario and also with remote telescopes located in New Mexico and Australia. Some of my images have won awards and have been featured online and in magazines.

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