Inside: Lighting

Oct. 1, 2002
The right amount of light; New middle school lets the light in; Turning off to save money


School campuses need lighting — for security, safety, aesthetics and navigation. But not all lighting is good.

“Bad lighting has lots of glare, and glare always compromises safety and security,” says the International Dark-Sky Association, based in Tucson, Ariz.

In an information sheet on campus lighting, the association discourages light globes because too little of the light gets to the ground to provide security; poorly shielded lighting fixtures that produce glare; and incandescent or mercury lamps, which don't produce visible light efficiently.

Better lighting choices are “full cut-off” fixtures that have essentially no glare. Metal halide lamps are better when color rendering is important; low-pressure sodium lamps work well when color rendering is not critical.

The association seeks to reduce light pollution and promote the value of high-quality nighttime lighting. It has worked with several school districts, including Tucson's, to reduce excessive lighting. Project SLEEP (Security Lighting Energy Education Pilot) helped Tucson cut its electricity costs at several schools by turning off unnecessary lighting.


Dalles Middle School, a new facility built in the Dalles, Ore., school district, is one of the most energy-efficient schools in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Rebuild America program.

Officials expect that the 97,000-square-foot school will consume 45 percent less energy than the old middle school. Several of the design elements that will help the school reduce its dependence on artificial lighting:

  • Horizontal sunscreens and lightshelves on the windows allow indirect sunlight into the rooms.

  • Vertical sunscreens on east and west windows prevent the heat from afternoon sunlight from raising classroom temperatures.

  • Skylights deliver natural illumination throughout the facility.

  • Solar tubes that reflect sunlight down a shaft have been installed in every classroom.

  • Sensors adjust the electric light usage to supplement the natural light in classrooms.

Rebuild America says that Dalles Middle School is the first constructed in Oregon under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.


Los Angeles schools will be a little darker this year, but the district hopes the change will mean a brighter outlook for its budget.

Officials in the nation's second-largest district have decided to turn off supplemental outdoor lighting at more than 160 of its facilities. The security lighting was installed at the schools in 1998 as part of a program run by the city's Department of Water and Power to encourage more outdoor lighting.

The district has spent about $1.2 million on electricity and fixtures as part of the program, school officials say.

The district believes the lighting in place is sufficient to provide security at the school sites. Six schools that are part of the program will remain in the lighting program.

The cuts were part of $400 million in spending reductions the Los Angeles district enacted this summer before passing the system's budget.


According to the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Smart Schools Program, here are the efficiency ranges for various types of lighting.


LIGHT LEVEL (lumens/watt)


7 to 25

Mercury Vapor

30 to 63

Compact Fluorescent

44 to 70


30 to 100

Metal Halide

75 to 125

High-Pressure Sodium

63 to 140

Low-Pressure Sodium

100 to 183

Sponsored Recommendations

Latest from mag