Cities across Europe are coming up with ways to tweak their lighting plans as the continent faces an energy crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Paris is turning the Eiffel Tower’s twinkling lights off earlier, while German cities are looking at lighting as part of a raft of energy savings measures.
However, keeping the lights on in winter makes cities safer, busier and more welcoming and has tangible health benefits for citizens. Upgrading systems to be more energy efficient is always preferable to switching off completely. In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of the night-time economy and the sense of community that the right lighting can bring - and how, with modern LED systems, keeping lights on is the smart choice.
Cities Come Alive After Dark
As the London Night Time Commission noted in its 2019 report, Think Night: London's neighbourhoods from 6pm to 6am, a third of workers in London work at night, two thirds of Londoners are active at night, and a quarter of all public transport journeys happen at night. The city never sleeps.
Londoners and tourists enjoy walking and cycling around London at night…. they particularly like the sense of festivity and celebration in busy areas.
The night-time economy is an increasing subject of study worldwide, and for cities that can calculate it, it’s often impressive. New York City’s night-time economy contributes more than $10 billion every year to the city that never sleeps, while the night-time economy accounts for approximately 10‑16% of town centre jobs in Sydney, Australia, according to research consultancy Sound Diplomacy’s “Guide to Managing Your Night Time Economy.”
The guide notes three distinct groups who contribute - those who enjoy the night (people going out to eat, drink, dance and see shows) those who work at night (venue staff, performers, hospitality employees, public transport workers, taxi drivers) and those who manage the night (police, fire, health services, city councils). All of them need good lighting to do their jobs safely and enjoyably.
That doesn’t mean the same lighting at the same hours every night - which is where smart systems can make a difference. Schréder EXEDRA, our smart lighting management system enables cities to adjust lighting areas in line with actual use. When there are lots of people and movement, lights can stay on full power until the partying subsides, then be dimmed (but still on) during quieter hours, with sensors to make areas bright again if emergency services are called out or traffic surges.
Good Lighting for Bad Hersfeld
Bad Hersfeld is a charming spa town in the centre of Germany, which welcomes thousands of people every year to its opera festival and various seasonal markets held in the Stiftsruine, imposing Romanesque ruins. These are lit with a Schréder EXEDRA smart lighting system and SHUFFLE poles which provide free WiFi and security cameras to bring festive sparkle to the visitor experience.
Visitors often complained that the area around the ruins was poorly lit and not always lit when needed. That has completely changed; the old problem of the lights being “on or off" no longer exists. Thanks to detection sensors, the lighting levels adapt to visitors. So the area is lit correctly, exactly when it is needed - and we are still saving a lot of energy.
After the success of this project, the town extended its Schréder EXEDRA smart lighting to residential areas. The local authorities chose a group of hi-tech partners to implement a smart lighting network that would adapt light levels according to traffic density and weather, adjust the colour temperature (from 2,200K to 3,000K) based on the time of day and enable it to integrate other smart devices to implement new services.
Near 200 IZYLUM and FLEXIA FG Midi street lights were installed in two different districts of the town to deliver bespoke, adaptable lighting. “If we manage the light by adapting it to according to the weather or season, it will not only improve the quality of the light but will also be very interesting economically,” says Mayor Fehling.
The smart lighting rollout will continue in 2023 and be a critical step towards climate neutrality, which the town has set as an objective for 2035. And the trailblazing project is already turning heads: it was awarded a 2022 Smart 50 Award by Smart Cities Connect.
Going Out to Live
As well as creating a welcoming space for residents and tourists, the right lighting can deter criminals. Returning to the London Night Time Commission’s report, well-lit (which doesn’t automatically mean brightly-lit) spaces can reduce crime and make the city safer by managing lighting levels, offering CCTV coverage, incorporating a speaker for public announcements, ‘push-to-talk’ to contact security or emergency services, electronic signage and footfall monitoring - all options which can be enabled by a smart lighting solution such as the SHUFFLE.
In the Centre for London’s report “Seeing clearly: How lighting can make London a better city”, the authors explain that since the advent of COVID-19, our increased reliance on public spaces for exercising, socialising, commuting and work has shown how much our experience of the city depends upon its lighting.
Outdoor spaces are being called upon to facilitate life in a way they simply weren’t before - so casting them back into darkness risks damaging the ongoing recovery and community links that have been forged. In these straitened financial times, going out for a stroll or bike ride after dark is a completely free of charge way to enjoy the evening air - whether that’s through an attractively-lit country town or a futuristic cityscape.
Welcoming Visitors, Deterring Thieves
Known for its mineral-rich hot springs that the Romans came to visit, Vizela, in Portugal, only officially became a town 20 years ago. Since then, the local authorities have been improving the quality of life for residents, including a major redesign of its' public realm with less car traffic, typical Portuguese paving and seating for people to sit and relax.
They have transformed the town centre into a vibrant and appealing public space that includes lighting to stimulate social and economic activity, WiFi so people stay longer and a sound system to broadcast music. The SHUFFLE smart pole provided the optimal set-up for the light, loudspeakers and WiFi coverage across the entire area.
The system is controlled by Schréder EXEDRA, which collects data from end devices and, aggregates, analyses and intuitively displays them to help the town improve services.
Don’t Go Back to the Dark Ages
Artificial light has a vital role in the character and identity of urban spaces after dark: it also heavily influences perceptions of security and accessibility. It has enabled cities to readjust to life outside, all year round, as the pandemic struck. Turning the lights off is largely symbolic: to take things back to Paris, the Eiffel Tower’s nighttime lighting is already fairly efficient, and only accounts for 4% of the monument's energy bill. Turning the lights off could lead to huge human impact for a minimal cost saving - which is why cities should think carefully before going dark this winter.
About the writer
Since he joined the company as a mechanical engineer in 1988, Jean-Luc has developed a wide range of urban lighting luminaires, always striving to improve design and efficiency.
He has travelled the world, bringing a hands-on mentality to deliver the perfect solution for customers worldwide. There’s not a lot he doesn’t know about lighting!
Connect with Jean-Luc on LinkedIn.