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New Project to Shine Light on Dark Places Around UW campus

Published on May 12, 2016

Looking north along the newly designed Rainier Vista at night.
Image Credit: UW Today & The Integrated Design Lab

Where do you walk on campus after dark, and which areas could benefit from better lighting?

An interdisciplinary team of students, faculty and staff together with lighting design experts is asking the UW community those questions as part of a new plan to improve the efficiency and sustainability of outdoor lighting around the Seattle campus. The team’s survey to campus includes an interactive map for respondents to place markers and comments related to outdoor lighting and how the campus is experienced when it is dark.

The team recently received more than $50,000 from the UW Campus Sustainability Fund to develop a plan to reduce power consumption from outdoor lighting while enhancing the nighttime campus experience.

“The roadmap will envision a campus that is lit as a legible whole, with lighting that transitions between campus spaces in a way that promotes logical wayfinding and creates a comfortable nighttime environment,” said Kelly Douglas, a UW graduate student in landscape architecture and project team member.

“The project will also prioritize ecological systems that may be impacted by nighttime lighting and seeks to employ measures that mitigate disruption to wildlife habitat and patterns.” Outdoor lighting has come a long way in recent years. Project organizers cite many new options — digital sensing controls that respond to the presence or absence of people, or light levels that vary depending on how busy an area is — to replace standard, inefficient lights.

Additionally, some LEDs can be tuned to a whiter light with higher color-rendering ability to foster a comparable sense of safety as conventional lights — but consume half the power.

“New lighting technologies and strategies have the potential to radically decrease the amount of energy consumed by exterior lighting on campus,” Douglas said. “By addressing lighting as an overall program, rather than a project-by-project consideration, the roadmap will serve as an actionable tool for the implementation of new, more sustainable lighting across campus.”

Other members of the project team are Christopher Meek, director of the UW Integrated Design Lab and an associate professor of architecture; Eric Strandberg of Seattle’s Lighting Design Lab; and Kristine Kenney and Patrick Pirtle of the Office of the University Architect.

The survey is available online and will remain open through midsummer. All UW students, faculty and staff are encouraged to participate.

For more information, contact Douglas at or Meek at (Originally posted by UW Today and Michelle Ma.)

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