Light Up The Night

“In prior generation systems, this resulted in about 25 percent of the total light generated by the luminaires landing on the playing surface. The rest went into the sky or on adjacent property as wasted spill light and light pollution. To compensate for the wasted light, additional luminaires were necessary to achieve the desired light levels for play.

“Today, thanks to advances in the reflector-system efficiencies and aiming design, as much as 70 percent of the light generated can be directed onto the playing surface. As a result, fewer fixtures are needed to purchase, install, and operate.”

“Systems can also be eco-friendly by addressing the overall environmental impact on the surrounding area,” notes Frasure.

“Full cutoff lighting, as defined by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), is a lighting fixture that projects all of its light in a downward direction. Full cutoff-lighting fixtures emit no upward component of light while providing precise, controlled illumination to the playing area. Full cutoff-lighting systems utilize a recessed lamp in a fixture housing that is parallel with the playing surface.

“This design increases playing-area illumination, reduces glare and light spillage in surrounding areas, and eliminates upward light and sky glow. A full cutoff sports lighting system will typically meet or exceed community legislation or local zoning restrictions.”


Something else to remember about lighting and its efficiency: It’s not all about on vs. off, or working vs. burned-out. A lamp in a lighting system, when new, produces a certain amount (known as a level) of illumination. (It is at its brightest when new, in other words).

Over time, however, the amount of light produced by the lamp decreases. This phenomenon is known as the Light Loss Factor, or LLF. Most manufacturers count on 20-percent to 40-percent depreciation. Climatic conditions, dust and dirt, voltage variations, luminaire design, and the amount and quality of maintenance will affect depreciation.

Rather than waiting to see if your facility’s lighting system is functioning well, consider doing the testing yourself periodically. Light levels are measured using a tool known as a light meter, which is available fairly inexpensively at industrial supply stores (one example is Grainger).

In using the light meter, ascertain that (a) you are holding it the correct distance from the surface of the field, court, or other facility, (b) you are taking readings in all the essential places in the facility where athletes play, and (c) you are adhering to the standards set for the specific type of competition your facility will be hosting. If you encounter variances from the standards, give your lighting contractor a call to obtain recommendations.

Keeping an open mind, being willing to investigate the options, and knowing the rules governing your facility are all essential ingredients in selecting the right lighting. Get plugged in with the right information, and you can green-light your facility’s eco-friendliness for years to come.

Mary Helen Sprecher has been a technical writer for more than 20 years with the American Sports Builders Association. She has written on various topics relating to sports-facility design, construction and supply, as well as sports medicine, education, health and industrial issues. She is an avid racquetball and squash player, and a full-time newspaper reporter in Baltimore, Md.

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