The only way I can start this post is by referencing the disaster playing out as I type in the United States, City of Houston, Texas. By the time you read this, it will likely be over, but as I write an unprecedented amount of flooding is occurring in this high-population city as Hurricane Harvey pours down on them. Houston will be dealing with financial losses in the billions and tens of thousands of people displaced from their homes. This disaster is already being attributed in various ways to the effects of human-caused climate change.
As we think about the infrastructure design of our growing cities, we must take into account the environmental impact of our urban landscape design decisions. The movement of green urbanism to tackle this need by concentrating on both the sustainability and quality of life of residents that will inhabit their urban design projects. Without taking these issues into consideration, cities will remain both the cause of climate issues and its biggest victims.
If you are an urban designer, landscape architect or city planner you should consider the sustainability and quality of life that your urban planning designs have and consider the use of solar power and smart street lighting as a method to improve the next phases of your project. Smart solar street lighting provide sustainability and improve the quality of life for citizens. They can also serve as a multi-functional platforms for provision of valuable real-time data about many aspects of your city and its surroundings, thus enhancing the long-term sustainability results of your urban planning project. For more detailed info on how street lighting design should be compatible with urban environments, read this article: “Street Lighting and Urban Design”.
This blog outlines the 5 core reasons why you should include smart solar street lighting in your urban design project:
1. Self-Sustaining: Efficient and Solar Powered with Battery Backup
• Solar Powered: Public lighting is a huge drain on energy. Not only do solar street lights provide their own power from the sun, but they can also be tied back into your city’s grid to reduce fossil fuel consumption of the entire urban environment.
• Auto-Dimming: Smart solar street lights never use more energy than they have to – they are perfectly efficient. Motion sensors and smart technology allows them to know when to be on, off or dimmed based on the lighting needs of the city, further reducing their energy consumption.
• Battery Backup: Even without a grid connection, smart solar street lights store energy in their batteries. In case of a massive storm when the sun is gone for days, or if the city loses power from the grid, the solar powered street lights will continue performing their core functions to keep the street bright and safe, without consuming electricity from fossil fuels.
2. Improved Light Quality: Light Emitting Diode (LED) Instead of High Pressure Sodium (HPS) Lighting
• See More / Feel Safer: LED technology is an integral part of solar street lights, providing brighter light than traditional HPS lighting. Surveys from pilots of street light replacement projects indicate that people feel safer while law enforcement agents agree that it is easy to patrol well-lit neighborhood areas with LED street lights.
• Smart Dimming / Remote Control: Smart solar street lights give you the power to control the brightness of these lights, either automatically or customized and managed remotely. Intelligent remote management technology will provide reliable and energy efficient LED lighting for public spaces during specific events and gatherings in order to highlight or minimize different aspects of your urban landscape.
3. Improved Access: Intelligent Connected Network of Solar Street Lights
• Solar Charging Stations: With self-powered lighting, you can improve the human experience by installing smart solar charging stations throughout public spaces with diverse services for citizens – all powered by renewable energy which is generated right at the point of consumption.
• Emergency Services: Emergency services are connected into the system so that residents who feel unsafe can quickly alert authorities at any point in time without the need to pull out their phone, dial and wait for a response.
• City-Wide WiFi: Solar-powered applications can be used as hot spots to provide open public spaces of your urban design project with quality internet connection at all times. Such features improve urban security and provide core functions, such as LED lighting and communication access, in the case of natural disaster when in most cases the grid power is disrupted.
4. Data Collection: Understanding More About Your Urban Spaces and Smart Solar Street Lights
• Weather / Smog Levels: Smart solar street lighting can collect environmental information about your urban space – like weather attributes, temperature, air quality and smog data – to give you valuable insights on how your urban design project can further improve your city’s sustainability.
• Car / Foot Traffic: Understand which areas have the highest foot and vehicle traffic to plan public walkways, public transportation and further enhance the traffic efficiency of your urban environment.
• Parking Availability: Get data to know in real-time the locations of parking availability to improve residents’ quality of life by informing them where they can go without driving around, wasting gas and filling the air with smog, while they look for parking places.
5. Financial Impact: Reduction of Costs Associated with Public Lighting
• Energy Costs: Reduced consumption and solar power make smart solar street lighting self-reliant, without the need to draw extra costs by buying power from fossil fuel sources.
• Maintenance / Materials costs: Longer lasting LEDs, intelligent power control for battery management and modular components all allow for greater use of materials before needing replacement. Alongside longer life cycles of solar components, there is also a reduced need for rolling out trucks as everything is connected, so much of the maintenance can be identified and even solved remotely.
• The Human Economy: A city that is forward thinking and embodies green urbanism as a design philosophy is more likely to attract happy productive residents and keep them around for a longer time, adding an essential socio – economic impact to your project objectives.
Conclusion – Smart Solar Street Lighting in Urban Design
We must take climate change and energy management into consideration when designing our urban environment. Not only are these aspects important for preservation of our planet, but they provide significant implications for the city’s finances, quality of life and in implementing emergency recovery practices to mitigate disasters like the hurricane over Texas.
Solar powered street lighting is a key aspect of urban design, planning and landscape architecture since it provides efficiency, access to services, contrast, emphasis of clean energy, spectacle and increased safety. As you are considering your next urban design project, try to visualize how it will be perceived by the public while producing sustainable results for future generations. Take note of the positive financial impact that will reduce the cost of energy consumption and think about how your urban design project can contribute to having happy and satisfied residents in your city. Imagine what you could do by knowing more about how residents interact with your urban design applications after they are completed/installed/constructed. Smart urban design means constant evolution with future projects. For these reasons, smart solar street lighting in urban design brings us a step closer to energy efficient, sustainable and resilient urban environment.