Skala to visit Public Works Department about parking garage lights

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 | 10:44 p.m. CDT; updated 12:04 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 25, 2011

COLUMBIA — The Environment and Energy Commission is seeking more information on the lighting in the parking garage at Fifth and Walnut streets before it can recommend action to the city.

Commission member Karl Skala said he was unsatisfied with the level of information currently available on the construction and management of the lights.

"We don't have enough data to go on," Skala said at a commission meeting Tuesday evening. "You start asking questions, and you get answers like 'I don't know.'"

Skala said he first brought the issue before the commission last month at the request of Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe.

Hoppe received about 20 complaints regarding the lights prior to the commission's last meeting, according to a previous Missourian article.

Skala said ambient light is not the only issue concerning the garage's LED lights, which is why the commission has not yet recommended any action regarding plans to shade the lights.

"The issue is that there are too many lights and no capacity for dimming them at the proper time," he said.

Another issue, Skala said, is that the commission has no way of knowing whether the lights actually save energy. He cited the garage's $3,298 electric bill for March as a sign that it might not be saving as much energy as anticipated. He said perhaps it saves more energy than a building with the same number of traditional lights, but there were no data for comparison.

For that reason, Skala said he will visit the Public Works Department on behalf of the commission to gather information on the number of lights in the garage, the location of lights, their glare, their color, their hours of operation and why the garage's stairwells contain fluorescent lights. If his visit is unsuccessful, he said the commission will make a formal request for more information.

Commission Chairman Dan Goldstein said it was too soon to determine the city's response to the complaints.

"I don't want to make a recommendation without all the information," he said.

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Mark Foecking May 25, 2011 | 8:03 a.m.

A good way to compare this garage with with some of the others (7th and Walnut would be a good one because it has the same basic design) is to look at the electric bill per level of parking (total bill/levels). One could also express it per parking space, or by floor area.

LEDs are more efficient than sodium lamps, and especially halogen lamps, for the same light output. The issue here is Fifth and Walnut seems to have a lot higher lighting levels than other garages (especially since most of the other garages have had some lights put on timers to turn them off late at night).


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