Fifth and Walnut parking garage lighting changes

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 | 9:18 p.m. CDT; updated 11:45 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 24, 2011

COLUMBIA — Questions from the Environment and Energy Commission have spurred changes to the Fifth and Walnut parking garage's lighting.

The city is gathering cost estimates for three options aimed at reducing the brightness and electricity use of the garage's 471 LED light fixtures, said David Ryan, director of operations for the architectural firm Walker Parking Consultants.

The options are:

  • Lowering the output of the fixtures: Dimming the lights when possible is the only one of the city's options that would simultaneously reduce the lights' brightness and the amount of electricity used. The lighting manufacturer, BetaLED, has developed a way for the light's output to be lowered, Ryan said.
  • Shielding the fixtures: This plan would involve using dark shields to prevent light from spilling out of the garage. Shields would be added to lights on the top level of the garage.
  • Tilting the fixtures: On covered levels of the garage, the light fixtures would be tilted to better prevent light spill. This could happen in addition to or in lieu of reducing the lights' output, Ryan said.

There are also plans to install photo sensors in the garage's stair wells, which would allow the lights within to turn off during the daytime. Another option for reducing lighting in the garage's stair tower is disabling one of its lights.

Environment and Energy Commission member Karl Skala said the city still needs to determine which of these options will work. Each of the options will be tested on half of a garage level.

"They're going to try a section, sort of a pilot, to see how these work and see if we can generalize it to the whole structure," Skala said.

Ryan said the test installations would happen a month from now at the earliest. The city is waiting on time and price estimates for the changes, which he solicited last week.

One or more of the changes will most likely become permanent, depending on the estimated price and effectiveness of the test changes.

"My understanding is that it's pretty much going to happen," Ryan said.

The Environment and Energy Commission sought more information about the lights at the end of May after its members expressed concern that the garage was over-lit. The city received about 20 complaints on the amount of ambient light from the garage before the commission's April meeting.

"I think everyone is curious to see how these changes will impact the perception of the light level," Ryan said.

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