Environment and Energy Commission reviews feedback on garage light pilot

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 | 10:29 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The city's Environment and Energy Commission reviewed feedback from residents and commission members about the lighting pilot for the new Fifth and Walnut parking garage Tuesday night.

After concerns came in about the brightness of the lighting fixtures in the new garage, the commission had Eric Sax, an independent lighting consultant, apply films to the lights to test one possible solution.


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The films can change the light's quality by reducing the intensity, tinting the color or diffusing the glare. The films are similar to those used in stage lighting.

Overall, responses to the test have been mixed. 

Commission member Dick Parker liked the floor with the strongest reduction in intensity, "but all of them were an improvement," he said.  

"(The public) liked everything from the level four one that's kind of diffusing it, all the way to someone liking the blue lights, and they liked the entertainment aspect of it," Sustainability Manager Barbara Buffaloe said.

Some residents emailed their feedback to Buffaloe. A few said they preferred the levels with the most drastic light reduction because their main issue with the lights was the glare from the outside, but one said that the least-lit level was "just a bit dim" on the inside. 

Another resident liked the colorful films and thought the garage could coordinate with Jesse Hall's color changes for events throughout the year. 

Buffaloe said the most common comment she received from the study was that residents were pleased to be asked their opinion. 

In the last month some practical concerns about the films have come up. Buffaloe said the maintenance staff has been having trouble with the films falling off.


"Their feeling is that they're going out there every day picking up films or getting reports that someone found a film under their car," she said. "Their concern is whether the films are a permanent solution."

Buffaloe said the films were a test and that previously discussed options, such as reducing the power to the lights or attaching shields that turn the light away from the street, are still possible. Lawrence Lile, another commission member, said he was most interested in the shields. 

"My main concern is the glare, the light spilling to the outside," he said.

Commission chair Karl Skala said he hoped to make a resolution when the commission meets again Oct. 25. 

"We've been talking about this for a few months, and we've had this test going on for a while, so I think we ought to come up with something by the next meeting," he said.

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