Environment and Energy Commission discusses parking garage lighting solutions

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 | 12:06 a.m. CST; updated 8:39 a.m. CST, Wednesday, January 25, 2012

COLUMBIA —The Environment and Energy Commission discussed the latest on the light problems at Fifth and Walnut's parking garage at Tuesday night's meeting.

One possible solution that is being tested is the installation of stairway photo sensors and light shields.

“Parking garage stairwell lights have been rewired so they can be on a photo light sensor, so they know when to turn off,” said Barbara Buffaloe, Columbia's sustainability manager.

The installation of the light sensors is set to be completed by Friday.

The cost of the photo sensors is approximately $5,400, and the cost for the shields range from $11,000 to $20,000, Jill Stedem, public information officer for the Columbia Public Works Department, said.

The shields are made of metal and cost $105 per light fixture, and there are 173 light fixtures in the garage. The shields are meant to redirect light back into the garage.

At the meeting, Buffaloe said that for the test, 40 shields will be installed on one level on the west and north sides of the garage to see if they make a difference.

Test results will determine if the shields will cover all of the garage, three sides of the garage or just certain rows, Stedem said.

The Environment and Energy Commission has been involved in the lighting issues at Fifth and Walnut’s parking garage, as well as with concerns about the lighting at the soon-to-be constructed Short Street parking garage, Karl Skala, chair of the Environment and Energy Commission, said.

Information and suggestions concerning lighting issues at the Fifth and Walnut parking garage will transfer over to the construction of the Short Street garage, Skala said.

“From conversations with the engineers, we expressed how the commission felt about the issues at the other garage,” Skala said. “They are going to implement changes from the old garage to the new garage.”

While the lights at Fifth and Walnut’s garage have caused problems, they have also brought positives.

The LED lights are more efficient, last longer and require less maintenance, Buffaloe said.

“We get a lot of positive responses when you're inside because people feel safer in a brighter environment,” Buffaloe said. ”We want it to be safer for users but make sure they (the lights) are not upsetting any other outlining neighborhoods.”

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