Creating a Better Lighting Environment for the Thames

Protecting the river's ecosystem

Illuminated River (2019-07-14) by Neil HawkinsIlluminated River

Illuminated River's smart LED technologies provide a more long-term sustainable solution for lighting the Thames at night. By replacing inefficient metal halides and fluorescents with the latest LEDs, the project has reduced energy-consumption by up to 50% on some of the major bridges. This process of replacing the lighting equipment has not involved any invasive physical construction or excavation in the river or around the bridges. All lighting on the bridges is switched off at 2am rather than running all night, from dusk until dawn, as the previous lighting did. This is an encouragement for others to do the same and to protect the darkness that is fundamental to the Thames.

Illuminated River, 2019 (2019-07-06/2019-07-06) by James NewtonIlluminated River

Luminance Survey

The Illuminated River Foundation has created the first ever luminance survey of the Thames, to assess current levels of brightness on and around the river and identify where light spill, glare and pollution is occurring. The survey involved photographing every bridge and the surrounding banksides using Luminance IQ, a specialist software that converts photos into calibrate false colour images to reveal levels of luminance. This showed London Bridge to have high levels of light spill, which was significantly above recommended levels. Illuminated River has reduced this light spill by up to 75% without losing visual impact. To achieve this, the LED lights have individually optimised fittings and shields to focus light to where required on the bridge and away from the river. By doing so river wildlife will be protected from light spill.

London Bridge - Thermal (2019-10-18) by Illuminated RiverIlluminated River

The lighting levels for London Bridge were very high. The red colour shows luminance in excess of recommended levels.

London Bridge - Illuminated River (2019-07-06/2019-07-06) by James NewtonIlluminated River

Lighting London Research 

Illuminated River instigated a research project with Centre for London exploring how the capital can become one of the best lit cities in the world. A well-lit city can enable people to spend more time enjoying culture, restaurants, shops and nightlife and make active journeys easier, safer and more relaxing. Well-designed lighting could even contribute to London’s green recovery by achieving large cuts in energy use and reducing light pollution. As Illuminated River demonstrates, it can also function as public art – making the capital more beautiful and interesting. The research reveals how London is largely missing out on these opportunities because it lacks a city-wide strategic approach to lighting.  Our street lamps often shine a harsh light all night, when we could use new technologies to dim lights when and where they are not needed, or adjust colour temperatures to make public spaces more welcoming and inclusive. When it comes to private sources of lighting, buildings often try to outshine each other and little is done to protect the surrounding natural environment. By developing an overarching framework for lighting in each borough to guide street lighting and coordinate lighting from public and private sources, the quality of London’s lighting would hugely improve.

Houses of Parliament - Thermal (2019-10-18) by Illuminated RiverIlluminated River

The lighting levels for the Houses of Parliament.

Cannon Street Railway Bridge - Illuminated River (2019-07-06/2019-07-06) by James NewtonIlluminated River

Illuminated River's sacred friends

While installing lights on the first four bridges (London, Cannon Street, Southwark and Millennium) Egyptian Geese were found nesting under a pier on Cannon Street Bridge. At this point works on the bridge were stopped and Illuminated River ecologists erected a five-metre exclusion zone around the geese. Egyptian Geese are native to Africa, south of the Sahara and the Nile Valley, however due to their popularity, escapees were common and they soon spread to Western Europe. The British self-sustaining population of Egyptian Geese dates back to the 18th century, when they were introduced as popular ornamental birds for lakes and ponds. Keeping watch over the geese, we soon learnt that two inhabitants of the Cannon Street bridge pier, one male and one female, were protecting a nest of eggs, which hatched into seven goslings.

Illuminated River Energy Usage (2019-09-10/2019-09-10)Illuminated River

Energy usage

Did you know that Southwark bridge uses 3kw per night, or the equivalent of three hairdryers? Whilst London bridge uses 7kw per night, the equivalent of seven kettles. The energy for Cannon Street Bridge uses 100% renewable green energy. The electricity supply for Millennium, Southwark and London bridges comes from the City of London's appointed supplier which provides 40% of its energy from renewable sources. The City of London aims to increase this to 100% during the lifetime of the Illuminated River project.

Credits: Story

The luminance survey of the Thames was carried out by Atelier Ten.

The Centre for London research project ‘Seeing clearly: How lighting can make London a better city’ was developed in partnership with the Greater London Authority, City of London Corporation, Cross River Partnership and supported by the Rothschild Foundation.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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