Sustainability in Action

Build Back Better - Green Award

Jess Dixon

Protecting Cumbria’s Dark Skies

We’re pleased to announce that our ‘Protecting Cumbria’s Dark Skies’ project has received a Green rating at this year’s Build Back Better awards. 

Over summer, 25 expert judges in the lighting category assessed and marked each entry individually. At the start of September, the panel then gathered for a summit to carefully discuss and rank all the entries - awarding the Cumbria project a Green rating.

So what did the project involve? Cumbria County Council are leading the way when it comes to lighting towns, cities and rural communities. Together with Thorn Lighting, Cumbria County Council have installed innovative lighting solutions that protect dark skies and local wildlife, improve peoples’ perception of safety and encourage social interaction.

Ian Harker, the council’s Lighting Manager, has engaged with organisations such as Friends of the Lake District to research and implement the most innovative technologies, future-proofing the county for years to come.

After a series of successful pilot schemes, dark sky friendly luminaires including Thorn’s EP 145 and Plurio lanterns (both recipients of the International Dark-Sky Association’s Fixture Seal of Approval) have been installed at locations including Glenridding, Kendal, Whitehaven and Workington. At three of those locations, the Plurio lantern has been installed with NightTune technology which is a system that automatically adjusts the level of light emitted by the light fitting, and it’s colour temperature, throughout the night.

In Glenridding, the Plurio luminaires have been used on a residential cul-de-sac. During the night when outdoor activity is reduced, the level of light is lowered and the temperature becomes warmer, creating a more hospitable environment for wildlife and residents. In Whitehaven and Workington, the same luminaires have been installed in parks where night-time lighting is needed for people using footpaths. By reducing the output and using a warmer colour temperature, surrounding wildlife and dark skies are protected.

Protecting Cumbria’s dark skies | Thorn Lighting, Cumbria County Council & partners

The EP 145 luminaire was used to replace existing lighting illuminating Kendal’s historic Cliff Terrace. Numerous residents who spoke to Thorn Lighting for a case study explained that the previous luminaires lit areas extending beyond the footpath. The replacements have resulted in a reversal of this with light now illuminating the pathway, but not their gardens and homes. They also reported a return of nocturnal wildlife activity.

The Cumbria County Council team deserve special recognition for this particular scheme for their community collaboration, engaging residents throughout the process from inception through to installation, and for their extra efforts in sourcing refurbished heritage-style columns to use along the terrace to ensure the luminaires were aesthetically well-matched to their surroundings.

This project has therefore:

  • Protected darks skies and the environment
  • Maintained peoples’ perception of safety
  • Utilised state-of-the-art energy efficient luminaires
  • Engaged local communities and promoted wellbeing.

Lighting plays an important role when it comes to the protection and enhancement of Cumbria’s culturally and environmentally rich landscapes. Thorn Lighting aimed to provide the Council with innovative solutions that have the ability to enhance the wellbeing of residents, visitors and the natural environment.

This goal was supported by six key principles that Thorn considers when it comes to achieving sustainable lighting:

  • Circular economy: Thorn aims to improve resource efficiency through better waste management, minimising and preventing waste and recycling valuable materials. As such, Thorn is a member of the Recolight Scheme. One example of how consideration was paid to waste and recycling in the Cumbria project was supplying the EP 145 post-top lantern for use with a refurbished pole supplied by the Council. This luminaire also provides access to a replaceable LED module and driver, offering replacement opportunities for the future rather than wastage.
  • Energy savings: Plurio offers a low cost of ownership with a lifetime of 100,000 (25°C, L90) and both integrated dimming and NightTune technology increase energy savings up to 86% compared to older lighting technologies. EP 145 has the same lifespan and requires zero maintenance for up to 20 years.
  • Material choices: We choose materials that will prolong a product’s life, delivering performance even in coastal and chloride rich environments. Both EP 145 and Plurio have a corrosion resistance of C5 according to ISO 9223: 2012.
  • Environmental Product Declaration (EPDs): Thorn products (including EP 145 and Plurio) come with ISO accredited EPDs so customers like Cumbria County Council can identify CO2 emissions, water and material consumption and recyclability over a product’s lifecycle. This can result in more precise calculations of ecological footprints.
  • Research and innovation: Thorn invests in research and innovation to develop technologies, products and solutions that are of benefit to people, place and planet. NightTune’s light mixing technology uses warm and cool LEDs. By dimming the LEDs appropriately, combined colour temperatures ranging from a warm 2200K to a moderate 3000K can be obtained at different levels of lumen output. Plurio can be supplied with a Zhaga socket connection, providing owners with a luminaire that is ready for a smart future, with opportunity to access a range of control features.
  • Corporate social responsibility: the Cumbria project was a great example of how organisations can work together for the greater good, including manufacturers, environmental organisations, educational bodies and end users. Thorn is especially proud of the collaboration achieved as part of this project.

One of Cumbria County Council’s key aspirations for this project was to safeguard the natural environment while still maintaining necessary safety standards. They recognised that with some of the darkest skies in the United Kingdom, they needed to be mindful, and ensure they did not make a negative impact when it came to lighting the county’s roads, streets, parks and urban spaces. By choosing Plurio and EP 145, the council were reassured that they could meet their lighting responsibilities, while respecting and enhancing the nocturnal natural environment.

Other desires were to transform urban spaces, improving safety and security. Receiving funding as part of the Home Office’s Safer Streets initiative, the council chose to install Thorn’s Plurio luminaires throughout Whitehaven’s Castle Park. The objective is to reduce anti-social behaviour and tackle issues such as violence, graffiti and littering while protecting nocturnal habitats.

Promoting and improving wellbeing was another factor when Thorn and Cumbria County Council set about this project. The indirect version of Plurio was used as a critical factor was reducing glare. Extra steps were taken, for example, at the Glenridding site, to add shields to the luminaires, further reducing light spill to grassed areas behind the luminaires where lighting was unnecessary. Having firstly installed the luminaires as part of a pilot scheme, residents reported to the council that the new lighting installations were much more calming, exceeding initial expectations for the project. Other residents have reported that the dark-sky friendly luminaires have got the potential to unlock a dark-sky economy, providing economical benefits to the county.

Throughout the project, luminaires were chosen for their ability to achieve the appropriate lighting classes for the various spaces they were installed in, be that residential areas or urban green spaces.

We commend Cumbria County Council for their pioneering spirit in utilising innovative technologies to protect and enhance their communities and outdoor spaces today, and also for future generations.

On notifying us of the Green rating, Ray Molony, Head of Content at the Build Back Better Awards, said:

'...This is a superb achievement – many congratulations!... Your support for the aims and values of the programme – innovation, creativity, social value and environmental leadership – is vital to us in our work in promoting and celebrating achievement in these areas and we thank you sincerely for your participation. Your entry formed a valuable contribution to creating a landscape of the current best practice in the sector.'

Thorn Lighting’s outdoor portfolio includes a further 14 product families that have received the IDA’s Fixture Seal of Approval along with other technologies and controls solutions including Variable Light Distribution (VLD) and UrbaSens to provide end users with the ability to light responsibly.