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Smart infrastructure: LED streets

John Kinghorn, from the Hamilton city council, examines the impact of installing LED lights as part of the smart city initiatives.
We had aging infrastructure in Hamilton, we had LED streetlights that were nearing the end of their lives, they were costly to maintain, they are difficult to maintain because you have to replace bulbs that over a very short amount of years will reach the end of their life. So, what we, what we wanted to do was update all of the streetlights in Hamilton with new technology, with energy efficient technology that’s a lot cheaper to run and a lot cheaper to maintain.
We also wanted to install luminaires that would last longer and one of the reasons for that is that safety of our workers is paramount and when you have streetlights that reach the end of their life after a small number of years it’s, there’s a, there’s a higher amount of time that the workers have to be on the road, up replacing streetlights. So, by going to luminaires that last 10, 15, 20 years, then you’re much less likely to put your workers in danger by having them out on the road. But we didn’t just want this to be a replace like for like.
We looked around other cities in the world that had replaced their streetlights and we didn’t want to just take the old bulb out and put up a new bulb, we wanted to take the opportunity to do the best thing that we could possibly do for our residents. The slogan that we have in Hamilton is that everything we do should improve the wellbeing of Hamiltonians and in Smart Hamilton it was about maximising the opportunities that we had through this project.
So, when Smart Hamilton came on board to assist with this project, we were really looking at how can we engage the community in Hamilton, how can we achieve the best outcomes of this project, and how can we really challenge the norm and go to greater heights than has been achieved before. [Chris Vas]: So, how did you go about engaging the community in this? [John Kinghorn]: We, we took a number of different approaches to engagement. We did letter drops to every household in the city as part of the rollout.
We initially set up some little demonstration spaces in key locations around the city, such as in libraries, community groups, and we also actively engaged with specific community groups like the Hamilton Astronomical Society. They have an observatory out near Hamilton Zoo and obviously they have a keen interest in, in the night sky and so the amount of streetlighting in the city and pollutant light is quite important to them. So we engaged with them and we actually tested some different types of luminaires and got their feedback on that.
And we also engaged some key experts such as streetlighting experts, lighting engineers, and also ecologists because we’ve got a bat population in Hamilton, the long-tailed bat, which is protected and we were aware that there is potential for pollutant streetlight and certain types of lighting to negatively affect the bat populations. So, we wanted to make sure that whatever light that we put up wasn’t going to adversely affect the nocturnal habits of creatures such as even bees and bats, and humans as well. We know through recent research that blue light can have quite a significant effect on the circadian rhythm, the effect of, or the ability for people to sleep and wake at the right times.
And we did a pilot of about 100 luminaires near Hamilton University and those involved fully smart smart luminaires that we could adjust how bright they were and what time of day they turned on and off, and we tried different time settings and sought specific feedback from the residents in that area. Partnership were pretty important to us, so we partnered with Waikato District Council. So, Hamilton City and Waikato District combined so that we could achieve bulk purchase discounts on the purchase of our luminaires, and we could create consistency across the region.
We also entered into a partnership with our lighting designer and supplier and so we were very keen keen to ensure that the benefits that we achieved were jointly shared, and so they had a vested interest in getting the solution right. So, we actually put equal responsibility onto us as a city Council and also our lighting designer and the supplier of the luminaires to make sure that, yeah, I guess they had skin in the game, they needed to make sure that this was a solution that worked for the city and worked for the residents.
And so, I think that was the key thing that we learned through the pilot. What was really useful was our work with the ecologists and also with the Hamilton Astronomical Society, who, I suppose they have that scientific understanding of how the lighting levels work, and so they were able to provide us some really expert advice on what we should be looking for, for the luminaire types. And one of the approaches that we took was that the lighting that we install in Hamilton City at night, should match the type of light that we get from the moon.
Because if we’re installing lights that look like the sun or have a similar colour intensity to the sun, then that’s probably going to cause issues with animals and insects and things that, that base their cycles on the light. Whereas if we install streetlights that obviously turn on at night and are the same colour light as the moon, then we probably aren’t going to have any issues. So, that’s what we ended up doing, is installing luminaires around the city with a colour temperature that matched the moon. And in regard to feedback we didn’t receive a single piece of negative feedback from any of our 160,000 residents in relation to the lighting levels or the colour or any of those things.
The only complaints we got were around the angle of the luminaires. So, we took a very proactive approach to designing our streets, every single street had its own design because every street has got lighting infrastructure that’s slightly different; maybe a higher column, or the columns are spaced slightly further apart, and so we wanted to make sure that the correct lens was installed at those streetlights, the correct wattage or the, the power of the light was correct for that street, and also the angle of the streetlight was appropriate for where there’s footpaths to make sure they’re lit and to make sure the lighting doesn’t go inside people’s houses.
So, we had custom designs for every street in the city and I think that really helped, it made sure that the lighting went to the edge of the road, to the fences, but not inside people’s properties and therefore didn’t light their windows at night. So, we had, from memory I think there were about two to three locations where the resident rang us back afterwards and said, ‘Hey, there’s a bit of light coming in my window’. And in all three of those locations when when we went out to check them the, the design was correct, but there was just a slight mistake on the installation where the angle wasn’t correctly, as designed. So, five-minute fix and we’re back to normal.
But certainly, in terms of the feedback that we’ve had, both from the specific groups that we engaged with and also the residents, so far it’s all been really, really positive. Hamilton and our approach got a good mention in one of the Listener articles recently about our approach that we’ve taken to streetlighting, and we also came runner up in the Local Government awards on our approach to the streetlighting as well. So, that was really positive feedback because we had to challenge the norm to get this through.
The lighting, the warm lighting that we proposed did not meet New Zealand standards and so we actually had to challenge the holder of those standards to make sure that we had permission to change that. And as a result, the standards have been changed and it’s allowed other cities to follow in our footsteps, as such. And that is happening as well, which is really good to see. [Chris Vas]: Well I guess that goes to the core of the Smart Hamilton program which is to think differently and work for the community and so pushing the status quo in that regard becomes quite important.
So, looking at, you know, similar sort of programs that have been run overseas, was it completely unique to, to Hamilton? [John Kinghorn]: There hadn’t been another city in New Zealand who had gone for the warm, white LEDs for the whole city. Some cities had chosen to use the warmer light in some of their suburban areas, more suburban areas, but not as a blanket approach for the whole city. So, we were the first to take that approach, which required the standard to change. But since then, other cities are planning to follow suit, and Dunedin’s one example of that, planning to effectively do the same thing, exact same thing that we’ve done.
Internationally, yes, some cities had gone for the, for the warmer light. In fact, some have even gone further than that, in certain areas where there’s a lot of wildlife activity in the city and they’re very conscious of the creatures that come out at night and making sure that there’s no adverse effects on them. But we tested some of those luminaires and we found that there was a trade off with road safety when you start going to that point of a really, really orange to red type of light. So, we’re hoping that we’ve found the balance and we think so far it’s looking really good, that we’ve found a good balance in the type of lighting we’ve used. [Chris Vas]: Fantastic.

John Kinghorn from the smart Hamilton program sheds light on the smart LED program, the efficient use of assets, how technology has aided replacement of ageing infrastructure and more.

This section focuses on energy efficiency as a smart city objective.

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