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October 5, 2023

What Is Dark Sky Compliance? 5 Things Contractors Need to Know

Pollutants are all around us, from pesticides and soil contamination to air and noise pollution. But did you know that excessive lighting is considered another source of pollution? This is why, as a contractor, you must familiarize yourself with the concept of dark sky compliance to ensure your next projects aren’t contributing to light pollution.

Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with this concept yet! We’re here to shine a light on what it means to be dark sky compliant and why it’s crucial to adopt outdoor lighting policies.

The Danger of Light Pollution

Light pollution is more impactful than you probably realize.

Outdoor lighting fixtures and bright light emanating from buildings increase the amount of blue light your body absorbs. This blue light then activates parts of the brain that cause the heart rate and body temperature to rise, ultimately affecting circadian rhythms.

While we typically receive some blue light from natural light sources such as the sun, we are also exposed to it through:

  • Clutter: This kind of light pollution is due to an excessively bright group of light sources, typically stemming from poor placement or design.
  • Light trespass: Light pollution that illuminates an area where it is unwanted or not needed, extending beyond the intended space.
  • Glare: Light pollution that interferes with your vision or produces visual discomfort, often the result of lights that are too strong.
  • Sky glow: This kind of light pollution is typically seen in urban areas, as it is caused by city lights, cars, offices, buildings, billboards, and street lamps.

Each of these issues can be linked to human design choices in construction, which means this type of pollution can be avoided—enter dark sky compliance.

a neighbourhood at night lit up by streetlights and homes

Understanding the Dark Sky Movement

Dark sky compliance refers to the guidelines for outdoor lighting installations that have been put in place to reduce light pollution, avoid disrupting natural ecosystems, and promote a generally safe and healthy night environment.

Being dark sky compliant involves installing light fixtures that:

  • Restrict light directed toward the night sky;
  • Reduce or avoid glare;
  • Reduce or avoid over-lighting;
  • Have customization options such as dimmers or related controls; and
  • Lessen blue light that appears at nighttime.

Moreover, dark sky-compliant fixtures must be fully covered with a specific colour temperature no higher than 3,000 Kelvin (K) and must be bound by specific wattage requirements.

While rules and regulations vary by province and territory, there are some principles that need to be considered when implementing responsible outdoor lighting.

Five Principles for Responsible Outdoor Lighting

The International Dark Sky Association has put forth their Five Principles for Responsible Outdoor Lighting. They are as follows:

    1. Useful

Before installing or replacing light fixtures, you must determine whether light is needed in the first place. Treat it like sustainable construction and ask yourself how light will impact the area. Using self-luminous signs or reflective paints for curbs and steps can help reduce the need for permanent outdoor lighting and limit light pollution.

    2. Targeted

Fixtures must be shielded and carefully aimed towards their target direction. The light must also be pointed downward so it doesn’t spill beyond its target. The goal is to only have light shining where it is needed, limiting light trespass.

    3. Low Level

To limit artificial light from spilling, the lowest light level must be used. Additionally, when installing a fixture, you must be mindful of exterior conditions because some surfaces can reflect more light than others.

    4. Controlled

Light fixtures should be controlled. For larger industrial projects, this can often mean installing motion detectors or timers to control their use. In general, light should be used when needed, dimmed when possible, and turned off when not being used.

    4. Warm-Coloured

Installations with warmer-coloured lights limit the amount of blue light that spills into the natural night environment. Limiting the amount of blue (short-wavelength) light in circulation also reduces the impact on human health.

An outdoor light fixture that has a cut-off design with a shield

What Fixtures Are Dark Sky Friendly?

Contractors are held liable for pollution regardless of the cause, be it hazardous waste or light pollution.

Dark sky best practices can be implemented through the use of full cut-off light fixtures, which ensures that light only illuminates the area where it is needed. That said, normal cut-off fixtures are also viable options for reducing light pollution since they also keep light within a wider—but controlled—area.

That said, if you are replacing or installing lights that don’t have a cut-off or full cut-off design, ensure that the light source can still be shielded to minimize glare and light trespass in compliance with local ordinances.

LED lights and fixtures with lower colour temperatures are also considered good dark sky-lighting sources. They produce a ‘warmer white’ colour, which creates a comfortable look and is pleasing to the eyes.

Remember, warmer light is always better!

Contractors Insurance: A Beacon in the Dark

A simple accident or mistake made when installing lights could lead to a lengthy legal battle, putting your construction business at risk. Dark sky compliance is just one facet of responsible construction. As a contractor, safeguarding your projects against unforeseen environmental liabilities is crucial.

Contractors Insurance is a leading provider of customized insurance solutions in Ontario. We specialize in developing comprehensive insurance packages that target your unique needs so you can focus on doing what you do best. Don’t leave your business exposed—take action today.

Contact us now to learn more and secure your future in construction with confidence.


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