Yellowstone Design Problem? Addressing Light Pollution

Even on vacation, I was reminded of IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl Durst’s words, “Design. Is. Everywhere.”   Even in Yellowstone National Park, park rangers, architects and interior designers were addressing a design problem that involved updating and addressing the park’s light system to further attenuate light pollution.  Not only did these rangers, architects and designers have to address the needs of Yellowstone visitors, but more importantly, the needs of the bison, bear, antelope, beaver, and all the wildlife in the park to which light plays a crucial role in their survival.

Bortle Light Pollution Scale

Bortle Light Pollution Scale

According to the Park Ranger, Yellowstone has been evaluated between a 2-3 on the Bortle Light Pollution Scale, with their desire to score a solid 1 like their national park sister, Canyonlands Park in Utah.  They are starting by replacing lights that emit an orb of light (see graphic below), and updating them with lights that direct the light downward and restrict it to shine within a smaller area.


Some of the challenges they face are updating outdoor lights that have been around since the park began building facilities (designed in the parkitecture motif), and holding true to this historical design.

As the ranger noted, these efforts to reduce light pollution will only further solidify Yellowstone as a haven for wildlife.  Light tells these animals when to sleep, hunt, allows them to attract mates (lightning bugs) and draws them to the ocean (baby sea turtles know where the ocean is thanks to the bright light of the moon).  So while I went on vacation to escape work, I was left, once again, astounded at how far reaching design is and how design impacts not only humans, but animals too!

Have you ever addressed an interesting design problem?  Have you ever had a design collaboration that took you by surprise (possibly working with a park ranger)?  Or do you address light pollution in any of your designs?

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