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Responsible Outdoor Lighting at Night (ROLAN) manifesto for lighting

A pair of guesthouses illuminated with shielded, dimmable 2700K LED lights in Texas, U.S. The light fixtures provide enough illumination to see safely, but their proper shielding prevents light from being wasted or producing glare. Even with the lights on, the Milky Way is clearly visible above in this single 30-second exposure. Photo courtesy of Stephen Hummel.

By following the ROLAN manifesto, governments, businesses, and individuals can support the implementation of the United Nations sustainable development goals.

DarkSky is joining leading partners in the global lighting community to endorse a lighting manifesto that incorporates the joint DarkSky-IES five principles for responsible outdoor lighting.

The Responsible Outdoor Lighting At Night (ROLAN) Manifesto (PDF) sets out ten core principles for external illumination and a plan of action to implement positive change in the lighting community to lead to a more sustainable, healthier, and safer future for all.

  1. Everyone should have the right to access darkness and quality lighting, and light needs to be used and distributed fairly without discrimination.
  2. Start your design with darkness and only add light if it supports nocturnal placemaking and protects a view of the stars.
  3. In all projects, strive to maximize the benefits of outdoor light at night by creating legible, safe spaces and journeys, simultaneously limiting each project’s environmental and financial costs.
  4. Apply the Five Principles of Responsible Outdoor Lighting in all lighting projects:
    • All light should have a clear purpose. 
    • Light should be directed only to where it’s needed. 
    • Light should be no brighter than necessary. 
    • Light should be dimmed down or turned off when not required.
    • Use warmer color lights where possible.
  5. Collaborate with researchers from different disciplines and specialties, such as astronomers, ecologists, biologists, lawyers, etc., so they can provide expertise on unfamiliar topics.
  6. Educate your clients about the importance of ROLAN.
  7. Ensure the community you work with is an active stakeholder and participant in all lighting projects. Enquire about their needs and wishes at night, and provide them with access to information to make informed decisions.
  8. Embrace technology by asking for support from the lighting industry to ensure that night-time biodiversity is sustained and energy consumption is reduced. Engage with the lighting design industry to deliver an appropriate lighting solution.
  9. A circular economy should be integrated into the brief, design, specification, and manufacturing process of your project, as well as its installation.
  10. After project completion, visit the site at night with community stakeholders, to verify that your lighting design was fully implemented and meets ROLAN principles.

Because the UN Sustainable Development Goals (above) do not explicitly refer to external illumination and its multiple impacts, the Founding Partners of the ROLAN movement, are keen to address this in support of the SDG Goals. By following the principles outlined in the ROLAN manifesto, governments, businesses, and individuals support the implementation of the following SDG.

The manifesto was published in arc | lighting in architecture on 12 September 2022 (issue 131, page 102).

About the authors

The principal authors of the ROLAN Manifesto are Dr. Karolina M. Zielinska-Dabkowska — the ILLUME research group/the Gdansk University of Technology, and Ruskin Hartley – the International Dark‐Sky Association, with contributions and support from further Founding Partners: the Society of Light and Lighting (SLL), the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), the Institution of Lighting Professionals (ILP) and the Lighting Industry Association (LIA).