New Lighting Added to New Mexico Tech Campus

by Tiffany Chisum

SOCORRO, N.M., Aug. 1, 2007 – New outdoor lighting on the New Mexico Tech campus offers improved safety and security at night. In addition, the newly installed lights are in full compliance with city, state, and astronomical observatory ordinances and regulations concerning outdoor lighting.

The campus-wide outdoor lighting improvement project has been ongoing for several years now, with the most recent additions being 18 new lights going up in the central area between the university’s Fidel Student Services Center and the Mineral Science and Engineering Complex (MSEC).

The new lights include two new light fixtures on the outside walls of the Speare Building, five concrete pedestal lights between Fidel and Speare, and 11 new pole lights interspersed in the areas among Fidel, Speare, and MSEC.

All of the concrete pedestal lights on the New Mexico Tech campus are new. They were selected for their durability, and were designed and constructed to complement the university’s centrally located Centennial Fountain.

And, to keep light pollution to a minimum, all of the new lights are downward–facing.

There are several other pole lights already in place on campus; and, the newer pole lights are easily distinguished from the older ones. However, none of the previously existing lights is currently scheduled for replacement. There are plans in place, nonetheless, to eventually upgrade some of the older pole lights.

The older pole lights on campus employ mercury vapor lamps; while the newer pole lights use low-pressure sodium lamps. The newest pole lights will use high-pressure sodium lamps.

Mercury vapor lamps offer good color rendition, which is not conducive to nearby astronomical observatory work. They also become more costly to use as they age, due to the fact that as their light levels fade, they still consume as much power as when new. Ultraviolet radiation leakage can also be an issue associated with these lamps.

In contrast, low-pressure sodium lamps are extremely efficient and offer very low amounts of light pollution. These lamps only emit one wavelength of light making them the easiest to filter out for astronomy purposes. However, their color rendition is considered of poor quality.

High-pressure sodium lamps are quite efficient, have better color rendition than low-pressure sodium lamps, but are smaller. These types of lamps also undergo a phenomenon known as “cycling” as they age, where the light glows for a while and then goes out, repeatedly.

The mercury vapor lamps on campus will eventually be upgraded to high-pressure sodium lamps. While there is interest in upgrading the low-pressure sodium lamps to high-pressure sodium, this is not yet decided.

The main reason for installing the new lighting is safety. New Mexico Tech Electrical Supervisor Joey Baca explained, “Many people have voiced concerns about how dark it is on campus at night and early in the mornings.”

The new pole lights will also allow for “panic buttons” to be installed if New Mexico Tech administrators deem it necessary to add this feature in the future.

The new lighting is also relatively inexpensive, Baca said, especially in comparison to some of the more recent changes seen on campus.

“You can’t put a price on safety,” said Baca.

In addition to added security, the installation of new junction boxes for this lighting project will allow for power outlets to be accessible in areas that would have previously required running wires over streets and in other areas.