New lighting in the 160 parks in Chicago, Ill., is providing better illumination and more security for park visitors but is using less energy than the old lighting. Even at Grant Park, the waterfront host of Chicago's numerous summertime music festivals, where light levels doubled, energy costs went down.

The energy reduction was made possible by several design changes including reducing the height of the 390 light poles from 19 ft to 14 ft, thereby bringing the light closer to the ground. A change to the fixtures to incorporate an internal light-reflector system with an acorn-shaped, decorative lens increased luminaire efficiency. Also, energy-consuming 400W mercury-vapor lamps were replaced with 150W, high-pressure, sodium Lumalux lamps from Osram Sylvania, Danvers, Mass.

Donald Bushen, Chicago branch manager for Sylvania Lighting Services and overseer of the $15 million Chicago Park District (CPD) project, says the outdoor lighting in the parks was standardized to 15 different lamps, most of which were 1,000W metal halide and 150W and 400W high-pressure sodium lamps. Metal-halide fixtures were used mainly in high-lumen areas such as sports fields, and a fixture that provides optimum horizontal footcandles was selected for walkway lighting.

A high-tech addition to the park lighting systems is remote, local or central access to controls by police and park officials. Each park will have a lighting controller with programmable panels that allow zone control, 24-hour time scheduling and authorized access. Each park supervisor has access to his or her control panel. If police notice suspicious activity, a 911 dispatcher can access the security code and activate the lights for a particular location within 20 seconds.

Aside from security, the control system allows the CPD to offer additional services and extend park operating hours because of better control over park facilities and more flexibility in setting schedules. Now Chicagoans can feel more secure and more fully enjoy their parks late into the night, during such events as the Grant Park Blues Fest or the 10-day-long Taste of Chicago food festival.