Lighting an iconic bridge while minimizing environmental impact

Jan. 16, 2024
More than 5,800 luminaires were used to create a continuous and dynamic ribbon of light along the Samuel De Champlain Bridge.

Challenge: Create a lighting design that would transform a colossal engineering and architectural wonder into an iconic emblem of Montreal while keeping light pollution and glare at bay.

Influence: The Samuel De Champlain Bridge — one of North America’s busiest pieces of infrastructure, with more than 50 million vehicles crossing it each year — is one of the most significant infrastructure projects in North America. The lighting designers from Horton Lees Brogden (HLB) Lighting used illumination to craft a powerful visual identity for the bridge while minimizing its environmental impact.

Solution: Working with the engineering team of T.Y. Lin International and Lumenpulse on the product side, HLB specified more than 5,800 Lumenbeam luminaires to create a continuous and dynamic ribbon of light along the structure’s entire length and even up the inner faces of the cable stay tower.

According to HLB, “These two elements provide Montreal with a bridge that has a night-time presence capable of both subtle and dynamic lighting scenes. With lighting content that celebrates the country of Canada, the Provence of Quebec, as well as the diversity of Montreal, the bridge’s lighting system can provide displays that are meaningful to many aspects of the community.”

Light pollution and glare were key concerns of the project team, according to Kenneth Douglas, a principal at HLB. “We wanted to make sure as much of the light as possible stayed on the structure and didn’t spill into the sky or surroundings, including the eyes of motorists.”

Several extensive light pollution studies were conducted, and HLB worked directly with the manufacturer, both onsite and during mock-ups. “We ended up with the perfect balance of light on the structure, lessening the environmental impact,” said Elizabeth Johnson, senior associate at HLB. “Part of what helped us achieve this balance was using the Lumenpulse Linear Spread Lenses on the inner face of the tower. We wanted to make sure light stayed where it needed to be.”

Limiting disruptions to the seasonal bird migration was another important consideration. Based on studies that showed that blue and green hues prove the least distracting wavelengths to migrating birds, HLB designed special scenes to help protect the creatures.

The luminaires themselves are made of architectural-grade materials and have lifetimes of up to 370,000 hours (L70 at 25 C). To ensure their dependability, these fixtures are IP66-rated and went through vigorous factory acceptance testing before being installed. The structural vibrations facing the bridge are substantial, therefore the luminaires also had to meet the 3G ANSI C136.31 vibration standard for bridge applications.

The project won an IES New York Chapter Award of Merit. 

This article appeared in the March 2022 issue of Architectural SSL magazine.

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About the Author

Architectural SSL staff

In January 2024, Architectural SSL evolved to LightSPEC. While the name changed, the editorial focus -- writing and developing audience-first content about architectural lighting in the built environment for architects, interior designers, lighting designers and manufacturers, and specifiers of commercial and residential lighting and controls -- remains the same.