When most of us think about LED billboards, we imagine ourselves in a bustling urban space like Times Square, looking up at flashing advertisements. But the same technology, also known as electronic messaging centers (EMCs), has recently begun to dominate the outdoor advertising industry. These signs and billboards are appearing along suburban and rural roadsides and on urban buildings around the world.
Electronic billboards can be up to ten times brighter at night than traditionally lit billboards and can be harmful to the nighttime environment. LED lights from EMCs cannot be shielded, so the light emitted is flooded into the night sky, which wastes energy and contributes to light pollution. Light from EMCs can cause glare and be a dangerous distraction to drivers. In some cases, EMC lighting can be visible from long distances and may affect breeding, foraging and orientation behaviors in nocturnal wildlife.
However, when installed and operated in accordance with IDA’s Guidance for Electronic Messaging Centers, EMCs replacing traditional bulb-lit billboards can actually create a net reduction in sky brightness.
About the Guidelines
The IDA Technical Committee developed EMC Guidelines to provide planners, lighting designers, architects, biologists, government officials, and the general public with solutions for EMCs, both on and off premises, that minimize harm to the natural night and even reduce sky brightness when replacing poorly designed lit signs and billboards.
- Recommend best practices for the amount of light emitted by electronic billboards and signs for urban, suburban, and rural areas
- Recommend curfews for when signs and billboards should be turned off
- Identify best management practices to decrease or eliminate negative impacts on the environment, reduce visual clutter, and improve safety for drivers and pedestrians.
If you have questions about these guidelines, please contact us.