Balloon lighting reduces glare by distributing brightness of the light source over a larger area than traditional lighting methods.

Bright Ideas: Engineering Professor Tests Safety of Nighttime Roadwork Lighting


Although nighttime roadway construction is commonly perceived to be the best approach to problematic but necessary construction, studies indicate that lighting conditions at such work areas might actually increase safety hazards for both drivers and work personnel. Marwa Hassan, LSU assistant professor of construction management and industrial engineering, is currently testing the safety and efficacy of various construction site lighting options, including a novel new system known as “balloon lighting.”

“Drivers often find considerable difficulty in adjusting to the extreme changes in lighting levels when entering a construction zone from a relatively dark roadway environment,” said Hassan. “Also, statistics show that a higher percentage of nighttime drivers are impaired by drugs, alcohol, fatigue or age-related vision impairments.” 

Although these two factors are certainly cause for concern, nighttime construction is generally preferred over work conducted during daylight hours for a number of reasons, primarily because it:

  • lessens the impact of construction operations on the traveling public
  • typically shortens the duration of construction projects
  • and reduces potential for work zone accidents. 

In recognition of the potential hazards of harsh construction lighting, Louisiana State Department of Transportation, as well as the Federal Highway Administration, have begun looking into a new class of lighting, commonly known as “balloon lights.”

“Balloon lights are composed of balloons inflated with air or helium, with a halogen or metal halide electrical system inside,” said Hassan. “Balloon lights reduce the brightness of the lighting source by distributing the luminous flux over a relatively large area, thus reducing the glare to a great extent.”

Hassan and her research team are attempting to experimentally quantify the illumination of a balloon lighting system, measuring and comparing its efficiency in reducing glare and providing more uniform lighting conditions at the construction site with the glare resulting from a conventional light tower.  The group will also conduct a cost analysis to determine how feasible replacing current lighting systems with balloon lights might be in reality.

For more information about this study, contact Marwa Hassan at 225-578-9189 or marwa@lsu.edu.

Ashley Berthelot | Editor | Office of Communications & University Relations
August 2009