The Lowline, New York’s Futuristic Underground Park, Tests LED Grow Lights and Solar Skylight for Plants, Shrubs

At a game-changing subterranean New York City park scheduled to open in 2021, LED lighting and remote skylight technology are being tested to achieve the right light intensity, duration, and spectrum necessary to grow a wide range of flowers, plants, fruits, and vegetables – and to do it energy-efficiently.

The new LED technology for the The Lowline park – which will be carved out of an abandoned historic underground trolley terminal on the Lower East Side of the city – will come from Lighting Science of West Warwick, Rhode Island, the company announced on February 23.

The new park could be compared to the “Upside Down” of the Netflix show, Stranger Things. It is the 180-degree opposite of New York’s High Line park, a 1.45-mile-long linear park built on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad on the Upper West Side of the city.

In collaboration with the Lowline LAB – a long-term open laboratory and technical exhibit designed to test and showcase how the Lowline will grow and sustain plants underground – Lighting Science has developed custom LED grow lighting for proposed site, which is roughly the size of a football field.

Tailored to the indoor agriculture and horticultural markets, VividGro’s patented light spectrum has been proven to increase plant yields by up to 30 percent, Lighting Science said. It also has been proven to increase the nutritional density of crops by approximately 10 percent to 12 percent – and to decrease energy consumption by up to 45 percent or more.

Fueled by their shared passion for pushing the boundaries of design and technology, Lighting Science and the Lowline Lab have collaborated during the last year to develop and install 24 adjustable LED lights into the 1,000-square-foot aluminum canopy suspended above the earthy installation at the Lowline Lab.

Each hexagonal LED panel is roughly 2 feet in diameter and features three settings:

  • One that provides soft-white light,
  • Another that mimics daylight, and
  • A third that includes Lighting Science’s patented VividGro LED indoor grow light spectrum technology.

“Lighting Science’s groundbreaking LED indoor grow lighting positions them as a leader in their field and the perfect collaborative partner for the Lowline LAB,” said James Ramsey, inventor of the Lowline and principal of Raad Studio, a New York-based architectural and design firm.

“It’s wonderful getting involved with a group of passionate people to do something new and of great value,” said Light Science CTO Fred Maxik. “Our job, fitting light into novel forms and functions, complements their amazing vision of bringing closed urban environments to vivid life with light.”

Teeming with more than 3,500 plants, the 1,000-square-foot lab installation also uses experimental technology that harnesses the power of natural sunlight through funnel-like solar installations that magnify and direct beams of sunlight to the underground plant life.

“You know you’re onto something when you can grow pineapples and tomatoes during a New York winter underground,” said Ramsey.

The Lowline LAB has sparked conversations about new ways that cities and communities around the world can reclaim abandoned urban spaces. By discovering how to create a sustainable environment for a subterranean ecosystem, the Lowline is developing new solutions for providing city dwellers with four-season public space.

The Lowline was approved by the City of New York last August. In addition to Lighting Science, The Lowline LAB also is working in partnership with international engineering firm Arup and horticulturalists John Mini Distinctive Landscapes.

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