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I have made several trips to US ARTCC centers and they had very dim lighting. I was told the lighting, carpet and wall colors where all decided on by the (PATCO) union contract with the FAA.

This week I was watching a BBC documentary and the British air route control room (NATS) was brighter than a normal office.

What is the justification between the two lighting preferences.

enter image description here

Dimly lit ARTCC room, even the display and control area use dark trim.

enter image description here

Brightly lit British NATS room, note the bright display and control area.

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  • $\begingroup$ US ARTCC is super bright compared to this. $\endgroup$
    – ymb1
    Jun 8 '18 at 1:43
  • $\begingroup$ The ARTCC I visited most (Anchorage Alaska) had one side about like the picture you have a link to, the other side (or row), was so dark I had to wait about 20 seconds to adjust so I didn't hit something.The darkest side included the Air-force liaison officer (he is the guy that knows what the military was planning to do and knew the difference between the SR71 flight plan and a UFO). As the one answer points out, 5 foot-candles is VERY dark. About as dark as a Cessna cockpit with the red light on at night. Even the halls and employee rest area was as dark if not darker then top picture. $\endgroup$
    – jwzumwalt
    Jun 8 '18 at 1:54
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    $\begingroup$ In your bottom photo the room looks more modern with very diffuse lighting, much like a regular office. The room in the top photo looks like an older room, possibly designed back when they used crt displays. $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Jun 8 '18 at 4:44
  • $\begingroup$ That's the FAA for you. The FAA just requested congress to approve an upgrade to the VOR system to replace their 70yr old "tube" VOR electronics. They had wanted to ditch VOR but as a ICAO nation they are committed to another 30yrs so they are hacking sites to the minimum ICAO standards. faa.gov/air_traffic/flight_info/aeronav/acf/media/Presentations/… $\endgroup$
    – jwzumwalt
    Jun 8 '18 at 5:22
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The FAA set out the ARTCC Facility Design Guidelines in this document. In short they are dark to minimize glare.

295. TRACON OPERATIONS ROOM. Lighting intensities in the TRACON operations room are usually kept at a very low ambient level, less than 5 foot-candles (fc), in order to prevent glare and reflection detracting from the target viewing on the radar displays. The design shall consider incandescent lighting with pinhole covers or framing capabilities in lieu of fluorescent lights. These incandescent lights can be aimed exactly where needed and, unlike fluorescent lights, can be dimmed to low light levels.

Its possible the British have no such requirement (under EASA or ICAO) or that the photo was simply over exposed and the room appears bright.

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    $\begingroup$ Could indeed be the exposure (last photo here is a dark room). It could also depend on the color scheme of the radar display, i.e., a bright room for the TAAATS-like color scheme. The brightness could also be uplifting since it's usually cloudy outside 😎 $\endgroup$
    – ymb1
    Jun 8 '18 at 0:30
  • $\begingroup$ In Britain.. you meant FOGGY right? $\endgroup$
    – jwzumwalt
    Jun 8 '18 at 0:44
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    $\begingroup$ Dave, having spent untold hours in the CIC of a USN (Aegis) cruiser, whose core function was to run the air battle (we called the row of radar operators "tracker alley") ... in very dim light ... your first sentence applies to other radar controller applications than ARTCC. +1 $\endgroup$ Jun 9 '18 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ That document (as you quoted) is for a TRACON, a terminal radar approach control, not an ARTCC. In my limited experience US Centers are rather bright compared to TRACONs. $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Feb 16 '21 at 23:24
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Lower noise and less distractions. People tend to be quieter in a lower lit environment. Better able to focus on what is in front of you when what is around you isn't illuminated. These ergonomics have been lost in newer installations. I worked in the "Dimly lit ARTCC room" above in 2007 and wanted the lights even lower. The newer people wanted the lights higher.

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