Exterior Lighting and Controls: Problems and Solutions

03/28/2014 | By Christopher Curtland

Whether architectural or security lighting, these systems can provide visual oomph and a safety boost

Making light of exterior lighting and controls is a mistake. This vital aspect of facilities management is essential to providing a secure and inviting building. Due diligence helps you select a proper system that can include architectural and security lighting and a bevy of controls.

“The needs of an office building, a car dealership, and a public monument differ drastically,” says Shanna Olson, senior lighting designer at international engineering consulting firm KJWW. Applications vary based on aesthetics, objectives, maintenance, and energy savings.

Consider your motivation for providing exterior lighting. Do you want to make the parking lot safer for occupants? Do you want your building to pop against a mundane cityscape? Let your goals guide you to the appropriate technologies.

Your building’s exterior is its face. Hit it with a spotlight.

The Influence of Security
There are a couple different reasons for lighting an outdoor area. The first splinters into safety and security.

How Many Footcandles Should Your Parking Lot Provide?

Parking lot lighting differs depending on traffic. Recommended illumination levels are provided by the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES). Follow its suggestions to ensure you’re providing a safe and secure property.

High Traffic
Major athletic events, major cultural or civic centers,
regional shopping centers, and fast food facilities
Medium Traffic
Community shopping centers, recreational events,
offices, airports, residential complexes, and hospitals
Low Traffic
Neighborhood shopping, industrial plants, educational
facilities, and churches
“These two ideas should be addressed individually, because they’re actually quite different,” says Eric Gibson, value stream manager of outdoor area lighting products at manufacturer Lithonia Lighting. “Safety means being safe from walking into a tree or tripping over a curb. The levels of light required for that are actually very low. You can see pretty well in moonlight, for example, and that’s about 0.02 footcandles.”

Security, explains Gibson, is protection from people or threats. Providing a sense of security at your property requires boosting artificial lighting.

“If you’re in a parking lot or garage, you need to know if a guy walking toward you is making a beeline to mug you. You need facial recognition to decide between fight or flight,” Gibson adds. “To pick up visual cues, you need about 3 footcandles.”

For Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) recommendations on what kind of light levels your parking lot should provide, see sidebar below. Guidelines differ depending on traffic and surrounding brightness.

“With any building, there is a minimum requirement related to safety, security, and the movement of people walking onto and off of the property,” explains Bob Ponzini, business development manager at manufacturer Osram Sylvania.

Consider a recent project at Humility of Mary Health Partners (HMHP) in Youngstown, OH. The hospital upgraded the lighting in its emergency room parking lot because the existing system was inadequate and reaching the end of its usable life. For more details about this project, see Case Study #2 on page 45.

“A safe environment is extremely important to our organization,” says Wayne Tennant, vice president of support services at HMHP. “While the initial intent of installation was to reduce energy costs, the more important benefit has been the improved nighttime appearance of the campus with increased light levels.”

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