Don’t Neglect Parking Structures

July 3, 2013

It’s easy to forget about the lighting in parking areas, but it may be worth your time to take a look at it. Depending on the size of the garage, there could be sizable savings inside.

Start by applying the steps of your lighting audit to your parking garage. The simple formula you use to determine payback in your building (comparing the operating cost and wattage of current and proposed lighting) works just as well in a parking structure. Then consider these three factors:

1) Parking-Specific Needs
Are you concentrating on energy savings, or are there other needs at play? Ramps and entrance areas may have different fixture types than basic parking areas because the IES recommends higher lighting levels there, according to the DOE’s fact sheet for its Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (EECBG).

“We’ve found that a lot of end users determine that they want higher than the minimum levels of lighting in their parking garages for two reasons: to provide a secure feeling because not many people want to enter a parking garage that looks very dark and has shadows, and having higher illumination can actually attract potential customers to your parking decks,” adds Greg Dixon, product portfolio manager for lighting manufacturer and developer Cree. “If it’s inviting, it can benefit nearby businesses.”

2) Likely Challenges
No matter what lighting technology you choose, meeting the required light levels can be a challenge. This is especially problematic when your chosen lamps begin to reach the end of their lifespan.

“If you have five fixtures with the lamps burned out, that could pose a problem because now you’re not meeting the required footcandle levels,” Dixon says. “A key point that’s often missed is the time and labor to continuously visually inspect and relamp. Many times, energy savings costs are what’s thought of, not the labor and time that goes into servicing the products.”

3) Safety and Security
For safety reasons, lighting uniformity is paramount in a parking garage, the DOE notes. That’s why it’s vital that you look at distribution patterns and correct spacing in layouts – and why one-to-one fixture upgrades are difficult.

“Consider surface colors, as lighter colors on ceilings and vertical surfaces will increase reflection, improving lighting levels and uniformity,” the DOE fact sheet recommends.

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