Security Lighting Location and Design Guidelines

Safety and security appear to go together when it comes to lighting. And in many cases, there is some overlap. Even so, for this article, let's use these definitions:<br><ul><li>Safety lighting is used to protect people from potentially unsafe physical conditions. For example, stairwell lighting and lighting for dark work areas.</li></ul> Hubbell Lighting

Steve Maurer, IME

Safety and security appear to go together when it comes to lighting. And in many cases, there is some overlap. Even so, for this article, let's use these definitions:
  • Safety lighting is used to protect people from potentially unsafe physical conditions. For example, stairwell lighting and lighting for dark work areas.
  • Security lighting protects people and assets against physical harm, vandalism, and criminal activity
Most security lighting is outdoors, although some interior spaces such as indoor parking garages utilize it as well.

Outside a commercial building, security lighting covers parking lots, walkways, building perimeters and entryways. The location and design of the fixtures takes into consideration area layout, neighboring facilities, and the purpose of the lighting.

Suggestions for lighting design and placement
It's not possible to cover everything in this article. But, I would like to briefly discuss three things.
  • Color rendering and light levels
  • Light pollution
  • Dark sky initiatives
In areas where security cameras monitor activity, color rendering is more important than light level. With infra-red technology, cameras operate in low light conditions. However, improper color rendering causes many problems.

I believe we're seeing a trend away from HPS (high pressure sodium) lamps. The orange/yellow glow from these lamps make many colors indistinguishable. When clothing and automobile descriptions must be accurate, metal halide and LED lamps render colors more accurately.

While cameras operate in low light levels, people must have adequate lighting. Navigating steps, ramps and other potentially hazardous obstacles require enough illumination to maneuver safely.
Even so, too much light is also an issue. Glare from fixtures creates blind spots. Not only that, but when blinded by the glare, it takes time to recover fully. This can cause safety issues, particularly in parking lots and uneven walkways.

More attention is also being given to light pollution and dark sky initiatives. Light pollution is when the light from your facility spills over into adjacent properties. Two reasons for light pollution complaints are privacy invasion, and damage to aesthetics.

Many cities and townships are implementing "dark sky" initiatives. Simply put, they want to reduce or eliminate the glow in the night sky from artificial lighting. So, considering the codes and regulations, choose fixtures that prevent up-light as much as possible. Lens optics and fixture shielding prevent this.

One final thought. Include decorative fixtures in your security lighting layout. Often, highlighting landscaping and walkways adds physical and psychological clues, guiding pedestrians and motorists. Multi-purpose fixtures can provide both lighting and guidance.


Photo courtesy of Hubbell Lighting