Bigger and Brighter Not Always Better With Security Lighting

When it comes to outdoor security lighting, it’s easy to understand why 
some might think broader and brighter is always better. However, we’re 
learning that such approaches can disturb wildlife in the surrounding 
environment and even, potentially, harm human health. That’s why 
building codes and professional lighting organizations now are calling 
for designers and contractors to pay closer attention to performance 
details of the exterior fixtures they specify and install. Acuity Brands Lighting

Chuck Ross

When it comes to outdoor security lighting, it’s easy to understand why some might think broader and brighter is always better. However, we’re learning that such approaches can disturb wildlife in the surrounding environment and even, potentially, harm human health. That’s why building codes and professional lighting organizations now are calling for designers and contractors to pay closer attention to performance details of the exterior fixtures they specify and install.

The International Dark-Sky Association is one group that has long advocated for a less-is-more approach to outdoor lighting by introducing the concept of light pollution to both building professionals and the general public. Thanks to their work, in part, energy standards and building codes, along with performance rating programs like the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), have promoted the idea of light cut-off in exterior fixture design.

These codes and local ordinances encourage (or require) that outdoor luminaires restrict illumination to a specified zone, either in front of or around the fixture, and not allow light to spill out beyond that zone. This approach minimizes the impact of nighttime lighting on area wildlife – and makes it easier for all of us to enjoy the beauty of a starry night – and also improves the energy efficiency of an exterior lighting design.

Newer LED lighting systems also have raised concerns regarding the color of the light exterior fixtures produce. These fixtures use a fraction of the electricity of traditional high-intensity discharge street and area lights. Many of the first wave of these fixtures produced cool, blue-toned illumination in the color-temperature range of 5000 degrees Kelvin, which can disrupt human and animal sleep patterns, since it’s close to the color temperature of natural daylight. Newer lighting standards are recommending the use of warmer-temperature light sources, at a maximum of 4000 degrees Kelvin (or lower) to protect against such potential health impacts.


Photo courtesy of Acuity Brands Lighting

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