How to Create an Outdoor Commercial Lighting Layout Plan

How to Create an Outdoor Commercial Lighting Layout Plan

Commercial exterior lighting plays a pivotal role in the functionality and aesthetics of business locations. It illuminates exterior spaces to provide safety and navigation at night. It also enhances the visual appeal of the property.

Before you can successfully install lighting for a commercial lighting project, you’ll need a thorough plan and layout design. You’ll need to consider the purpose of lighting, the space it needs to cover, and how it integrates with the existing landscape and architectural elements. Having a well-planned layout will ensure that your lighting is both effective and efficient.

Understand the Space

Before designing any lighting solution, you’ll need to understand the requirements of the space and assess the site's existing conditions.

To begin, you must evaluate the purpose and function of the commercial space that you are illuminating. From there, you can determine the lighting requirements based on the usage of the space (e.g., car dealership, sports stadium, parking lot, retail facility, courtyard, etc.). For example, the lighting requirements for a car dealership will be different from a courtyard. A dealership will require cool, consistent lighting to properly display the products on its lot while a courtyard will require warmer lighting to create a relaxed and inviting atmosphere.

You must also consider architectural features, obstacles, and limitations that may alter your plans such as:

  • Budget constraints and cost-effectiveness
  • Local lighting codes and regulations
  • Integration with existing systems like building automation
  • Project deadlines and timelines

Identify Lighting Goals and Objectives

  • Define the desired ambiance, mood, and functionality of the space. For example, parking lots will require brighter lighting for better visibility and security.
  • Address specific lighting needs, such as general, pathways, landscape, or accent lighting. For example, pathways and landscapes will require more focused lighting than parking lots, which will require general lighting for a larger space.
  • Consider energy efficiency and sustainability goals. Energy-efficient outdoor lighting systems will save money on electric bills and maintenance costs.

Lighting Design Principles

Layered Lighting

It’s important to understand the importance of layered lighting. This entails combining different types of lighting in the same space (zone). Each zone can be classified by its specific lighting requirements based on its usage and functionality.

For example, on a school campus, parking lots will have different lighting requirements than areas that have pedestrian traffic. Layered lighting within different zones allows you to satisfy the unique requirements of each environment. It also provides flexibility for future changes. Common types of lighting layers include:

  • General area lighting - Area lights are specialized fixtures designed for large outdoor spaces, providing a wider spread of light compared to landscape lighting, for example. This is ideal for areas like parking lots, playgrounds, or parks where a uniform distribution of light is desired.
  • Accent lighting – Accent lighting focuses on specific design features, architectural details, entranceways, or signage. The strategic use of accent lighting, in conjunction with general wash lighting, creates a sense of hierarchy and draws attention to the key points. Fixtures with adjustable heads or beams offer precision in highlighting crucial areas. This type of lighting has become a powerful tool for enhancing the overall architectural appeal.
  • Landscape lighting – Landscape lighting is used to highlight gardens, trees, and other natural features of the area, much like accent lighting is used to highlight architectural features of buildings.
  • Pathway lighting – Pathway lighting illuminates traffic areas and ensures safe navigation along walkways and driveways.

By understanding the unique requirements of various commercial and industrial environments, you can effectively layer and zone lighting to create efficient, functional, and adaptable spaces. Once this is understood, it will be easier to make adjustments to your lighting design as needed.

Another important thing to understand is the concepts of light distribution and color temperature.

Light distribution

Light distribution is generally described as narrow, wide, or someplace between.

  • Spot lights exhibit a narrow beam, usually 25°or less. The light reaches farther than a wide beam and is more focused.
  • Flood lights exhibit a wide beam, usually 45°-120°. The light illuminates a larger area but does not reach as far.

This picture demonstrates different degrees of light distribution:

Degrees of Light Distribution

Another way the light distribution for luminaires is classified is by NEMA pattern type. There are six types and each of them is appropriate for specific applications.

NEMA Light Pattern Types

  • Type I has a narrow, symmetric pattern. Its applications include sidewalks and pathways.
  • Type II has a slightly wider pattern than Type I. Its applications include narrow roadways and wide walkways.
  • Type III has a wide light pattern. Its applications include standard roadways and parking areas.
  • Type IV has the widest light pattern. Its applications include wide roadways and the sides of walls or buildings.
  • Type V has a circular pattern. Its applications include center parkway islands, intersections, and large parking areas.
  • Type VS has a square pattern. Its applications include center parkway islands, intersections, and large parking areas.

Color Temperature

Color Temperature (CCT)measures a lamp’s color appearance when lit. For white light, there are three general categories of appearance: warm, neutral, and cool. CCT is measured in Kelvin (K). Warm light (yellow in appearance) tends to be below 3000K, neutral light is usually 3000K to 3500K, and cool light (blue in appearance) is 4000K and beyond.