Understanding Lighting Codes & Standards

Understanding Lighting Codes & Standards

Lighting codes and standards play a critical role in ensuring safety, efficiency, and quality in commercial lighting.

State and local governments write into law building codes that are regulations for buildings and other structures. The main objective of these codes and standards is to protect the safety, health, and general welfare of the public as it relates to the occupancy and construction of buildings and structures.

Energy-related codes require that lighting engineers design lighting systems that use daylighting controls, meet set power allowances, control light pollution & glare, control spaces through occupancy, and specify and complete functional testing in their lighting designs.

The focus of each code or standard can be on such things as:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Environmental impact
  • Safety

These codes and standards also apply to light poles. Some local codes dictate the minimum and maximum height requirements for light pole installations.

Understanding Lighting Codes and Standards

What’s the difference between a code and a standard?

Lighting Codes are mandatory regulations. Lighting Standards are recommended practices that may or may not become mandatory.

It’s important to understand that codes are written at the state (and sometimes local) level. The United States does not have a national code. The U.S. Department of Energy provides baseline recommendations, however.

Codes are updated regularly to stay current with new technical developments and field experience with lighting systems.

These codes relate to many aspects of building construction and maintenance. These include occupancy safety, structural safety, electrical, plumbing, and energy use.

A structure’s lighting system has codes and standards that not only relate to public safety but also its energy consumption.

Lighting standards are based on recommendations from subject matter experts that are listed by the American National Standards Association (ANSI).

Key Lighting Codes and Standards

American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)

The ASHRAE/IES 90.1, Energy Standard for Buildings was created as a standard energy code that jurisdictions can implement partially or entirely. It is updated every three years. The most recent version is ASHRAE/IES 90.1-2022.

The United States Department of Energy decreed ASHRAE/IES 90.1 as the national energy reference standard. It requires all states to adopt a code at least as strict.

More information about ASHRAE/IES 90.1 can be found here: Standard90.1 (ashrae.org)

International Energy Conservation Code (IECC)

The IECC is a standard residential and commercial building energy code. It is written and revised by the International Codes Council (ICC). Like the ASHRAE/IES 90.1, it is revised every three years. The most recent version is ICC IECC 2021.

The IECC mentions ASHRAE lighting standards as an alternate model. This offers an added choice for building designers.

More information about the IECC can be found here: ICC - International Code Council - ICC(iccsafe.org)

The Importance of Compliance

Lighting installations in new and existing buildings are subject to periodic building inspections by state and local government agencies to ensure local codes & standards are being met. For new construction, these inspections can come at different stages of completion.

The benefits of complying with lighting codes & standards are energy savings, improved safety, legal adherence, etc.

The owner or contractor of a building project is liable for the proper implementation of the codes. There are potential legal and financial consequences of non-compliance. These include fines, building closures, and jail time.

Lighting Codes and Standards in Different Regions

Lighting codes and standards will vary in different regions. This includes the state, county, and municipal levels. Localized compliance is required by law.

These codes and standards can also vary for commercial buildings and residential buildings. The same can be said for new and existing buildings.

Most states have embraced codes based on IECC standards, while others base it on the ASHRAE/IES 90.1 energy standard. Others have developed their own code or have no statewide code at all.

California is an example of a state with its own specific energy code. It’s called Title 24, and it is considered the strictest energy code in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Energy officially recognizes the ASHRAE/IES 90.1, and it periodically updates which version is recognized.

It can be challenging for businesses operating in multiple regions with varying codes and standards. It’s always best to stay up to date with them.

Navigating Lighting Standards for Specific Applications

Lighting standards can usually be broken down by their location and application. There will be a difference between residential and commercial lighting standards. One consideration is whether the lighting is used indoors or outdoors. Another consideration is its application and what light levels are required for it.

In most cases, the use of a lighting control system is required. These systems control such things as lighting levels and automatic power on/off.

Examples of indoor lighting controls would include occupancy sensors, dimmers, and timers. Some examples:

  • Automatic Shut-off and Lighting Reduction for Interior Lights (using occupancy sensors, dimmers, and/or timer controls)
  • Automatic Daylight-Responsive Controls (using dimmer controls for areas that have windows and/or skylights)

Examples of outdoor lighting controls would include photosensors, motion sensors, and timers. An example:

  • Automatic Shut-off for Exterior Lights (using photocells or automatic timers - sometimes in conjunction with motion sensors)

Specific codes and standards will apply to different commercial applications, such as retail spaces, factories, warehouses, offices, or various outdoor areas. For example, different light levels will apply to adequate lighting for work areas, emergency lighting, stores, offices, and lobbies.

LightMart's Dedication to Excellence in Lighting Standards

It’s important to understand the given requirements of lighting codes and standards in the state or local area where your lighting project will be implemented. This will need to be done during the planning stage so that you can avoid adding unnecessary time and expense to the project.

It’s also important to understand that these codes and standards are always being revised and updated. Always make sure that you are up to date with the latest developments and can provide the required testing and documentation information as needed.

LightMart is dedicated to upholding these standards in our range of products. We are committed to providing lighting solutions that not only comply with these codes and standards but often exceed them, ensuring safety, efficiency, and aesthetic appeal. Contact us today!

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