Skip navigation

Justifying a Security Lighting System Installation

Security lighting systems can work with existing security measures to provide a safe environment for a long time if end-users maintain them in accordance with manufacturers' recommendations and re-lamp them on schedule. It's the contractor's duty to provide adequate value to every project.

Develop true contract value and client satisfaction on your next project.

In the lighting business, you'll eventually find yourself in a conference room or on the phone with a client, patiently listening to a series of pre-construction concerns and comments related to your next project. While endeavoring to answer questions and address concerns, you realize that pieces of your contract — and its value — are slowly drifting away. It's a case of justification — a word that the design/build industry rarely states, but has carefully defined in one project after another, from coast to coast — usually under the heading of value engineering.

Security lighting — an assumed mandatory cost measure on any project — isn't immune to value engineering. In fact, it often falls victim to a perception of cost function loss on a project and becomes one of the first systems to be reduced to its bare essentials. Cost function takes into account all costs directly associated with the performance of a given function — in this case a security lighting system. It's the contractor's duty to provide adequate value to every project. To that end, understanding the cost function, relative necessity, and scope of a security lighting system may enable you to mitigate value engineering and justification issues at the outset, and allow you to develop true contract value and client satisfaction.

Knowing a few of the more obvious benefits of a security lighting system will help you sell it to your client. Commercial, industrial, multi-family residences, and retail installations can all enjoy the following advantages of such a system:

  • Beautification opportunities.

  • “Branding” a facility.

  • Delineation of the property, space, or facility.

  • Boost in employee morale.

  • Decreased liabilities.

  • Reduction of insurance premiums where applicable.

  • Increased safety — both real and perceived.

  • Deterrent to theft, vandalism, and physical assault.

  • Positive identification of persons, places, and things.

  • Concurrent effectiveness with existing security plans or devices.

  • Decreased expenses for other means of security.

  • Increased vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

In consideration of each point, the commercial space should be more productive, attract new clientele, and remain leased. The industrial space should become less hazardous, more productive, and less likely to become a target for theft or vandalism. Apartment, condominium, townhouse, and other multi-family residential sites will become the safe dwellings desired by tenants when they sign on the dotted line. The retail space will be more inviting, increase public traffic, and enlarge revenues.

So is there a real need for a security lighting system on your next project? If your client agrees with the aforementioned benefits, the decision to proceed should be easy. Other influences may include the local code enforcement structure, including the plan check and permit process, and may encompass law enforcement guidelines for the type, size, and location of the project. Public safety officers from most large police departments are beginning to spend more time on jobsites reviewing submittals to the city, and later confirming the footcandle results on-site and comparing them to the city-standard requirements.

Once the decision has been made to move forward with a system, luminaire types, locations, and controls must be chosen. Controls include motion sensors, time clocks, photo-sensors, and dimming devices. Professional lighting designers can make these selections based upon the defined needs of the client and the space as discussed earlier. If you're designing a security lighting system without a professional designer, it's important to maintain a firm approach to site integration that address all of the needs of the facility. Personal safety and protection against property loss are only a part of the total picture.

Site integration in the lighting design process recognizes the importance of security, while addressing other issues like aesthetics, visual effect, light pollution, light trespass, lamp type, and illuminance values. Aesthetic components may include the obvious differences between a standard wall-pack luminaire and a decorative fixture, or be as subtle as the choice between a pathway light and a landscape bollard. A luminaire that lends itself to the overall visual effect is often as critical to the appearance of a system as the negative effect of light pollution and trespass are on the community at large.

Locations for a security lighting installation vary widely from one project to another. However the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), broadly outlined the four basic security lighting applications in its most recent Lighting Handbook:

  • Controlled sites have one or more security devices already in place.

  • Public spaces like mall parking lots are heavily trafficked but have few or no access controls.

  • Single-family dwellings may or may not have access controls in place.

  • Multi-family residences comprise several dwelling units with private areas and common areas with few physical defenses.

Within these parameters, a security lighting system should concentrate on the areas frequently traveled, such as public spaces, and common corridors, while addressing the need for lighting in controlled areas and emergency access zones.

The system's ability to service an environment is also based largely upon lamp selection. Although specific data related to the defined characteristics of light sources should be found in manufacturers' publications, IESNA offers a look at some of the variations between common lamp types in RP-33-99, “Lighting for Exterior Environments.” Understanding the differences is a key component to the overall success of the system and proper site integration.

Security lighting systems can work with existing security measures to provide a safe environment long after the facility needs a new coat of paint if end-users maintain them in accordance with manufacturers' recommendations and re-lamp them on schedule. Holding to the matters of cost-function, relative necessity, and project scope will allow you and your client to develop a suitable budget for the system. In the end, justification gives way to validation — something the client, the project, and your contract can benefit from.

Arnold is regional specifications director for Bruck Lighting Systems/Wila, LLC in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Sidebar: Lighting Sources

Contact the following professional organizations for more information on security lighting and other outdoor lighting issues.

  • National Council of Qualifications for the Lighting Professions (NCQLP)

  • Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA)

  • International Dark-Sky Association (IDA)

  • National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA)

  • National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA)

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.