Lighting has a significant impact on how people feel about the urban or suburban areas in which they live, work or enjoy recreation and entertainment. As a result, the illumination of our roadways, streets and outdoor areas has evolved from a simply functional design approach and now poses the same demands and disciplines as designing a successful interior lighting scheme.
Outdoor lighting differs from interior lighting in that there is no physical structure to contain the light or redistribute it. As a result, the designer has to make many judgments determining the need for light in the first place, the level of illuminance that will be appropriate and how to apply it in regards to the outdoor environment. Otherwise energy will be wasted and light pollution and light trespass may occur. Illuminance levels will differ greatly between parking lots and garages, pedestrian walkways, roadways, residential streets and parks or common areas. Studies of the intended use of an area, the type and schedule of activities taking place, and the finite limits of the area will help control energy use, and unnecessary equipment and maintenance costs.
The functional characteristics of the luminaires (e.g. optical control, maintenance requirements, physical appearance, installation and mounting heights) must be appropriate to the application. Luminaires also play an important architectural role, in that during the day they become an integral part of the urban scene.
Lighting controls can save significant amounts of electricity and avoid light pollution. Programmed shutdown or dimming of luminaires at specific curfews is effective. Motion sensors may be appropriate in areas where late hour activity is limited.
In addition to providing adequate illuminance levels, the lighting must be pleasing and inviting. It should promote a sense of well-being, encourage social interaction and complement urban night life. Color temperature and color rendering characteristics of light sources affect the visual aesthetics and attraction of outdoor spaces. Lamps with CRIs of 80 or above, help people identify and distinguish colors and movement at a distance. It is this quality of light that can help to indirectly deter criminal activity.
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