LED Exterior Lighting

Exterior Lighting

This document covers the lighting of external areas. We have a different document covering the illumination of buildings and features – listed under architectural lighting.

The external lighting we are discussing here is to allow people to move around safely, and undertake any work safely.

Here are a few things to consider:


There usually needs to be some idea of how best to approach a project from the outset. We are not saying that we should jump straight to a solution, but a bit of common sense should be applied when starting.

Some buildings may be suitable for flood lighting with additional lighting for loading bays etc, and can be accommodated with a simple design process. Others may be more complicated and will need lighting designed into the building infrastructure – such as oil rigs and some industrial works.

Some areas may have high stacks of containers (blocking light), but only some of the time.

What Activities Is The Lighting For?

We can usually take safe movement of people as a ‘given’. But will people need to read labels, identify markings on plans, use machinery/equipment? These will all have an impact on the amount and type of light required.

If the labels are colour-coded, or identifying colours is going to be necessary, then certain lights will not be suitable as they don’t allow the human eye to differentiate between different colours. Next time you are in a car park or street lit by those orange street lights, see if you can the difference between different coloured cars – it’s not very easy.

Would general flood lighting suffice, or would local task lighting be better suited? Or a mix of both?

Would any of this lighting cause disability glare to anyone working in the area, or any drivers looking for lighting signals?

Lighting Control

The external lighting may not always need to be on. Control helps us get the lighting only when it is required. External lighting can be expensive to run, as you are lighting a large area. Keeping it switched off when not in use will save you energy and money.

It might be that a small amount of general lighting is still needed for security purposes. If so, then you would want to be able to control the general and security lighting separately.

It is also worth considering that any lights should not ‘blind’ or hinder any CCTV cameras.

Light Pollution

The lighting should only light the site, and should not encroach on any surrounding property. Likewise, you should be conscious of any ‘sky glow’ which may occur.

You might want to consider some aesthetic lighting, or architectural lighting of the building, if there are any features you could highlight.

How Much Light Do We Need?

There are actually two parts to this question. We’ll look at how much light to perform certain tasks in a moment.

The uniformity of the light is the other consideration. This means that you shouldn’t have it really bright in one area and dim in another, where the same work is taking place. Think of it as the difference between one very bright light covering an area, and several smaller lights covering the same area. The glare rating should be calculated for critical ‘lines of sight’.

Here are a few recommended light levels (please contact us for help with any specific requirements you have):

Application Minimum Recommended Illuminance
Electrical work, painting – detailed work. 200
Carpentry, brick laying – normal work. 100
Handling timber – rough work.
Safe movement in high risk areas.
Excavation & site clearance – very rough work.
Road lighting at container yards – normal traffic.
Safe movement in medium risk areas.
Open storage areas – safe movement of slow vehicles such as forklift trucks. 10
Safe pedestrian movement in low risk areas. 5

Loading bays should be lit to 150 lux, and there should be no glare to the driver when reversing. Also remember that when the vehicle is in, or just approaching the bay, there could be considerable shadows from the vehicle itself.


We hope that you have found the above information helpful, and you have a better understanding of some of the issues involved in exterior lighting.

How Lighting Projects Can Help You

We can incorporate all of the above, and more, it into a design, supply and installation project. Some clients just need just the design service, or design and supply. Try us.