Select your location

Lighting for parking lots: 3 things to consider

When pulling into a parking lot after dark, most people don't pay much attention to the quality of light unless it's bad. A well-lit space helps drivers and pedestrians feel safe and makes it easier for them to navigate. On the other hand, a poorly lit space increases not only the likelihood of accidents, but also crime.

Builders and lighting engineers know that proper illumination of public spaces is essential. Parking lots deserve special consideration, and the following three areas should be researched thoroughly during the planning and implementation process.

Structure considerations

The first consideration is the design of the light poles or lampposts. When researching options, it's important to look for more than just durable materials. The light itself provides numerous strategic advantages. Designed to support single or multiple luminaries, LED lights are typically the best option for parking lot usage.

Dated HID lamps that line many streets and parking lots in America are getting phased out and replaced by modern LED options. HIDs are not energy efficient. They also produce bright and dark spots that reduce visibility and can, in turn, increase crime. LEDs are incredibly efficient and long lasting, and they produce a light output that can be precisely controlled. This means less light is wasted, visibility is heightened, and outdoor spaces are illuminated more evenly after dark.

Light use and design

Space usage is another important factor to consider when selecting the correct parking lot lighting solution. Whether in a new lot or in a retrofit situation, the lamps must provide uniform, glare-free light where it's most important. That doesn't mean lighting the space as brightly as possible, though. Misapplication of artificial light causes light pollution — a growing problem across the globe.

Light pollution affects nature in many ways, from the natural migration of animals to birds miscalculating safe flight paths. It also affects humans. In addition to being unsightly, light pollution changes natural circadian rhythms. Consider the most common sources of light pollution to ensure designs are functional and elegant:

  • Visual clutter: Light groupings that create bright, confusing and excessive lighting
  • Glare: Extreme brightness that leads to visual discomfort or disability
  • Light trespass: Light that passes to where it is not wanted or needed
  • Skyglow: Brightening of the night sky over spaces in cities or towns

Installation concern

Once you've determined the right lights for the space, it's time to prepare for installation. Most parking lot lights will be installed into a concrete foundation with steel reinforcing bars to support the pole under wind loads. Always work with a qualified engineer who understands the loading conditions (OTM, weights, torsion and shear leads). Placement should be aesthetically pleasing and set back from the curb to avoid bumper damage.

Before pouring the concrete, make sure the anchor bolt circle template conforms to the bolt circle of the pole base. Keep in mind anchor bolt projection (BP) — the height the anchor bolt protrudes above the concrete surface — to eliminate unwanted bending and stress.

This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. Explore an expert light pole installation guidefor more important parking lot considerations.