Recommended lighting levels

Written by danielle hill
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Recommended lighting levels
Warehouses don't have the same recommended light levels as a domestic interior. (jkitan/iStockphoto/Getty Images)

As any photographer, stage designer or interior decorator can attest, lighting has an impact on aesthetics, practicality and safety. Many applications and specific locations have recommended lighting levels, as specified or recommended by building codes, safety administrations, professional organisations or conservation groups. Depending on your purposes, consult with the appropriate advisory group before installing a new lighting system.

Egress Lighting

A common situation where lighting levels affect safety is along emergency exit pathways, termed "egress routes" in many building codes. Depending on the code that applies in your area, egress lighting must reach certain minimums. The National Fire Protection Association's Life Safety Code requires egress routes be lit to at least 1 footcandle measured at the floor. Further, any emergency lighting apparatus powered by an alternate source must provide equal illumination for up to 1 1/2 hours after normal lighting fails. The emergency lighting must average 1 footcandle, though it may be variable, and may drop to as low as .1 footcandle at a specific point. According to the Uniform Building Code, by contrast, illumination must be at least 1 footcandle at any point along the floor.

Exterior Lighting

Other circumstances impose recommended or even required maximum light levels. Some city ordinances place maximum limits on the lighting level of outdoor luminaries to reduce light pollution or unwanted glare. In Borrego Springs, Calif., for example, a nearby observatory has impelled city officials to impose maximums. As a result, throughout San Diego County, all lamps must be shielded to avoid skyward light pollution. In addition, lamps emitting 4050 lumens or greater are prohibited. To reduced light pollution, the International Dark Sky Assocation generally recommends lamp wattage no greater than 250 watts, and corresponding light intensity of 1600 lumens.

Workplace Lighting Levels

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) prescribes ideal lighting levels for a range of workplaces, based on the activity most commonly undertaken. In construction areas, warehouses, hallways, tunnels, shafts and exits, OSHA advises a lighting level of 5 footcandles. In access ways, loading platforms, refuelling areas, waste areas and some other construction-related locations, OSHA recommends at least 3 footcandles. In construction plants, mess halls, toilets and workshops, 10 footcandles is the recommended minimum. In offices, infirmaries and first aid stations, OSHA recommends an illumination of at least 30 footcandles.

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