Light Color Recommendations for Commercial and Industrial Spaces

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Courtesy of Larson Electronics LLC

Commercial, recreational and industrial spaces, such as offices, construction sites and outdoor parking lots, have different lighting needs. In most cases, the activities conducted on the location dictates the type of luminaries used, brightness settings and colors of the lights.

Light color is a salient aspect of lighting systems, due to its passive contributions to productivity and clarity. Such components are measured using a Kelvin color temperature scale, with 1,500K-2,700K ratings resembling warm, yellowish light, 5,000K-6,500K resembling cool, day white light, and 10,000K resembling a blue sky.

Parking Lots

Lighting systems in parking lots are designed to boost security and safety. Previously, businesses did not prioritize fixtures for parking structures. Due to the rise of lawsuits related to poor lighting conditions in parking lots (owners being accused of neglect), many have started to invest in bright fixtures that illuminate all areas of the commercial location. With this in mind, most street parking lot lights incorporate a CRI rating of 50 or higher, in order to ensure proper identification of color. Moreover, the units should incorporate color temperature ratings between 4,000K and 5,700K. At this range, luminaries emit a cool white color, which is ideal for promoting alertness while walking to one’s car and during automobile navigation.

Special considerations should be taken if security cameras and motions sensors are used in the commercial space. Incorporating a lighting uniformity ratio of 5:1 or greater may result in low quality images and recordings. A common trend in parking lot systems includes the use of energy efficient LEDs, in place of traditional high-pressure sodium and metal halide lamps. It is common practice to apply the same level of lighting throughout the location to discourage criminal activities. Entry and exit points, gates and landscaping around the parking lot may incorporate additional luminaries.

Walkways

Walkway lighting systems guide pedestrians along paths, sidewalks, alleys and passages. Such fixtures are only activated at night, along with other bright luminaries that serve as primary illuminators around the location. This could include street lamps, landscape lighting or commercial lighting from nearby buildings. As a result, lights used to illuminate walkways are not extremely bright. They are dim, and are usually pointing down, so pedestrians will not be blinded by the fixtures. Ideally, such units incorporate light color temperatures between 2,700K and 3,000K. By generating warm, yellowish light color, individuals can comfortably glance at the lights with minimal visual strain. Using cool white luminaries could agitate individuals, forcing them to walk faster and possibly increase risks of getting into accidents. It could also make the surrounding environment appear unnatural and washed out.

Offices

Offices require lighting systems that help boost productivity in the space. Unlike parking lots and walkways, offices have varying light color temperature requirements, due to the different types of activities in the building. For example, office lobbies may benefit from luminaries with 3,000K color temperature ratings and CRI rating of 85. This could help promote an exclusive, friendly mood inside the room. In other parts of the office where work is conducted, such as computer work stations, cubicles and conference rooms, lights should incorporate higher color temperature ratings between 4,500K and 5,500K. Such conditions can make the facility feel clean and efficient.

The type of work being conducted in the office may also dictate the light color of the system. Professionals performing meticulous tasks (involving graphics, editing, reading and drafting) may adopt fixtures on the high end of recommended range, i.e., 5,000K-5,500K. While pantries and break rooms could integrate lamps with low color temperature levels. In most cases, offices resort to using dimmers to meet various light intensity and color temperature needs.

Manufacturing and Assembly Work

Manufacturing facilities, where assembly and production-related tasks are conducted, rely on robust lighting systems during operations. Lights should be able to support long periods of meticulous work with minimal visual strain. Hence, fixtures with light color temperature ratings between 4,500K and 6,000K are suitable for such spaces. Works that require special attention to detail, such as the assembly of small parts on the line and quality inspection tasks, may be supported using portable, mounted or handheld lamps for clarity.

Like office spaces, not all areas of a manufacturing facility have the same lighting requirements. For confined spaces in hazardous locations, including silos and storage tanks, operators may incorporate light color temperatures that exceed the recommended range, as high as 7,000K.

Paint Booths

Paint spray booth facilities have very specific lighting prerequisites inside the work space. Employees must be able to see color from various paints accurately, as they are applied to the surface of the object. Because of this, it is best practice to utilize fixtures with color temperature ratings between 5,000K and 6,500K, and CRI ratings of 85 or higher. Foot candle measurements should also be taken into consideration. The general industry standard for professional paint booths is 100-150 foot candles at a height of three feet. Explosion proof luminaries must be installed in the facility, to prevent accidental ignitions of volatile substances. In particular, Class 1 Division 1 rated fixtures meet the requirements of the hazardous work location.

Gymnasiums

Gymnasiums are large multi-purpose facilities that are used for a wide range of events and activities. Such recreational spaces incorporate massive fixtures with light color temperature ratings between 4,200K and 5,700K. The main reason why gyms must use lights in this range is due to the presence of natural sunlight. Most gymnasiums have big windows that allow sunlight to enter the facility. Lights with low color temperature ratings could cause inconsistencies in the location, because natural sunlight comes with light color temperature ratings between 5,000K and 10,000K. The types of fixtures commonly found in gymnasiums include metal halide lamps and LEDs.

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