Metal Halide Lighting: Improved Business Appeal and Safety|
Exterior lighting plays one of the largest roles in creating the character and appeal of a business exterior during the evening hours. Well lit landscaping and strategically placed light fixtures enhance featured designs and help create a warm and inviting atmosphere. As well as an attractive and welcoming appearance, lighting also plays an even larger role in extending a feeling of safety and confidence as well as providing a very real measure of security. Although studies have shown that lighting can in fact aggravate crime rates in some instances, this is usually the result of poor planning and poorly chosen lighting. Properly thought out and implemented, good exterior lighting discourages loitering, illicit activities, criminal acts and reduces the anxiety and concern potential customers may feel when visiting a commercial business. Ask yourself if you would be willing to drive another block or two at 1:00 am if the store you were considering entering had a large and poorly lit parking lot and one down the road was brightly lit with few shadows and darkened walkways. The answer is fairly obvious.
Part of the effectiveness of good lighting stems from its ability to provide observers outside the illuminated area’s perimeter enough illumination to easily observe persons and incidents within the illuminated area. The concern for the possibly criminal minded is not so much whether the victim will be able to see them, but rather whether or not their actions have been noticed by outside observers who may report or even interfere with their activities. It is this uncertainty which acts as a deterrent and encourages the criminal to move on to more appealing targets. Good lighting also acts to improve revenue as customers are more likely to frequent a well lit business as opposed to one with few exterior fixtures. A well lit exterior enhances the professional and trustworthy appearance a business projects to potential customers as it signifies forethought and consideration for the customer as well as concern for their well being. A poorly lit business with burnt out lighting and poorly placed fixtures may tell the customer the opposite, that the business puts little thought into its appearance and cares little for the customer.
One of the things a business must do is insure that exterior lighting is adequate enough to cover the areas where customer activity takes place. Parking lots, walkways, sidewalks and entrances should all be well lit and have enough illumination to allow observers outside of the illuminated area to view persons clearly enough to identify distinguishing features and make positive facial identifications. Dark spots, shadows and transitional areas should be kept to a minimum and a consistent light level maintained throughout the entire area as well as possible. A well lit parking area is little comfort if the customer must pass through a darkened walkway before they can reach the relative safety of the building’s entrance.
One of the biggest mistakes made in commercial lighting applications is to attempt to make the light from fixtures extend as far as possible, thus illuminating a larger area with a single fixture and reducing the total number of lights needed. Although on the surface this would appear a sound approach, the reality is that this method often results in a great deal of light being wasted and the creation of excessive glare. In order to get the maximum coverage from a single lamp, operators will often place fixtures so that the light is projected directly outwards from the fixture. While this results in the light reaching farther, it also produces a huge amount of glare that blinds outside observers when they look towards the business. In fact, studies have shown that some criminals actually target areas with excessive lighting and glare precisely because rather than act as a deterrent, this lighting provides cover for their activities. Lighting should instead be directed downwards and at an angle. It should directly cover areas of importance with as little light radiated towards the sky or directly outwards from the area to be illuminated as possible. Ideally, outside observers should be able to easily view the area, yet not be able to directly view the lamps themselves.
One of the finer nuances of effective lighting is the color of the light itself. Although Low Pressure Sodium lamps are extremely popular for commercial lighting applications requiring coverage of large areas due to their longevity and high efficiency, the light they produce is of very poor color quality. Light from these lamps tends to be heavily skewed towards being reddish yellow in appearance and does a very poor job of rendering the details and colors of objects with any effectiveness. Metal Halide lamps on the other hand are extremely effective and produce a much higher quality of light that reveals details and reproduces object colors very accurately. Although somewhat less efficient LPS lamps, Metal Halide lamps are still much more efficient than incandescent lamps and retain a very long service life. For example, a 1000 Watt Metal Halide fixture like Larson Electronics’s MHFL-1000W produces 110,000 light lumens and has a color rendering index of approximately 70 which is considered very fair. A 1000 watt LPS lamp in contrast produces about 135,000 lumens, but has a color rendering index of only-25, which is considered very poor. As you can see, the few extra lumens per watt are hardly enough to make up for the very poor light quality of the LPS lamp. Additionally, the lifespan of the metal halide is approximately 20,000 hours while the LPS lamp’s is 25,000 hours. Again the difference is negligible.
A couple last things to consider would be the quality of the fixtures you choose and taking care to properly maintain them. Lamps for exterior use should be constructed of materials such as aluminum and stainless steel to provide some degree of resistance to damage from the elements. Additionally, they should be waterproof to some degree and contain lenses and covers that can withstand impacts in order to protect the bulbs from damage. Units with fully coated housings and polycarbonate or high impact heat treated glass lenses are usually the best choices. A maintenance schedule should be started and good records kept avoid allowing lamps to burnout completely before being replaced.
Although good lighting is no cure all for the safety problems that commercial businesses deal with on a daily basis, it does hold the potential to make a significant impact on the number of problems faced and how well a business performs.