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Let there be light.

In recent years, more and more commercial building owners and managers are sprucing up their buildings with facade lighting. Typically, their reasons for doing so include ensuring pedestrian safety, deterring burglars and vandals, reducing energy consumption, cutting maintenance costs, and upgrading the building's aesthetic appeal.

But whatever the reasons, building owners/operators are finding that the benefits make the investment well worthwhile. And with recent advances in the outdoor lighting market, they are finding more lighting solutions than ever before.

There are a number of ways in which your building can benefit from facade lighting-be it a new installation or retrofit. Also, there are guidelines for choosing illumination levels, as well as where to go to make the most of your facade lighting investment. Better safe than sorry Muggers, vandals, and burglars are attracted to dark buildings, and avoid those that are well-lit. Dark buildings conceal them and attract them with the message, "nobody's home." If your building is poorly lit, you may be inadvertently endangering passers-by, and attracting vandalism and break-ins.

Insurance companies are well aware of' this. In fact. you may be paying higher premiums because of your dark building. Do not assume your insurance company will necessarily inform you of this.

And if you are not covered, you may run the risk of finding yourself hit with a hefty lawsuit. Across the country, cases have been documented in which commercial building owners were held liable for negligence by an assault or mugging victim. Moreover, recent statistics indicate that the incidence of such lawsuits are on the rise.

By Installing facade lighting, many building managers will avoid these problems. They will quickly recover their initial lighting investment because of lower premiums, fewer vandalism repairs, and little theft.

Protecting fixtures from vandalism Facade lighting for security is only effective if vandals cannot tamper with or damage the fixtures. Keep in mind that higher wattages will allow you to mount the fixture higher on the building, thus putting them out of a vandal's reach. You may also consider installing fixtures onto the edge of the roof, which provides a wider beam spread for better coverage of an area.

As far as product goes, today's diecast units with polycarbonate lenses and housings are vandal-resistant. And their non-steel hardware makes the fixtures harder to dismantle. Wire guards also protect lamps.

Cutting energy costs

To maintain a building's security, lighting should burn dusk-to-dawn. Because of this, building owners may anticipate high energy costs, prompting them to shy away from the idea.

Fortunately, today's fixtures and lamps have become more cost-effective than ever to operate. Manufacturers have responded to the demand for lighting that not only achieves a purpose (such as safety or aesthetics), but costs considerably less to operate than its predecessors did.

For this reason, new facade lighting installations and retrofits are on the rise. Many building owners are replacing their old, inefficient lighting systems with more efficient ones. The newer systems emit higher lumensper-watt, for higher illumination levels with less energy consumption.

For example, assume you have four, 40-watt incandescent lamps in a brass-and-glass lantern, each with a lumen rating of 1392. You could easily replace them with one 35-watt, high-pressure sodium lamp with a lumen rating of 2150.

Additionally, the bulbs on the original system most likely had an average service life of 750 hours. The high-pressure sodium, on the other hand, has a rated life of 24,000 hours. So maintenance costs drop, as well. The average payback of most commercial building facade lighting retrofits probably runs about 18 to 24 months, although some may pay for themselves in less than 12 months.

Going with the largest available wattage for a light source suitable to an application will give you the highest possible level of energy efficiency. A single 1,000-watt metal halide lamp, for example, emits more light but uses less energy than four 250-watt fixtures combined. This gives a 7-percent energy savings with 30 percent more available light.

Another consideration that makes a lighting retrofit more cost effective than ever is the building's existing wiring. Ten years ago, you were more likely to need a complete rewiring job. However, most buildings that would best lend themselves to a facade lighting retrofit are typically about 20 to 25 years old. So in all likelihood, the existing wiring will be compatible with your retrofit.

Another reason to consider a facade lighting retrofit is that many utilities are offering rebates to building owners who conserve energy via such retrofits. Some states have even mandated Title 24-type laws, which require building owners to meet energy-efficiency standards. These states include Massachusetts and California, with New York expected to soon follow suit.

Increasing face value

One obvious benefit to facade lighting is that you get a more attractive building-and therefore, a more valuable building with more valuable rental space. The facade, after all, is the building's face," and one that is lit up will welcome and attract like a smile on a human's face.

Many businesses have reported a noticeable increase in customer traffic following a facade lighting installation. Similarly, others have indicated an increase in rental rates after installing outdoor lighting. As one owner recently remarked, "We couldn't buy a more effective ad for our building-and lighting costs a fraction of media exposure, too'"

Even the fixtures themselves are much more attractive than they were 10 years ago. Today's smooth, compact units are characterized by a straight line between the socket, ballast, and lamp. These newer units are quickly replacing the large, bulky units of old.

Adding aesthetic appeal Facade accent lighting can be used in many creative ways to highlight signage, flagpoles, or special architectural detailing. Older buildings with such detailing lend themselves particularly well to an outdoor lighting upgrade.

White limestone or marble buildings can be made to look quite striking, for instance, with metal halide or quartz lamps that emit a cool, white light. Brick, on the other hand, could be easily enhanced with energy-efficient high-pressure sodium, which gives a slightly reddish color rendition, To celebrate a holiday or other special event, some building owners opt for colored light (green for St. Patrick's Day, for example, or red, white, and blue on the Fourth of july).

Fluorescent lighting, because of its high operating costs, is not usually a viable option for dusk-to-dawn, outdoor lighting. Low-pressure sodium, by far the most efficient light source today, emits light in a very narrow yellow spectrum. This can be a disadvantage in applications where color rendition is important. However, it may be ideal when you are illuminating a building solely to prevent vandalism.

Furthermore, strip lighting may work well with some of the newer glass buildings, where too-bright lighting (incandescent floodlights, for example) would cause too much reflection and glare. Lighting consultants can highlight unusually shaped buildings with the special lensing and louvers available today.

An old train station in Red Wing, Minnesota, recently got an impressive face-lift from a facade lighting retrofit. The commercial building was renovated and converted into a restaurant. The new owners installed lighting to attract and welcome customers, and highlight the building's nostalgic, historic ambiance.

They replaced older par lampholders with Stonco's 150-watt hlgh-pressure sodium SLA mini-floods. They hid the fixtures in the eaves and pointed them almost straight down. As a result, they washed the whole face of the building with light, highlighting the unique building.

Determining illumination level

When choosing facade lighting, determining proper illumination levels is key. Your architect or a lighting consultant can provide you with information on light distribution, photometric patterns, cutoff angles, mounting height ratios, and so forth. Electrical contractors may prove another helpful resource, as they become increasingly sophisticated in this regard.

In addition, many lighting manufacturers, like Stonco, will offer assistance in the form of computer programs, often free of charge. Such programs allow you to try out different combinations on screen so you can compare various lighting options and their effects, including any lighting you currently have in place. They are also helpful in determining installation, projected energy, and maintenance costs.

Another resource is your state and local government or the Illumination Engineering Society (IES), which offer lighting-level guidelines to avoid glare and light trespass. In fact, many communities, particularly those in the Southwest, have guidelines intended to comply with local light pollution ordinances. Fortunately, there are many fixtures available today which have good cut-off angles, thereby preventing trespassing problems.

The IES also offers specific footcandle guidelines based on the lighting's purpose, whether it be safety or accent lighting. These guidelines may vary, depending on the circumstances, such as use of security cameras in the area you need to illuminate.

Exceeding the guidelines

Also, be sure to consider local crime rates in the areas to be illuminated. If they are unusually high, you may want to exceed IES guidelines. Other factors, such as traffic patterns and aesthetics, may warrant exceeding IES guidelines, as well.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recognized an increase in commuter traffic and therefore needed to improve commuter safety and prevent vandalism. To that end, SEPTA retrofitted high-pressure sodium fixtures at several train stations in southeast Pennsylvania. By doing so, SEPTA increased the footcandle level on the buildings and platforms five times over, which far exceeded IES guidelines. Today's multi-functional fixtures At one time, facade lighting could just accomplish one lighting goal. Therefore, building owners often had to settle for a trade-off i.e., the building will look nicer, but cost a lot more to operate). Today's fixtures, in contrast, are multi-functional, so facade lighting is more cost effective than ever.

Manufacturers have responded to the demand for multi-functionality and have tooled up to produce fixtures that answer many needs at once. Now, owners can install lighting that will simultaneously enhance the building's value and rental space, promote safety and security, and cut energy and maintenance costs.

Each year, new fixtures are introduced to the outdoor lighting market which offer building owners more and more lighting solutions. Since they are also more cost effective than ever before, it pays to consider facade lighting to give your building a face-lift.

Phil Henry is a product manager for Stonco Lighting of Union, New Jersey. He has been with the company for 11 years and has held positions in both sales and marketing.
COPYRIGHT 1990 National Association of Realtors
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:facade lighting
Author:Henry, Phil
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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