Lighting Your Garage: You Are Probably in the Dark

John Van Horn

Lighting in parking facilities is one of the most critical aspects of the project, but it is also one of the most misunderstood. While you are concentrating on collecting the revenue, potential parkers are going elsewhere because they don't want to park in your dark facility.
Studies have consistently shown that drivers will enter a bright, well-lighted garage long before they will park in a darker facility. In fact, many garages double up their lighting at entries and exits to attract business. Don't laugh; it works.
Parking Today is beginning a multi-part series on lighting. Over the next few issues, we will be exploring everything from luminaries to foot-candles, from "light trespass" to glare, from security to safety, from power usage to color. We have contacted experts from the engineering, consulting and manufacturing fields to assist in our introduction to lighting.
We will be discovering luminaries. These are the fixtures in garages. They hold everything from fluorescent tubes to incandescent bulbs, from high-pressure sodium to metal halide. Which bulb should you choose? Coming next month.
In the meantime, remember this: The bulb generates the light, and the color of the light. The color of the light determines the color you see reflected back at you. Generally, high-pressure sodium turns everything a bit orange; metal halide puts off a white light and the colors reflected are true.
We're told that the color of the lighting in the garage will affect the attitudes of the people parking there before they go into the store.
Consider this: A woman is going shopping and has put on certain clothes so she can match jackets or accessories to it. When she steps out of her vehicle in the parking garage, she looks down at herself and sees an entirely different person from what she saw when she started out. Her attitude concerning her purchases changes, and perhaps the amount of money spent in the nearby stores.
The link between color of lighting and security is important too. Witnesses watch a car being robbed. They report the color of the suspect's clothes, hair and the like. However, the colors differ depending on the lighting source.
Luminaries, or fixtures, are important factors in lighting. Their design and location and the lenses in them determine which part of the garage is lighted. For instance, some plans light the floor extremely well, but everything 2 feet above the floor is in shadows. This can be disconcerting to the parker. Other plans light the upper area but not the floor -- a potential safety hazard.
The two basic types of luminaries are high-profile and low-profile. Each has its benefits. You must take into consideration the clearance. If you have a "double T" design, will they be mounted between the T's or on them? How do they affect your clearance? Also, if they are between the T's or cross beams, will the beams detract from the lighting?
OK, you have your lighting plan and turn on the lights. You have a beautiful, well-lighted facility, and folks are wearing sun glasses in your garage. Not a problem, until you receive a letter from a lawyer. Seems the folks in the condos next door can't sleep because your lights are shining through their black-out curtains. Now what?
This problem is known as light trespass. And it's becoming a big deal -- but more about that next month. (There is a solution, but you need to know about it before you install your lighting.)
There are codes and directives that tell you the amount of light that should be in your facility at different levels above the floor. That's easy to check; a light meter will do it. Check PT in the coming months for the numbers. (By the way, they are
Oh, you thought you were finished. Right ...
What about power consumption? There are devices that will lower the power sent to your lights without appreciably lowering the light output. They can save you big bucks, particularly in a garage where the lights burn 24/7. Stop! Certain kinds of lights shouldn't burn 24/7. Metal halide lights, for instance, should be turned off for 15 minutes once a week.
Other systems allow you to turn off lights unless the particular area of the garage is being used and then turn on only those floors necessary (where cars and people are moving). Of course, depending on the light types, it may take five minutes for the lights to come up.
It's all to come -- details on lighting your garage, starting in April in Parking Today. The folks supplying the data literally wrote the book. We won't make you an expert, but we will give you enough information so you can ask the right questions and know whether the answers you get come from the middle of a snowstorm.

Article Abstract from March, 2005

Innovolt Parking Today Subscribe BANNER