lighting design

Lighting design that illuminates condo security

Bring buildings out of the shadows to make multi-res properties safer
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
By Latif Jamani and Bryant Tse

Lighting design can make a big difference in the safety and security of a condominium. Traditionally, designing lighting specifically for security was more of an afterthought, as it was perceived as an added cost. The minimum Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) standards have always been the benchmark for many condominium developers, and properties located in urban areas tend to rely on city lighting to provide a good amount of the area lighting around buildings.

City lighting tends to focus on illuminating sidewalks and roadways, not on adding safety or security to the properties around it. City lighting requirements are also very low in areas such as alleys behind condo buildings (which may be accessed by residents if they need to get into the parking structure in their building). Because of this, much of the onus on adding lighting for security has been on condominium developers and managers.

More thought needs to be put into designing lighting for the security of condo buildings, and there are a number of factors that should influence decisions made in the design phase.

First, consider the location of the building. For example, people sometimes live, work, and play in the same downtown areas, so they may be coming and going from urban condominiums at all times. Extra foot traffic is to be expected in these areas, which can present security risks. It may be hard to tell who “belongs” in the building and who does not belong there. There may be more of a temptation for people to try to get into the building, especially in areas like side doors or parking garages.

Lighting is the most immediate deterrent for sinister activity around condo buildings — more than security cameras. However, simply adding floodlights can cause light pollution and might even make the building look less appealing. If too much light shines into residents’ units, it may disrupt their sleep and home life. The idea in designing security lighting is to provide a halo for the condo building.

Security lighting should be elegant, highlighting architectural features of the building or giving it an interesting visual aesthetic at night. It should also illuminate the area enough for security cameras to clearly view and record activity in higher detail.

Low light levels can lead to less security: if there is not enough light by a doorway, for example, security personnel may not realize that there is someone there trying to get in. From a distance, they might not be visible at all.

If light levels are stronger and fixtures are organized and intentionally spaced out, that person might not want to try to get into the building by that door because there is too much light for them. Another person from a distance may see them hanging around the doorway too long and realize that they are not supposed to be there, and that they may be trying to break into the building. A person who belongs in that building most likely has a key and can get into the building quickly.

The longer it takes someone to get into the building, the more likely it is that they are not supposed to be there, especially in the middle of the night. This gives security, and even residents or witnesses, time to make the distinction. Having good lighting at a doorway in particular could make would-be thieves conscious of how exposed and visible they are to the environment and deter them from trying to gain access into the building.

LEDs are great options for updating the security lighting of a condominium. They come with five or 10-year warranties at a one-time upfront cost, which cuts back on maintenance costs; more fixtures can be installed without increasing the overall power consumption of the building; and adding automated light fixtures with timers, or fixtures that come with sensors, makes for efficient lighting. Plus, the white colour light offers an aesthetically pleasing finish and there are easy-to-install LED fixtures that can add to the exterior design of the building.

Indeed, security lighting does not have to solely be for security purposes — it can be used to enhance the architectural features and design elements of the space. It can improve curb appeal and the finish of the building, making it look cleaner, fresher, and newer, which may give residents increased pride of ownership. Ancillary benefits can be gained from adding affordable but well-positioned lighting.

Whether developing a new building or updating an older building, it’s important to spend time with architects and building engineers discussing security lighting during the design stage. Consider, too, how residents will feel about certain lighting designs. It’s possible to achieve multiple goals by installing well-designed, well-thought-out lighting in a condominium.

Latif Jamani is the president of Calgary Lighting Products. He can be reached at 403-258-2988 or [email protected]

Bryant Tse is the president of Lumenix. He can be reached at 1-855-586-3649 or [email protected]

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