The basic goals of outdoor lighting designs for businesses and institutions are much the same as those of homeowners but are often prioritized differently. Private homeowners do have to comply with codes and ordinances that are intended to limit the intrusion of one resident’s outdoor lighting on neighbors’ quiet enjoyment of their properties. Within those limits, homeowners have the near-total freedom to express their individual tastes. Businesses and institutions, on the other hand, are subject to additional requirements for insurance, risk management, safety, security, cost control, finance, and commercial competition. Outdoor lighting designs for these customers have to support these complex and often conflicting priorities.
Commercial insurance carriers have advice for their customers which takes a more-is-better approach. From the standpoint of deterring intrusion the more light, the better. For some types of properties, like the phone company’s windowless concrete central office switching facilities, this kind of pedal-to-the-medal outdoor lighting isn’t moderated by considerations of beauty, name recognition, prestige, or customer experience.
At the other end of the spectrum, a country club’s outdoor lighting designers are very much concerned with the statement made by the property’s nighttime appearance and with the ambiance experienced by members and guests. These stylish designs, though, still have to meet the safety and security standards imposed by insurance carriers, local codes, and by the club’s values and practices.
Retail businesses have their own lighting priorities. Some, in high-density commercial zones, need outdoor lighting that grabs consumers’ attention and generates name recognition, leaving the customer experience priority to inside-premises lighting and décor. High-end suburban restaurants may prefer lighting that extends the interior’s signature ambiance outside, to the grounds and parking areas.
All businesses want to be appreciated and remembered by their customers and potential customers, who need to be kept safe and secure without being made to think about safety and security. Academic and public institutions, in contrast, are less driven by commercial-type competition and so tend to light their properties with designs that announce safety and security above all.
Outdoor lighting installations for non-residential properties call for designers and technicians with the core talents of residential landscape lighting reinforced by experience with the specific challenges of commercial and institutional projects. Expertise with the hardware and control systems not typically used for homes is another must. Whatever the setting, outdoor lighting is still an art as well as a craft.