LRC Issues New Guide for Lighting Parking Lots to Provide Improved Security and Energy Savings

April 17, 2020

The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has published a new guide for parking lot lighting, which demonstrates how to promote safety while reducing power demand by lighting the parking lot area more uniformly.

“Exterior lighting in parking lots should support the visibility of hazards—and reinforce perceptions of safety so that people are not afraid to use the space at night,” said Jennifer Brons, Director of Design Demonstrations, who was one of the guide's authors. 

The guide provides a summary of research results on this topic, along with four steps that lighting designers and specifiers can follow in order to compare performance of alternatives to a base case parking lot lighting design.

Average light levels are important contributors to perceptions of safety in parking lots. But to minimize power demand, lighting designers and specifiers should strive to maximize uniformity. While sources with higher correlated color temperature (CCT) will be perceived as brighter than low CCT sources, this is limited in importance compared to uniformity. With better uniformity, much lower average illuminances can be provided while improving both perceived safety and brightness. The guide also provides a link to a calculation tool specifiers can use to estimate occupants’ ratings of perceived safety.

“By using perceived safety as a performance criterion, alternate lighting designs can be evaluated to minimize power demand while balancing other design criteria,” said John Bullough, Director of Transportation and Safety Lighting Programs. “Taking advantage of uniformity has implications not only for energy savings but also for minimizing light pollution.”

Support for this research was provided by Natural Resources Canada and other members of the Lighting Energy Alliance, including Efficiency Vermont, Energize Connecticut, National Grid, Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, and ComEd.

The guide is available at

About the Lighting Research Center

The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the world's leading center for lighting research and education. Established in 1988 by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the LRC conducts research in light and human health, transportation lighting and safety, solid-state lighting, energy efficiency, and plant health. LRC lighting scientists with multidisciplinary expertise in research, technology, design, and human factors, collaborate with a global network of leading manufacturers and government agencies, developing innovative lighting solutions for projects that range from the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to U.S. Navy submarines to hospital neonatal intensive-care units. In 1990, the LRC became the first university research center to offer graduate degrees in lighting and today, offers a M.S. in lighting and a Ph.D. to educate future leaders in lighting. Learn more at

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America's first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,900 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration.


Rebekah Mullaney

Manager, Research Communications

Lighting Research Center

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

(518) 687-7100


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