Principles for better night time lighting 

The purpose of this resource is to provide guiding principles for considering the design, procurement and implementation of lighting and the wider night time experience to support grant applications to the Department of Justice and Community Safety. 
Lighting can be used to improve perceptions of safety in the urban areas and make public spaces more inviting at night for activities such as exercising, commuting or spending time with friends. 
In the design of any public space, a night time strategy and considered lighting design is crucial to give the best chance of improving perceptions of safety, and create more inclusive night time experiences whilst balancing environmental and technical requirements. 

A positive night time experience encourages users to: 

  • Feel safe using the space alone in hours of darkness
  • Feel empowered in the knowledge that this space is designed and considered for all members of society
  • Feel the space is enjoyable and comfortable for longer periods of night time use, not just transient use
  • Feel that the needs of how everybody uses the space are met
  • Feel that these are spaces which they will return to visit over again.

Key Questions

Before choosing lighting as your crime prevention solution, an overall security assessment is recommended. The following questions should be an initial prompt

  • Who uses the space after dark?
  • What is the problem to address?
  • When is the problem occurring? Is there any pattern? Could the local police provide input to this?
  • Who will benefit from the light? Will it support surveillance or help an offender?
  • Has there been a holistic consideration of potential interventions in this space beyond just lighting?
  • Is improved lighting alone likely to address the problem?
  • What is the intended use of the space after dark?
  • Has the community been asked what they think about issues and ideas for resolution?
  • How have we tried to improve the lighting in the past and has it worked?
  • Have we engaged with experts in lighting design, security and urban design?

six overlapping circles with text that highlights key considerations for lighting projects. Image also hows simple graphic of person walking past park bench with a tree nearby

Improved lighting can be an effective crime prevention tool because: 

  • It can improve passive surveillance and increase the risk of offenders being detected People feel safer in areas with good lighting character, that being areas which are not over illuminated and consider more than just lux level (brightness) compliance
  • These areas can lead to increased activity, which can further improve surveillance and deter crime.

However, it is important to understand that in some situations lighting may be counterproductive. For example:

  • Lighting an asset in an unused or isolated area without passing surveillance may make it easier for crimes to be committed
  • Areas not intended for night-time use do not require illumination. This should be holistically considered in line with the night time strategy.

Important implementation considerations:

  • Does this project fit within your night time masterplan?
  • Know your specific needs, not just what's offered by product vendors
  • Pilot a site you can control
  • Involve community partnership and inclusion of the users of the space you are designing
  • Measure good / bad outcomes
  • Engage with independent experts
  • Implement pilots on a larger scale.

Further important considerations:

  • There are numerous Australian Standards related to lighting and only registered electrical contractors should be engaged for any type of electrical installation work
  • Install lighting preferably at a height that prevents vandalism and consider protective caging only as a last resort
  • Use products made from heavy-duty, smash-resistant material
  • Coloured RGB light is generally regarded as not effective for facial recognition
  • Avoid placing lighting in positions that may later be blocked by growing trees or plants.
  • Installation of lighting poles may require Council approval.

Overlapping coloured circles each word word in the circle. The words are lighting, environment, inclusivity and people. The image also contains a simple graphic of person walking past park bench with a tree nearby

The night time experience is influenced by many layers. Lighting at night brings psychological, environmental and social elements of the space together. Lighting should consider this, the experience of darkness, and perceptions of safety when designing solutions 

Designing for compliance: 

While meeting compliance with standards is important, a considered lighting design will improve the quality of the design and make spaces safer to be in by looking at the broader context. This key difference is demonstrated in the diagrams below. 

Other technical lighting parameters should be considered: 

  • Colour temperature
  • Colour rendering
  • Contrast ratios
  • Context and surface finishes
  • Sustainability
  • Glare
  • Lighting controls
  • Consideration of the experience of darkness and perceptions of safety when designing solutions.

Two lighting scenarios picturing person walking past a light pole, park bench with a tree nearby

Key Technical Considerations 

Further to the information on the preceding pages of the document, the below technical considerations should be reviewed when integrating the detailed specification of lighting design into urban spaces: 

Simple line graphic of a person walking

LED Lighting

All new lighting designs should employ LED lighting for longevity and energy efficiency. LED allows for customisation of technical lighting parameters to be able to achieve lighting solutions that encourage safe perceptions of spaces.

Human Experience

For the site context, think about how a user would experience urban space during darkness. Good lighting design considers the whole journey, creating enjoyable night time spaces and welcoming atmospheres.

Colour Temperature

Warmer colour temperatures are found to correlate with a safe perception of space and have been found to be less detrimental to human and wildlife cycles. Suggest that white light of 3000K or less colour temperature is used.

Colour Rendering

High colour rendering facilitates perceptions of safety and comfort in a space. High rendering of colour (CRI 80+) allows the human eye to make out shapes, people and greenery and allows pedestrians to accurately assess safety and intent of people approaching ahead.

Simple line graphic of a person walking

Ambient Luminance 

Consider brightness of the site (cd/m2) and surrounding environment. Casting light onto vertical and lighter coloured, matte surfaces can create a sense of brightness.

Contrast Ratio

Moving through even levels of brightness is important for perceiving safety. Unbalanced lighting installations where there is an exceedingly bright luminaire can cause high levels of glare.

Lighting Controls 

All new lighting design projects should be using dimming and controls so that light is only used in the appropriate amount and time it's required. Consider motion detection and timeclock operation

Ecology & Sustainability 

Consider the ecological needs of the surroundings and employ appropriate use of beam angles and shields. Do not floodlight or spill light into the sky unless it is uplighting facades, trees or key elements.

Additional resources

Author
Community Crime Prevention Program
Publisher
Department of Justice and Community Safety
Date of Publication

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