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Landscape Lighting

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Landscape lighting can beautify the surroundings of a building or complex. Much like an artist paints a landscape, a landscape lighting designer chooses elements in the landscape to emphasize. Ideally the designer has a thorough knowledge of plants and works with the landscape designer to plan the lighting scheme and placement.

Contrast is important because it directs where and how the viewer sees the landscape features. Primary focal points appear brightest. Secondary focal points and the background are lit at lower levels. By using fill lighting between the focal points you provide cohesion.

The light levels required will depend on the surrounding community. Downtown areas require higher levels than suburban or rural areas. It's also desirable to reduce glare by properly aiming and locating fixtures. Illuminate steps, stairs and walkways to clearly identify their boundaries and changes in elevation. Uniformity of illumination is also important in these areas.

Flexibility is important when trying to light plants. Since they grow and change, the fixtures need to be able to change aiming, location, beam spread or wattage. Illuminate dense plants, with foliage close to the ground, by placing fixtures away and aiming toward the plant. Other plants with more open form or translucent leaves can be lit from within. Trees should be lit such that their overall shape is visible. Illuminate the trunk to tie it to the ground. The light source to use depends on the element to be lit, the size of the project and the desired effect. High pressure sodium is good for red or yellow blossoms and autumn foliage. Metal halide and mercury vapor are good for most greens and blue green foliage. Metal halide and incandescent are good for tree bark.

Fixtures shouldn't detract from the daytime landscape. So locating the fixtures behind plants or structures, or up in trees is especially important. The fixtures must also be able to withstand the weather. Like Faade lighting, vandalism can be a concern. For flexibility, control the fixtures with either a timeclock or switches. Landscape lighting probably doesn't need to operate all night. Small landscapes can use smaller wattage lamps.