Great design is all about form and function, and finding the right balance of both is a great approach to choosing the right lighting fixture. But even once you’ve found something that meets your need and looks beautiful to boot, there is sometimes another factor at play: Compliance. It’s not the sexiest part of design, but complying with lighting regulations is nonetheless an important part of designing a space.
Anything mechanical, structural and electrical that goes into a building has regulations attached to it. And those regulations continually update as technologies and processes change, which is typically every one to three years. While the latest lighting regulations and certifications may be confusing, the good news is that they aim is to continually reduce energy and make things better for a space’s occupants. In the end, they will save you money on electric bills and contribute to the wellness of you and the environment.
The following outlines a few of the more common regulations you will run across, and what they mean to you and your next lighting project.
As established by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ADA standards were adopted to give those with disabilities adequate access to commercial, government and other public buildings. So, not as important for residential projects, but good to know nonetheless.When it comes to lighting, ADA standards require that any wall lights mounted between 27 inches and 80 inches vertically can extend no further than four inches from the wall, thereby ensuring maximum clearance in hallways and walkways. Supplements to the original 2004 ADA Accessibility Guidelines do not change that number, but they have extended the requirements to other specific building types, including play areas, recreation facilities and, as of 2014, emergency transportable housing. For more information, go to www.ada.gov.
Dark Sky Compliance
This is an outdoor lighting fixture that meets the International Dark-Sky Association’s (IDA) standard for reducing light pollution (or in other words, minimizing glare) into the night sky. Lights that are Dark Sky compliant have positive features like being fully shielded at the top so the light is directed downward.
The regulation was established in the interest of maintaining the natural ambiance of the night sky, maximizing navigation or “wandering” safety, and reducing the adverse effect bluish LED light can have to wildlife behavior and reproduction. (Note: The standard Dark Sky lighting fixture has a color temperature of 3000K or less). To determine if your home’s outdoor lighting needs to be Dark Sky compliant, check with your local municipality—but if you’re concerned about the natural environment, install Dark Sky lighting products anyway. To learn more, go to International Dark-Sky Association.
You probably have heard of this phrase for appliances that use less energy. Many other products, including lighting, can be ENERGY STAR-qualified as well. Launched in 1992, ENERGY STAR is an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy-backed labeling program that lets you know you’re buying products that have been tested by third-party laboratories and confirmed to be more energy efficient.
This increased efficiency means lower electrical bills and less greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. An ENERGY-STAR lighting fixture, which isn’t always LED, uses approximately 70-90 percent less energy than its standard incandescent equivalent. You can find out more at Energy Star.
Starting in 2000, the voluntary LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification program by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is the standard for architects, engineers, interior designers, real estate professionals, commercial building and construction managers, landscape architects, and other relevant professionals who want to design and build more sustainable buildings.
This third-party certification process assigns LEED points for products and processes that advance green practices related to site development, water intake, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. There are 100 possible points available to gain LEED status, with a tiered system that certifies buildings with a Platinum, Gold, Silver or Certified status based on points earned.
There are several credits given that include lighting. LEDs produce the longest-lasting, most energy-efficient lighting available; most LED bulbs have a life span of up to 50,000 hours, and there are some that last more than 100,000 hours. LEDs consume 80 percent less power than incandescent and 20 percent less than fluorescent lights, which makes them perfect for solar-powered systems or overall energy savings. LEDs don’t contain mercury, harmful gasses, or toxins like other light sources. For more information about the LEED certification program, go to new.usgbc.org/leed.
On January 1, 2017, the California Energy Commission (CEC) mandated new requirements in newly constructed residential and nonresidential buildings (including remodels), a process that the commission is required by law to do at least every three years. Known as “California CEC Title 24,” this building standard is meant to significantly reduce energy use by enforcing cost-effective criteria that sets a minimum level of efficiency. It not only affects lighting, but other parts of construction like appliances, windows and doors, and insulation.
If a building permit is issued now for the new work, Title 24 is enforced by a local building inspector who looks for properly labeled bulbs in permanently wired lighting fixtures or properly marked integrated LED fixtures at the time of the final inspection. The CEC estimates that current Title 24 standards will reduce lighting energy use in new California homers and multi-family dwellings by 50 percent!
In addition to light bulbs, portable lamps and other lighting fixtures, this CEC regulation also states that recessed lighting fixtures aren’t allowed to contain screw-based sockets and would be required to contain a JA8 compliant light source. These sources are permanently marked with either “JA8-2016” or “JA8-2016-E.”
Products not considered as being high efficacy by default must meet the requirements of Title 24’s appendix JA8, be marked accordingly, and be registered in the California Modernized Appliance Efficiency Database System (MAEDBS). Before building a new residence or a remodel, anyone can look in this database to determine Title 24 light bulbs to purchase for their needs. Even if a manufacturer is out-of-state, its lighting products must comply with Title 24 in California. You can read more about Title 24 at California Energy Commission.
It’s important to remember that while what we’ve just outlined are current regulations, they are prone to change/update periodically. So, always double check that you’re up-to-date with the latest standards before falling in love again with a light fixture.
Team Y is a dedicated group of design devotees. We love everything that has to do with modern design, from products like lighting, furniture and decor all the way to interior design, architecture and city planning. What inspired the design? How does it work? What does it mean? We want to know. And once we know, we are constantly inspired to share what we've discovered with others who love design as well. That's Y.