Human Centric Approach for Exterior Lighting

We have been adopting the conventional compliance approach in lighting design for a long time, particularly with regard to exterior lighting. As a rigid approach, compliance methods are typically followed with little to no deviation from the figures, along with taking a strict stance when there are violations. It is a common practice to refer to the figures stated on different lighting guidelines as a basis for determining illumination level requirements. In some ways, it is an approach that is designed to protect designers, but it is not yet an ideal method to address what end users need.

Compliance Approach

In terms of the compliance approach for nighttime lighting design, it follows the specific lighting guidelines applicable to a particular site. It typically includes both horizontal illuminance and uniformity components. For example, the Society of Light and Lighting (CIBSE SLL) LG6 The Exterior Environment recommends that walkways should maintain an illumination level of 5 lux and a uniformity of 0.25. These guidelines serve as a good starting point. They are a useful tool for determining if we are on the right track with our design parameters but they do not constitute a mandatory guideline.

Contemporarily Human Centric Approach

Lighting design plays a significant role in enhancing the human experience at the site. In this case, the designer takes into account not only the perception of brightness, but also the context, the surface finishes, and focal points through a layered approach. A human centric approach is a holistic one that requires consideration of environmental context, physical context, as well as social context.


Consider the walkway as an example, 5 lux in a bushy enclosed environment is definitely not a good idea. Visitors feel not safe at all. The level of light can be lower than 5 lux in an open, wide area where the sky is clear and we are able to see the stars. Limestone walls with light colored surfaces provide a clear visual effect even when there is only a very small amount of artificial lighting. Location, demographics, and user behavior may contribute to the design of lighting and allow for a more personalized experience.

Features of Human Centric for Exterior Lighting 

  • More emphasis on end users’ actual needs
  • Help regulate a healthy circadian entrainment
  • Consider the psychological and physical impact of architectural built environment  
  • Allow deviation from design guidelines with reasonable factors
  • Side benefits from encouraging more nighttime social engagements boost public health

Creating a well-planned human-centric design system relies heavily on lighting control. With the ability to adjust the lighting level, color temperature, or lighting zones, users are able to enhance their experience as well as reducing energy use. Lighting control can be simple or complex depending on the budget available and the usage requirements. Rather than using more light fittings, why not invest in a lighting control system as we are always being referred to as an over-lighted city. The effectiveness of the entire lighting design can be optimized by selecting an appropriate lighting control system.


How about incorporating factual, community-related, and future elements into our design considerations? Who will use the space? A brighter space is preferred by the elderly for a better visual experience, while young people may prefer a darker setting to enjoy the mystery.  What can we do to design for an aging population in the future globally? Can we optimize the use of reusable energy in our lighting scheme to support relief from the climate change issue. There are something we can do right now to change our future or to shape a better world.

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