- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 21 Nov 2017
Emergency lighting is installed in buildings in case of a mains power failure and provides sufficient illumination to allow occupants of the building to evacuate safely. Types of emergency lighting include; emergency exit signs, recessed fluorescent lights, powerful halogen emergency spotlights for larger spaces, emergency ceiling lights and downlights, and so on.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires that 'emergency routes and exits requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity in the case of failure of their normal lighting.'
The requirement does not apply to domestic premises.
Approved document B defines emergency lighting as 'lighting provided for use when the supply to the normal lighting fails'. It defines escape lighting as 'that part of the emergency lighting which is provided to ensure that the escape route is illuminated at all material times.'
Approved document L defines emergency escape lighting as '......that part of emergency lighting that provides illumination for the safety of people leaving an area or attempting to terminate a dangerous process before leaving.'
In addition to the requirement to illuminate emergency routes and exits, open area lighting may be provided to allow occupants to reach an escape route, and where occupants are involved in activities that may present some danger if they are not completed, there may be high-risk task area lighting. There may also be standby lighting to allow occupants to continue with their normal activities in the event of a power failure.
Emergency lights are powered by back-up batteries. The lights detect when mains power has failed and immediately switch to using the back-up battery. The battery should be capable of powering the light, for a defined period, but as a means of conserving power, the light output may be reduced, sometimes to just 10% of the normal output.
The Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997 and BS 5266 part 1 require that building owners test emergency lighting regularly and maintain them in proper working order. Light fittings have a green LED indicator which shows they are charged and functional.
There are three basic types of emergency light fitting:
This type of fitting is designed to operate as a normal light fitting, to be lit continuously and to be controlled along with the other lights in the area. However, if power fails the maintained emergency fitting will continue to operate at a lower light output level. This type of lighting is commonly used in public buildings such as theatres, cinemas and shopping centres.
This type of fitting is normally switched off, but is designed to switch on automatically in the event of a mains power failure. The batteries are continuously charged. These are typically fittings such as emergency exit signs which are not required as part of general lighting. They are commonly used in workplaces such as offices and factories, where there may be more occupant familiarity with the building and the escape routes.
 Other categorisations
Fittings may be self-contained, with their own batteries, or may be powered from a central battery source.
They may provide different levels of illumination. See below.
 Technical requirements
A non-obstructed escape route must be lit during an emergency to a minimum of 1 lux. Emergency lighting isn’t required if the open area is less than 60 sq. m and isn’t part of a designated escape route. The exit doors for the emergency escape route must be fitted with signs or an emergency bulkhead light.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
From frost damage to sulphate attack, common causes of defects in brickwork.
Precautions to take when making advance payments.
Helping communities recover from disasters and protecting them before they occur.
Instrumentation for critical healthcare environments.
Case study in the use of soft landings at the University of the West of England.
Richard Rogers wins is the AIA’s highest annual honour.
A quick introduction to a healthier and more sustainable form of construction.
The structural feasibility of modular high-rise buildings.
BRE conference on ways of providing and maintaining quality indoor environments.
CDBB publish foundational definitions and values to guide the development of the National Digital Twin.
Despite the reduction in staffing, most users remain satisfied with the service.
We run through the top 37 styles in history - but how many would you recognise?