- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 05 Nov 2018
Types of lighting
The term ‘lighting’ refers to equipment, the primary purpose of which is to produce light. This is typically some form of lamp. However, lighting can also refer to the use of natural light to provide illumination.
Natural light is that part of solar radiation that is visible to the human eye. Natural lighting, or daylighting, can play an important role in creating a comfortable environment, helping to regulate the body clock, improve concentration and create a calm, tranquil setting. Natural lighting can be exploited by enlarging windows, adding a window on a flanking wall, changing a non-loadbearing wall into a glass-brick wall, installing a roof light, light tubes, and so on.
Artificial lighting is any form of lighting that is not 'natural'. Typically, artificial lighting is produced by electrical means. Artificial lights are available in a wide range of sizes, power, colours, and so on, to suit a variety of applications.
General lighting is used to provide illumination over a whole floor area with a high degree of uniformity. This enables people, plants, furniture and so on to be positioned anywhere in the space and easily moved without needing to change the lighting array. General lighting is typically provided by evenly distributed overhead lights.
Also known as background or ‘mood’ lighting, ambient lighting creates a soft glow that gently illuminates an area without causing glare. Light fixtures such as upward facing wall lights can be effective at creating ambient lighting.
This type of lighting is used to provide texture and focus to general lighting, and can draw attention to items on display such as artwork, while shadowing other areas. Accent lighting might be provided by spotlights, table lamps landscape lighting, and so on.
Task lighting is focussed, local lighting used to illuminate a specific area where a task is, or may be, performed. It is used as a contrasting light, which produces less general glare than if brighter lights were used to light an entire room. Typical examples of task lighting include; desk, swing arm, anglepoise and floor lamps, under cabinet and vanity lights, pendant and track lights.
 Emergency lighting or safety lighting.
Emergency lighting is installed to provide lighting in the event of mains power failure and provides sufficient illumination to allow occupants of a 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.
For more information, see Emergency lighting.
Security lighting is generally used to illuminate an area where there is a concern for security. This may be turned on throughout the hours of darkness, to give visibility of an insecure area, or it may be turned on temporarily, for example when a person arrives at a property, sometimes activated by a linked detector.
In order that construction work can continue effectively and safely in periods of insufficient natural light, it is important that a site is fitting with suitable artificial lighting. Lighting can be used internally for general movement and working on the site itself, externally for illuminating entry, storage and circulation areas, and can also be an effective form of deterrent for trespassers.
For more information, see Lighting of construction sites.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Daylight lighting systems.
- General lighting v task lighting.
- Health and wellbeing impacts of natural and artificial lighting.
- Light pollution.
- Lighting and energy efficiency.
- Lighting designer.
- Natural light.
- Smart office lighting.
- Types of lamp.
- Use of lighting to improve health and wellbeing.
Featured articles and news
What should be evaluated to assess building peformance?
BIM standards BS 1192:2007+A2:2016 and PAS 1192-2:2013 have been superceded.
What is biophilic design and how can it increase wellbeing?
80 experts come up with the top 7 mistakes the industry makes with BREEAM.
Compliance cannot be verified by inspection on delivery.
Some electric cars have batteries that give a range of over 350 miles.
Assembling, curating, caring for, and designing the future.
A sensitive approach to renovating a building of historic stature.
UK energy policy uncertainty as Welsh project put on hold
What collaborative working achieves and how it can be put in place.
BSRIA publishes the 2019 edition of its small but concise annual databook.
Using QSAND to measure the performance of disaster response.
What U-values are, why they matter and how they are calculated.