Lighting of construction sites
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.
There are a wide range of lamps available, from simple tungsten filament lamps to tungsten halogen and discharge lamps. Site lighting is generally run off mains electricity at a voltage of 230 V, rather than through the use of generators. Sometimes it can be necessary to reduce the voltage to 110 V.
For an appropriate lighting plan to be drawn up, the types of activity that will be likely to require lighting need to be specified. These activities can then be given an illumination target (with the unit being lux). Lamps are often given a measurement in lumens (lm), which is the total quantity of visible light emitted. One lux is one lumen per square metre.
- Circulation: 10 lx
- Materials handling: 10 lx
- Circulation: 5 lx
- Working areas: 15 lx
- Concreting: 50 lx
- Carpentry and joinery: 100 lx
- Bricklaying and plastering: 100 lx
- Painting and decorating: 200 lx
- Site offices: 200 lx
- Drawing board positions: 300 lx
While manufacturers will often specify the best arrangement for lamps according to required use, it is common practice to plan for at least twice the recommended target values. This is because lamps in use can be subject to deterioration, dirt or other conditions that reduce their performance.
It is possible to calculate the required lumens for a particular need with the following equation:
Where the utilisation factor is 0.23.
Once the lamp type has been chosen, the required number can be calculated with the following equation:
 Site arrangement
Lighting can be arranged on site in a static formation, where lamps are fixed to support poles, masts or items of plant such as scaffolding and tower cranes, or, it can be arranged locally, as and where work is progressing, by the use of moveable supports or being hand-held with trailing leads.
To illuminate general working areas, festoon (overhead) lighting can be suspended from grids at regular spacings. These are usually tungsten filament bulbs, and both cable and lampholders must be appropriately weather-resistant.
The arrangement must be such that visual intrusion and light spillage are kept to a minimum, particularly in close proximity to residential properties and busy roads where it may cause nuisance or distraction. Where necessary, lighting should be provided to site boundaries to ensure the safety of passing pedestrians.
For more information, see How to work safely on a construction site in the dark.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Construction phase plan.
- Daylight factor.
- Daylight lighting systems.
- Ergonomics in construction.
- General lighting v task lighting.
- How to work safely on a construction site in the dark.
- Improving visibility and resilience of buried services.
- Health and safety.
- Light obstruction notice.
- Light pollution.
- Pre-construction information.
- Site appraisal.
- Site information.
- Site layout plan for construction
- Site plan.
- Site facilities.
- Site office.
- Site storage.
- Site survey.
- Rights to light.
- Welfare facilities.
 External references
- ‘Building Construction Handbook’ (6th ed.), CHUDLEY, R., GREENO, R., Butterworth-Heinemann (2007)
Featured articles and news
IHBC book review: Charles Barry’s monumental struggle to rebuild the Houses of Parliament.
Read about RSHP's British Museum extension which has been shortlisted for the 2017 Stirling Prize.
Read our introductory article to building a house extension.
More updates from DCMS about the large-scale testing of cladding systems and the number of buildings affected.
UandI secure resolution to grant planning consent for major new regeneration project.
IHBC article considers how heritage is dealt with when infrastructure schemes are authorised.
It was the tallest structure in the world for 3,800 years, but to this day the exact construction techniques are a mystery.
Shortlist for the industry's most coveted award announced.
Government responds to Mark Farmer's review of industry, rejecting the call for a levy on clients.
Peter Hansford to examine what wider lessons can be learned from the fire.
Every project is subject to uncertainty. How can construction better understand uncertainty for performance improvement?
MAD Architects reveal their designs for a futuristic campus for electric car manufacturer.
Homebuyers could borrow more with better forecasting of energy bills, according to industry consortium's new report.