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Last edited 03 Jun 2020
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.
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.
A combination of bright light during the day and darkness at night helps maintain the daily cycle of waking and sleep. Circadian lighting varies in colour and intensity during the day. The aim is to improve alertness during working hours using bright light, but to switch to lower brightness, warmer coloured light before it is time to relax.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Anglepoise lamp.
- Artificial lighting.
- Aspects of daylighting design covered by EN 17037.
- Daylight lighting systems.
- Designing daylight solutions for commercial buildings.
- EN 17037 Daylight in buildings.
- General lighting v task lighting.
- Health and wellbeing impacts of natural and artificial lighting.
- Light pollution.
- Lighting and energy efficiency.
- Lighting designer.
- Lighting for circadian rhythms.
- Natural light.
- Smart office lighting.
- Types of building EN 17037 applies to.
- Types of lamp.
- Use of lighting to improve health and wellbeing.
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