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College campuses and outdoor lighting design: things to consider

From late-night library stints to postgame parties during football season, college campuses know no “closing time.” How can outdoor lighting address the unique needs of a college campus?

The Eaton’s Lighting Division team spoke with Jeanne Mercer-Ballard, associate professor of interior design at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, to learn more about outdoor lighting on college campuses and the role it plays.

What are some solutions that outdoor lighting can offer for college campuses?

JMB: The most important solution is safety. Making sure students, faculty and campus users can get around effectively and safely at all hours — that’s really the first priority for outdoor lighting on college campuses. 

Outdoor lighting not only creates a safe environment, but it can also play a huge role in the aesthetic and look and feel of a campus. The color of the lighting or the look of the fixtures can dramatically change a campus’s appearance and improve visitor perception. Appalachian State University is a great example, with a cohesive outdoor lighting design that fits the atmosphere and the aesthetic of the campus. 

What are some common areas to think about when lighting a college campus? 

JMB: The building I work in is right next to a campus parking garage. Our parking garages are lit to standard, but I often wonder if there are ways to further optimize the parking lighting. It’s also worth mentioning that even something as simple as a parking garage can have multiple uses, like a tailgating spot, on college campuses. It’s important to ask when considering outdoor lighting locations on college campuses.

Pathways, parking lots, parking garages and roadways should be effectively lit, but building exteriors and landscape lighting can be an effective and simple way to create well-lit spaces that contribute to branding on campuses as well. Both of these tactics can create a wow factor to enhance a campus experience.   

How does a typical student or faculty schedule affect outdoor lighting considerations?

JMB: Safety is key to lighting considerations. College campuses bend “typical schedules” when libraries and other on-campus venues close at late hours and students may be working on projects in labs or studios late at night and early in the morning. 

During the darkest hours, people are still walking through campus — it’s pretty much a 24/7 operation even if it’s not a high-traffic time. Because of this, effective lighting around-the-clock is a major consideration for college campuses. This can be accomplished through sensor technology and connected lighting. 

From landscape to experiential lighting, outdoor lighting on college campuses can enhance user experience, enhance the overall look and feel of a campus and create a safer, healthier, more engaging environment for students, faculty and visitors. 

(Photos courtesy of Appalachian State University)

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