Lighting a New Design

Lighting a New Design

Projecting a safer image within the community

Lighting a new designA large, multinational banking institution with several thousand branches across the United States was faced with inconsistent exterior lighting around entrances, ATMs and night depositories, which presented potential security and safety issues for customers and employees. This issue was not limited to exterior banking premises, but also included retail and commercial premises. The ability to ensure exterior lighting meets and maintains desired objectives was often a result of the absence of a formalized maintenance and inspection program, lack of staff to focus on maintenance and the addition of new branches through mergers and acquisitions that did not fall within existing corporate standards, among other factors.

This situation presented an ideal opportunity for improvement across its various locations. The institution wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity to not only enhance safety, but also create a better atmosphere, projecting the best image possible to the surrounding community. To ultimately achieve its goals, the bank first sought to standardize its exterior lighting around its facilities, including ATMs and night depositories at each branch. This would empower them to deliver consistent safety standards to help protect customers and employees alike, while also attempting to meet and exceed state regulations, where applicable.

Next, the bank sought to launch a national initiative to inspect every exterior lighting fixture at every facility and, if necessary, repair and upgrade critical fixtures over time. This was an ambitious endeavor, encompassing more than 250,000 lighting fixtures nationwide.

To accomplish this monumental effort, the institution needed an outside expert with the experience and resources to conduct inspections and help make corresponding recommendations to address any issues. Thus, the bank engaged Dallasbased GMR, which specializes in facility assessments, security lighting design and compliance consultations.

This expansive project would require a tremendous amount of upfront planning and preparation to be a success. A multi-phase strategy was developed through collaboration with GMR and the bank’s security, real estate and environmental managers to ensure a smooth execution and positive results. Planning consisted of an overarching approach to logistics, which mapped out the location and timing for each site visit, what the inspection would entail and, most importantly, the ability to capture and log results so they could be effectively shared, reviewed and addressed.

Phase One

This initial phase consisted of an individual inspection of each banking facility by GMR’s field technicians to gauge the positioning and effectiveness of lighting around each building. Each inspection was comprised of an in-person visit to the grounds to measure light readings and determine the operational status of every light and fixture.

The key element to this process was the work being conducted during nighttime hours. This is a critical step to ascertain exactly how light appears when it is in action. Seasonality also had to be factored in, because lights had to be evaluated with and without foliage to determine if they provided adequate year-round coverage.

Phase Two

After the inspections were concluded, findings were logged into a centralized database to analyze deficiencies and categorize them appropriately, determining the next steps.

These designations were put into place to help project overall costs, as well as conduct capital cost prioritization to outline the best course of action to make the necessary maintenance and repairs efficiently.

Phase Three

With this detailed analysis complete, GMR worked with the bank’s security team and property management representatives to establish a long-term strategy that factored current risk, quality of current lighting and overall site safety. They created a consistent, repeatable action plan that would institute an effective lighting design, applied on a case-by-case basis to each facility over a designated period, starting with properties that had the greatest needs.

As sites were upgraded, this rollout consisted of replacement and upgrades of lighting fixtures to ensure that each branch not only met the banks’ high internal standards, but also complied with relevant state guidelines.

Fixtures attached to a building can prevent light from being projected properly, thereby creating dark areas that can create safety issues by providing areas of concealment. If this was the case, fixtures were placed on poles so light could be cast more evenly to prevent islands of darkness.

Other considerations for repositioning lighting included the influence of illumination spillover from other properties. In many municipalities, it is against building codes for light to be projected over property lines. As such, it was important that the bank kept all of its resources focused on its own property.

Lighting Sources

Due to performance issues, as well as maintenance and energy costs, the types of lights being used came into question. Traditional metal halide lights cast a clean white light, but can degrade substantially over time. These lights also take time to achieve full brightness once activated, thus creating a safety issue for pedestrian traffic as the lights “cycle up.” Fluorescent lighting can be yielded ineffective by extreme hot or cold temperatures, severely limiting usefulness.

With the shortcomings of existing lighting, new solutions were explored to maximize performance, minimize maintenance and reduce energy costs. LED has gained ground in recent years as a legitimate alternative to traditional lighting sources and was evaluated as an alternative. LEDs last longer than other lighting, and most manufacturers offer equipment warrantees of five to 10 years in the event of a malfunction.

Because this type of lighting was such a departure from the norm, the bank chose to proceed with a pilot program to ensure that a move to LED would be effective across their entire network. They needed to ensure that internal and regulatory standards could be met and that the costs of installation and operation would not be exorbitant. The pilot program proved to be a success, and should pave the way for a transition to LED lighting on a broader scale as facilities are upgraded.

By initiating the process to standardize and enhance lighting around its facilities, and putting forth formalized data collection processes to track, monitor and compare inspections, the bank was able to reap a number of benefits.

First and foremost, effective lighting levels helped support customer and employee security and safety around the exterior of facilities. Further, the updated lighting design and fixtures enable security cameras to perform better with enhanced visibility to capture images and colors accurately.

Consistent lighting design and fixtures put forth a customer-friendly environment, creating a warm and friendly atmosphere to conduct business on a regular basis. The look and feel of the lighting at each facility also stood out in their respective neighborhoods, further contributing to the attractiveness of the property, enticing traffic.

Finally, these measures, as well as the accompanying documentation and inspections, can also be used to demonstrate that reasonable steps were taken to institute safer environments, protecting customers and employees from harm. This can then be used to mitigate legal action if a negative incident takes place.

Ongoing inspections and data collection make maintenance and upkeep far more effective. The ability to track what work was conducted creates a scheduled framework to ensure that all lighting fixtures are performing at their highest level.

This exercise presented a bonus beyond the enhancement of lighting design to improve safety and security. The transition to LED lighting reduced energy consumption, which benefitted the bank from a cost and sustainability perspective. Expense from maintenance and repair was also lowered, because LEDs last much longer than conventional lighting.

LEDs also are an “instant on,” with no power-up delay and do not degrade over time. When they are activated, they reach full lighting capacity and do not fade as they reach end of life, which helps make sure lighting is always at maximum capacity to support security and safety.

Putting forth the vision to make sweeping changes on a national scale in partnership with a reliable, proven consultant, the bank now enjoys cohesive lighting design standards backed by formalized processes to help keep facilities, customers and employees safe and secure.

This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of Security Today.


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