How to light a covered walkway

Once you start looking, covered walkways everywhere. Shopping and cinema complexes use them to link buildings. They are also common in apartment blocks, hospital sites and factory estates.

Design criteria

The main difference between the walkway and a corridor is that, being outside, a much lower illumination level can be used. Also, apart from avoiding obstacles on the ground, the “task requirements” of walking or pushing a shopping trolley are minimal. However, it is important to provide a good level of illumination on people’s faces so you can recognise them easily.

The main consideration from a design aspect is ensuring that the walkway does not appear too dark when entering it from a brightly lit interior. Some national standards only require 5 lux for purely pedestrian areas, but 50 lx, or more, seems might be more appropriate for some applications. This design achieves 50 – 100 lux on the walkway because it is in a city centre.

Providing good vertical illumination on people’s faces tends to favour using wide angle overhead luminaires rather than low level units such as bollards.  But that isn’t the only solution. Wall washing, especially if you have pale coloured surfaces, can provide a very good quality of light to the space.

PIR detectors which switch the lights one when someone approaches are sometimes used to save energy especially when there is no-one actually on the pathway. Personally, I do not like to do this because people can be wary of entering a dark pathway. A better technique is to set the luminaires to dim to a low level when no-one is around.

The walkway here is part of a retail and cinema complex and the floor to ceiling height shown is about 5.5m (18ft).

A particularly interesting aspect of this Design Clinic is that the three very different lighting effects have been produced by just one family of downlights, the DOC100 series. It is the wide choice of beam spreads and power that produces the variety.

This is a lot more dramatic than conventional solutions. The DOC120 downlight has the option of a narrow, linear spread optic which gives a long rectangular beam of light. The bright lines of light can be used to create simple geometric shapes. Although the recessed downlights are mounted 6m (20’) high, the lines of light are illuminated to over 200 lux.

We have arranged the lines of light so that they lead directly to the centre of the shop entrances.

Your eye is also drawn to the shops by the use of the 6W wall mounted VLS410. Here, we have used a simple narrow downward beam option. In total, there are seven different beam distributions available, up/down, narrow/medium and an asymmetric forward throw option.

Tech spec A
  • LuminairesDOC120 recessed plus VLS410 wall mount
  • Optical controlLinear spread lens
  • Arrangement11 linear spread lens units provide the rectangular pattern of light
  • Average illuminance 81 lux Eh 

  • Electrical load DOC120 28W, VLS410 6W

  • Pros Drama and contrast


This option again uses the DOC series downlight but with a wall wash distribution. This is used to highlight the end wall. You can clearly see the planting and texture of the wall. We have used the slightly larger and more powerful 55W DOC140. Light reflected off the wall also illuminates the end of the walkway.

A wall wash beam spread is often a useful tool for illuminating enclosed, narrow corridors thus leaving the ceiling completely clear.

To provide contrast, we have illuminated each pillar with an ETC120 gimbal uplight. This offers a choice of three beam widths and the gimbal can be adjusted to direct the light exactly where you want it on the pillar.

Tech spec B
  • LuminairesDOC140 downlight and ETC120 uplightOptical controlWall wash lens plus angular gimbalArrangement4 DOC140 on end wall and ETC on each pillarAverage illuminance 85 lux Eh 

  • Electrical load DOC140 48W, ETC120 6WPros Eye-catching

This is a really economical scheme both in terms of capital and running cost. Just 12 DOC120 recessed downlights are used to provide over 75 lux on the pavement and it also provides good vertical illumination. There is plenty of uniformity to meet the most stringent of national regulations.

Although this is a bright, well-lit space, personally, I prefer to add some highlights and so have included a very narrow angle FLD111 spotlight over each entrance.

Tech spec C
  • LuminairesDOC120 plus FLD111 spotlightOptical controlWide beamArrangement3 x 4Average illuminance 75 lux Eh 

  • Electrical load DOC120 28W each, FLD111 6W eachPros Bright and economical


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