10 challenges facing exterior lighting engineers in 2018

STREET AND exterior lighting was one of the first sectors to widely switch to LEDs.

And while the subsequent energy savings have widely appreciated, that move has thrown up some fresh challenges that are set to keep engineers on their toes this year. Here we run through the top concerns facing the sector in 2018.


1. Glare

The issue that won’t go away. It’s becoming widely acknowledged that too many fixtures with poor optical control were installed in the first wave of LEDs. Cool colour temperatures – 5000K in some places – have also proved deeply unpopular with residents around the world.

2. The end of PFIs

The era of the huge Private Finance Initiative LED roll-outs is coming to an end. But as the dust settles, niggling doubts remain in some local authority areas about whether the projects represented value for money and whether light quality has been sacrificed on the altar of politics.

3. Electric vehicle charging

The average municipality think its street lighting network is the perfect solution to the provision of charging points for the coming wave of electrical cars. It isn’t. Technical issues abound – not least the high-current draw – and street lighting engineers won’t be popular for pointing them out.

4. Connectivity

City Halls are obsessed with free Wi-Fi connectivity and vie with rivals to boast of fast download speeds. Now brick-sized 5G cells are in the pipeline and here, the lighting columns really are the perfect hosts. Up to 500,000 of these mini masts are set to be installed in London alone.

5. The Great Switch Off

The deeply unpopular switching off of street lights by cash-strapped local authorities is still causing ripples and it continues to be blamed for accidents by the police and coroners. Dimming is the solution that lighting controls manufacturers propose, but getting funding is a headache.

6. Blue light hazard

The strong blue component of many LED street lights is raising fears that residents’ wellbeing is being compromised. The influential American Medical Association weighed in last June, warning that the colour temperature of LEDs shouldn’t exceed 3000K. Cue a heated debate that continues to rumble on.

7. Smart Cities

Mayors love the idea of their metropolis becoming a ‘smart city’ and while the phrase sounds cool, no-one knows quite what it means, least of all the people who are supposed to implement it. But everyone does agree that lighting is involved. At the very least, expect some sensors in your street lights.

8. Light pollution

Scary pictures from Nasa tell us what everyone has long suspected: that the arrival of low cost LED luminaires from China and elsewhere hasn’t cut light pollution as was originally – and naively – hoped. Instead, it has made it worse. Expect legislation to begin to target this problem in 2018.

9. The lack of strategy

It’s hard to plan for the next 30 years of urban illumination, which is why street and exterior lighting engineers like a strategy. You know, a clue where we might be heading. Famously, the London Plan mentioned lighting a mere six times in its 526 pages. Which leads us onto….


10. Future proofing

Everyone agrees we need to do it, especially when a new wave of luminaires will last generations. So how do you specify a fitting that, in the future, may have to provide a range of ancillary services such as CCTV, pollution sensors, traffic detectors and Wi-Fi without blowing the budget?



  • Lux has unveiled the programme for its Lighting for Transport and Infrastructure conference, taking place in London on Thursday 22 February 2018. It includes sessions on glare, light pollution, electric vehicle charging on street lights, street lights asset management, IoT street lighting control and LEDs and mesopic vision. Places are free of charge to those responsible for street lighting assets. To view the programme and register, click HERE.




Pictures: Main image - Shutterstock copyright 2017; Glare - Anton Bogomolov via Flickr Creative Commons; End of PFIs - Gael Stigant; Connectivity - Shutterstock; The Great Switch Off - Nick Birse via Flickr Creative Commons; Blue light hazard - Esther Gibbons; Lack of strategy - Chris Friese via Flickr Creative Commons; Future proofing - courtesy Cree.

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