How to design step lighting for architectural lighting


The architects and landscape architects express the design intent by designing the size, spacing, material, and structure of the kick and tread. Most of the steps are easy to climb, but some steps are illegible and the goal is to slow down the progress. Lighting should not only pay attention to the material form of the steps, but also pay attention to the user’s climbing process, and strive to convey the intention of the landscape design.

The core problem of step lighting is to ensure the distinction between kicks and steps through light. Whether they are easy to distinguish depends on the materials and colors they choose, and more importantly, the visual contrast emphasized by light. The visual composition rhythm of kicking and stepping should be stable, and one can complete the progress with the experience of the first steps, and devote more attention to the scenery. Many of the best ways to appreciate the scenery are missed in the process of looking down at the steps.

The designer should comprehensively consider the level of illuminance, the reflection characteristics of the step material and the level of ambient light, select the appropriate light source and luminaire, and make a prediction of the final effect according to the light distribution curve of the selected luminaire. 

As long as the kick and tread maintain a reasonable visual contrast and can be easily detected by the human, the lighting design is reasonable. This means that there are many possibilities for step lighting, which can be divided into three categories according to the way the light is projected.

To the side of the steps

When a wall is arranged on the side of the steps, you can choose to arrange the props on the side wall. The vertical distance between the lamps and the steps is usually within 1.5 feet (excessive position will disturb the sight of the people on the steps). Under this lighting method, the tread is the main light-receiving surface, and the kicking is the secondary light-receiving surface. The intersection of the two surfaces will form a line, and the visual contrast comes from the brightness difference between the surfaces. The installation height of the luminaire depends on the light composition that the designer hopes to obtain.

The light composition is related to the length and width of the steps, the height of the wall, and the optical performance of the luminaire. It is necessary to make sure that each side wall lamp illuminates the steps when there is no shadow. When the steps are more than 1.2 feet wide or the traffic tasks of the steps are heavy, consider using side wall lights on both sides. The treads of wide steps do not necessarily require uniform illuminance distribution. The use of steps and traffic flow are the decisive factors for uniformity. The appearance of the lamps needs to be coordinated with the design of the walls and steps, and to maintain a unified pattern with the landscape design.

To the front side of the steps

There are two types of lights installed on the kick: embedded side wall lights and concealed linear light sources. This kind of lighting cannot highlight the kick, otherwise it will interfere. Embedded side wall lights are only suitable for empty stomach steps, not for siding steps. It forms a light spot on the tread under the lamp, and the brightness of the kick is independent of the light spot reflection. Lamps and lanterns usually use grilles or milky white glass to reduce the surface brightness, and the judgment of the steps is usually based on the light spot and the brightness diagram of the lamp. This kind of lamps can be used step by step or set every few steps.

 It is important to pay attention to the accurate alignment of the lamps and to maintain the regularity of the brightness diagram. If any lamps fail, replace them in time. The concealed linear light source can be a side-emitting optical fiber or a Meine lamp and a linear fluorescent lamp strip. In one case, a bright line is formed by kicking again to distinguish it from the tread; the other is hidden under the selected step, illuminating the tread, and forming a halo flare on the kick. Because this light source has variable color and flashing performance, many owners hope to use this effect in step lighting.

To the top of steps

Because the wiring is convenient, the structure is simple, and there is no need to modify the structure of the existing steps, the upper lighting is a lighting method often used in gardens. The light can come from the lamps installed on the tree or structure directly on the steps, or it can come from the courtyard lamps on the side of the steps. All downlighting has the possibility of combining the lighting of the steps with the lighting of other elements in the landscape, illuminating the plants while illuminating the steps, and creating the most abundant lighting effects with the fewest lamps. The core issue of the success of this type of lighting depends on the relative position of the lamps and the steps, as far as possible not to produce shadows on the steps.

Step lighting has an unsuccessful principle: in the same project, the same lighting method should be used for steps with similar practices. Because people make judgments based on visual experience, if confusing information appears, it is likely to lead to errors in judgment and even danger. For the lighting of traffic spaces, ensuring the safety of travel is always the first priority.


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