Lighting: LED codes and standards

Good lighting enhances building design, conserves energy, and increases productivity, safety, security, personal comfort, sales, attendance, and profit.


Good lighting enhances building design, conserves energy, and increases productivity, safety, security, personal comfort, sales, attendance, and profit. According to several government sources, up to 40% of the total energy used in commercial buildings is used for artificial lighting.

In lighting, one size/type does not fit all. LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, have gained prominence in lighting design for their energy and operational savings. LED retrofits can save 40% or more energy when compared with traditional light sources such as incandescent, halogen, and high-intensity discharge (HID).

Before starting any lighting design specifications, several resources must be considered, such as:

  • 2030 Challenge
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • ASHRAE Standard 90.1
  • ASHRAE Standard 189.1
  • Building Owners and Managers Association International (BOMA)
  • Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey
  • Energy Policy Act (EPAct)
  • Energy Star
  • Green Globes
  • International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI)
  • International Building Code (IBC)
  • International Energy Conservation Code (IECC)
  • International Green Construction Code (IgCC)
  • Illuminating Engineering Society (IES)
  • International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD)
  • Lighting Controls Association (LCA)
  • National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and non-union groups
  • National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), including National Electrical Code (NEC)
  • UL
  • U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE)
  • U.S. Green Building Council, including LEED for New Construction, LEED for Commercial Interiors, and LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance
  • Federal, state, and local requirements.
  • Engineers also should seek third-party objective sources for information on and comparison of LED directionality, efficacy, and other properties. Check groups like the Dept. of Energy's CALiPER program, Energy Star, and LED Lighting Facts for independent testing, and investigate commissioning authorities' experience on performance.

Learning objectives:

  • Understand when and where LEDs should be specified in both new and existing nonresidential buildings.
  • Learn which codes and standards dictate lighting design with regard to LEDs.
  • Understand when LED luminaire retrofit kits can be specified for existing buildings.
  • Know what types of testing and/or commissioning are required to ensure LEDs meet all codes and standards.


Michael Chow, PE, LEED AP BD+C, Principal, Metro CD Engineer, Columbus, Ohio

Robert J. Garra Jr., PE, CDT, Vice President, Electrical Engineer, CannonDesign, Grand Island, N.Y.

Moderator: Amara Rozgus, Editor in Chief/Content Manager, Consulting-Specifying Engineer, CFE Media

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