Lighting: LED specifications

Engineers must understand the basics of LED lighting systems and which building types are best suited for them.


Building owners are becoming more aware of and interested in selecting LEDs because of their energy efficiency and long lifespan. Good lighting enhances building design, conserves energy, and increases productivity, safety, security, and personal comfort. According to several government sources, up to 40% of the total energy used in commercial buildings is used for artificial lighting. The various codes and standards that dictate their design must be considered as LEDs are specified.

Engineers must understand the basics of LED lighting systems and which building types are best suited for them. It is important that engineers understand how to properly specify LED light sources when it comes to critical factors such as rated lifespan, lifecycle costs, efficacy, lumen output, compatibility with dimming controls, color rendering index (CRI), color temperature, and how LED lighting systems affect the electrical systems of the buildings in which they are installed.

Learning Objectives:

  • Explain the applicable codes and standards: ASHRAE Standard 90.1: Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings; ASHRAE Standard 189.1: Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings; California Title 24, U.S. Department of Energy, International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) LM-79, LM-80, TM-21, and other codes and standards as they apply to specifying LED lighting systems.
  • Assess the primary reasons for specifying LED instead of traditional lighting systems.
  • Analyze efficacy of light sources, LED directionality, lumen output, delivered lumens, color rendering index (CRI), inrush currents, and LED lifespan.
  • Outline decisions regarding the impact of specifying LED lighting on overall building design.


Haley Darst, LC, Associate IALD, CannonDesign, Boston

Richard Vedvik, PE, KJWW, Rock Island, Ill.

Moderator: Jack Smith, Consulting-Specifying Engineer, CFE Media, LLC

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