Turn Off Those Floodlights: A Landscape Architect’s Perspective on Night Lighting

By Louis C. Fusco RLA, ASLA: Principal, Louis Fusco Landscape Architects
Photography Courtesy of Salvatore Corso, SC Photography

How to Plan and Implement Outdoor Illumination

More than 70% of U.S. households have outdoor living spaces, and the ability to extend the use of these areas into the evening hours has never been more desirable. With a plethora of economical, environmentally friendly lighting options, the days of flipping on that blinding security flood over the patio are hopefully behind us.

Fusco Landscape Architects Project/Old Greenwich, CT

Where to Begin
You consulted your design professional in planning and developing your new favorite outdoor space, so what better place to turn? Your architect, landscape architect, interior or lighting designer, will already have a strong handle on your needs, desires and lifestyle.  Whether alone, or in collaboration, they will be able to assist.

Fusco Landscape Architects Project/Old Greenwich, CT

Goals and Objectives

Beyond the obvious need for safety, establish goals and imagine how your outdoor spaces will be used. Do you entertain regularly? What are the typical ages of your guests? Do you have small children? Is your preference for lighting strictly functional, aesthetic, or both? Elements to consider when determining your landscape lighting:

  1. Main entrance, walks and pathways.
  2.  Steps
  3. Patios and entertainment areas
  4. Driveways
  5. Trees and plantings
  6. Unique Architecture, sculptural and garden elements
  7. Water features
Fusco Landscape Architects Project/Patterson, NY

Create a Plan
Once you’ve ticked off your dream list and prioritized your goals and objectives, you’re ready to develop a plan. Is there a typical amount of light you’d like on at your main entrance and or walkway every evening? Do you want lights to go on as guests enter your drive? Perhaps there is a level of light for entertaining a small gathering on your patio, and another to illuminate the yard for a large
party event. Develop lighting hierarchies. Locate and label the areas you’d like to illuminate and imagine the quality or amount of light that would work best. Be respectful of neighboring properties to avoid glare and excessive light spill off.

Fusco Landscape Architects Project/Westport, CT
Fusco Landscape Architects Project/Westport, CT

Select the Right Fixture
It’s time to begin selecting fixtures and determining desired night scene combinations. LED, Solar, Line or Low voltage, Incandescent or Halogen…the options and availability are endless and will require some research or professional assistance. Unless the desired light source is a decorative lantern, your general goal is to illuminate, while hiding the source of the light. There are accent lights, floods, path, well lights and spots, all of which can provide an array of different effects. Landscape lighting can be integrated into your smart home systems, run off your I-phone or device, set with timers, or simply switched on at the front door.

Building Green is Building Smart: Murphy Brothers Contracting
Fusco Landscape Architects Project/Old Greenwich, CT

Be Prepared
If possible, landscape lighting should be considered from the start of any site improvements project. Even if the final design and fixture selection is not complete, electrical service access out from the residence, conduits under walks and patios, and switch locations, can all be prepared and installed during the early phases of construction, minimizing expensive after-fixes. The final wiring and fixture installation is generally advised to be installed after all masonry work and landscaping is installed, for proper siting and to avoid damage to new fixtures and wiring.

Building Green is Building Smart: Murphy Brothers Contracting
Fusco Landscape Architects Project/Old Greenwich, CT

Helpful Hints

  1. Select “Dark Sky” Compliant fixtures whenever possible. These are fixtures that either aim down or possess glare deflectors, minimizing light pollution. Excess night light has been proven to have adverse effects on wildlife.
  2. Scale is important when selecting architectural lanterns. Proportions are critical and your designer can help with this.
  3. Quality, performance and low maintenance are all factors to consider when selecting lighting products.
  4. Less is often more when considering landscape lighting. Our eyes adjust to the dark and it often doesn’t take a lot of light to provide the right effect.
  5. Watch out for ‘hot spots’, glare from the fixtures, or reflective surfaces. Adjusting the angle of a fixture or bulb type can solve the problem.
  6. Modify your lighting as your landscape grows.
Building Green is Building Smart: Murphy Brothers Contracting

About Louis Fusco

Louis C. Fusco is the principal of Louis Fusco Landscape Architects, a privately owned full-service landscape architectural design office located in Pound Ridge, NY. Known for his site-sensitive creative designs, implemented with the highest attention to detail, his award-winning projects have been featured in landscape journals and magazines. His firm has created some of the most spectacular private estates and gardens of Westchester and Fairfield Counties, Northern New Jersey and Long Island, in addition, to innovative parks, playgrounds, rooftop gardens and university campuses.

Louis C. Fusco RLA, ASLA: Principal
Louis Fusco Landscape Architects
Pound Ridge, NY

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