Beyond the Build

Construction Trends

LED Lighting: Where We See Things Currently

Recently, we completed two projects using LED lighting for the parking fields. I thought it would be helpful to share a few basic observations and thoughts:


Energy Efficiency. Conventional lighting wastes a high percentage of energy through heat, while LEDs remain cool. This makes these bulbs much more energy efficient. In total, LEDs consume about 50 to 60% less energy for similar lighting levels.

ROI. Since LED energy savings are significant, this should offset higher upfront capital cost for materials. In most cases (if the CAM component recapture can be determined) a payback will be seen within the 4 to 6 year range.

Lower CAM. Common area maintenance costs are lowered by the greater efficiency of LED.

Longevity. LED bulbs will last about 15 years, compared to the standards of parking area lighting today (3-4 years). LED bulbs also contain no glass components, so they are not vulnerable to vibration or breakage like conventional bulbs.


Cost. Even though the price of LEDs has halved in the past three years, it’s still twice as expensive as more traditional high pressure sodium lights. Meanwhile, if the parking field lighting does not work for your project, we have also found LEDs in their present cost structure are excellent for canopies, parking decks, wall-mounted fixtures and common areas in malls.

Fixturing. For existing properties, installation will mean mounting more LED fixtures on an existing pole. LED traditionally has required lower mounting heights creating a need to add additional poles to existing projects. I believe this is changing, as there are new types of LED fixtures designed for mounting heights in the 35′ tall range.

Light levels. More LED bulbs are needed to provide similar light levels, compared to metal halide fixtures, which are less expensive initially. LED Light levels are not as bright when measured by traditional photopic light meter. If light readings are taken scotopically, which is how the eye actually sees light, the whiter light of LED appears brighter.


For existing properties, one may wish to consider the use of Natural White, a hybrid metal halide product which burns for 26,000+ hours and hardly depreciates in quality of light during this period. Add a sophisticated control product like netLiNK, and properties should be able to get 8+ years out of this system for less money than LED at its current capital cost.

This is certainly an education period for all of us. While LEDs are a little more work on the front end, to us, using less energy is better for our communities and for the future generations. 

What have you experience have you had with LEDs?



Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.