How to Design a Street Lighting System – Parameters, Layouts, and Calculations

How to Design a Street Lighting System –  Parameters, Layouts, and Calculations


Street lighting forms an essential civic infrastructure for ensuring road safety and night visibility for vehicles and pedestrians. Thoughtful lighting design factors like illumination levels, glare control, efficient fixtures, etc., are vital for quality, cost-effective street lighting. Let’s examine street lighting design considerations, parameters, calculations, and best practices.

What is Street Lighting?

Street lighting refers to illumination installations that provide adequate visibility on urban and rural roads for traffic and pedestrians during nighttime hours using pole-mounted electrically powered luminaires.

Need for Street Lighting

Proper street lighting is important for:

  • Enhancing the visual perceptions of drivers to ensure traffic safety
  • Helping pedestrians and cyclists be more visible to traffic during darkness
  • Providing a sense of personal security for public activity at night
  • Promoting commercial activity during evenings
How to Design a Street Lighting System - Parameters, Layouts, and Calculations
How to Design a Street Lighting System – Parameters, Layouts, and Calculations

Street Lighting System Components

Major elements are lighting poles or mountings, electrically powered luminaires for generating light, wiring from distribution points, and controls like photocells or timers to switch on/off.


Types of Lighting used for Street Lighting System:


  1. High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) Lamps:
    • HPS lamps have been a popular choice for street lighting due to their high luminous efficacy, which means they produce a lot of visible light for the energy they consume.
    • They have a long lifespan, reducing maintenance costs.
    • However, they are warm yellowish, which may not render colors accurately.
  2. Light Emitting Diode (LED) Lamps:
    • LED lamps have gained prominence recently due to their exceptional energy efficiency, long lifespan, and versatility.
    • They provide bright, white light and can be easily controlled for dimming and color temperature adjustments.
    • LEDs are environmentally friendly and have low maintenance requirements.
  3. Metal Halide Lamps:
    • Metal halide lamps offer good color rendering properties, making them suitable for areas where color accuracy is essential, such as sports facilities.
    • They provide high-intensity light and have a relatively long lifespan.
    • However, they can be less energy-efficient compared to LEDs.
  4. Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs):
    • CFLs were used in street lighting in the past due to their energy efficiency compared to traditional incandescent lamps.
    • They have a longer lifespan than incandescent lamps but shorter than LEDs.
    • CFLs contain small amounts of mercury, requiring proper disposal.
  5. Induction Lamps:
    • Induction lamps are known for their longevity and ability to withstand harsh environmental conditions.
    • They are efficient and have a relatively good color rendering index.
    • However, they are less energy-efficient than LEDs and may have limited availability.
  6. Low-Pressure Sodium (LPS) Lamps:
    • LPS lamps are highly energy-efficient and have a long lifespan.
    • They emit a monochromatic yellow light, making them suitable for areas where color recognition is not critical.
    • They are less commonly used today due to their limited color spectrum.
  7. Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH) Lamps:
    • CMH lamps are a recent development and offer improved color rendering and energy efficiency compared to traditional metal halide lamps.
    • They are often used in high-intensity applications where color accuracy is essential.

The lamp choice for a specific street lighting project depends on energy efficiency goals, color rendering requirements, maintenance budgets, and local regulations. In recent years, LED lamps have become the preferred choice for many street lighting installations due to their overall energy efficiency, durability, and color quality advantages.

The design process involves:

Street Lighting Design Process

Area Evaluation

Assessing the streetscape area and passageways that need illumination.

Standards and Requirements

Local government light level standards based on area traffic. Environmental restrictions.

Lighting Design Factors

Luminaire types, placement factors, pole locations, aiming angles, etc.

Lighting Layout Design

Detailed pole spotting and luminaire layouts – spacing, setbacks, mounting heights, etc.

Pole Spacing and Mounting Height

Optimizing pole separation and luminaire mount height as per standards and lighting calculations.

Electrical Design

Voltage selection, conductor sizing, overcurrent protection, load balancing between phases/circuits, etc.

Key street lighting design parameters include:

Street Lighting Design Parameters

Illumination Levels

Lumen’s incident on road surface is based on classifications like freeways, major roads, local streets, etc.

Luminaire Configuration

Luminaires may provide symmetrical or asymmetrical light distribution based on road width.

Road Width and Geometry

Pole placement and spacing account for road width and layout patterns like intersections.

Mounting Heights

Typically ranging from 3.5m for local streets to 12m for major roads on taller poles.

Pole Spacing and Setbacks

Distance between consecutive poles and distance from road edge follow accepted standards.

Supply Voltage Selection

Lighting circuits typically use 120V, 240V, or 480V supply depending on load characteristics.

Standards guide key design aspects:

Street Lighting Standards and Guidelines

Illuminance Recommendations

Minimum and optimal illuminance levels specified for various road types – residential, arterial, local, collector, highways, etc.

Luminaire Specifications

Standards for luminaire light distributions – symmetrical, asymmetrical, IES classifications, etc.

Placement and Layout

Guidelines for pole location, spacing, setbacks, side of the roadway, lane distribution, etc.

Wiring and Voltage Drops

Voltage drop limits are set based on supply level – 120V, 240V, or 480V and conductor sizing.

Environmental factors significantly affect design:

Lighting Design Considerations

Ambient Light Levels

Background lighting from nearby streets, advertising, and structures affect supplementary needs.

Road Surface Reflectivity

Higher reflective pavements like concrete require less brightness than dark asphalt surfaces.

Traffic Conditions

Traffic volume and speeds help determine illumination needs for safety and visibility.

Environmental Factors

Fog, humidity, rain, and air pollution impact effective light penetration, warranting higher illumination.

Light Pollution Control

Full cut-off luminaires, dimming, and focused distribution prevent light spillage and glare.

Electrical factors also require attention:

Electrical Design Factors

Voltage Drop Calculations

Voltage drops must be within acceptable limits down each circuit run, dictate conductor sizes.

Conductor Sizing

Applicable current-carrying capacity standards for buried or overhead conductors running to poles.

Overcurrent Protection

Fuses or breakers are sized to protect wiring from excessive current based on voltage and conductor size.

Load Balancing

To maximize capacity, total wattages across circuits are balanced for uniform pole distribution per circuit.

Energy Efficiency

LED luminaires with smart lighting controls help minimize energy consumption.

Proper lighting provides multiple benefits:

Advantages of Proper Street Lighting

  • Enhances safety for nighttime road users – vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists etc.
  • Provides security and encourages community activity during evenings.
  • Allows traffic flow similar to daytime by improving visibility.
  • Adds architectural beauty and impacts neighborhood identity.
  • Promotes commerce and business activity in the evenings.
  • LED lighting minimizes environmental impacts and carbon footprint.

Technological Advancements in Street Lighting

LED Technology

LED streetlights offer exceptional energy efficiency, longer lifespans, and precise control over light distribution.

Smart Street Lighting Systems

Intelligent lighting systems allow remote monitoring, adaptive dimming, and energy optimization based on real-time data.

Environmental Considerations

Explore how sustainable practices, such as minimizing light pollution and using environmentally friendly materials, can benefit communities and the planet.

Maintenance and Sustainability

Regular maintenance ensures street lighting systems’ continued efficiency and safety. Sustainable practices, such as recycling old luminaires and reducing light pollution, contribute to a greener future.


Well-designed street lighting balances visibility, ambiance, safety, and sustainability objectives through careful pole locations, luminaire selection, road-specific illumination levels, and efficient lighting technologies like LEDs. Thoughtful design considering visual ergonomics, local norms, and energy efficiency extends the usefulness of street lighting while mitigating potential drawbacks.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

FAQ 1: What are the benefits of well-designed streets lighting?

  • Well-designed street lighting enhances safety, visibility, and security, contributing to the overall quality of life in urban areas.

FAQ 2: How is LED technology changing streets lighting design?

  • LED technology offers energy efficiency, longer lifespans, and precise control over light distribution, revolutionizing street lighting.

FAQ 3: What factors influence pole spacing in streets lighting layouts?

  • Pole spacing depends on road classification, luminaire choice, and desired illuminance levels.

FAQ 4: How can I calculate the illuminance required for a specific road?

  • Illuminance calculations consider road type, traffic flow, and safety requirements. Guidelines and standards are available to help.

FAQ 5: Are smart street lighting systems more energy-efficient?

  • Yes, smart systems allow for remote monitoring, adaptive dimming, and energy optimization, leading to significant energy savings.

FAQ 6: What are the environmental impacts of streets lighting?

  • Sustainable practices, such as minimizing light pollution and using eco-friendly materials, reduce the environmental footprint of street lighting.

FAQ 7: Is routine maintenance important for streets lighting systems?

  • Yes, regular maintenance ensures continued efficiency and safety while prolonging the lifespan of the lighting system.

FAQ 8: Can street lighting design contribute to sustainability goals?

  • Energy-efficient lighting, reduced light pollution, and responsible materials use align with sustainability objectives.

FAQ 9: What are some common challenges in street lighting design?

  • Challenges may include balancing energy efficiency with lighting quality, addressing local regulations, and accommodating evolving technology.

FAQ 10: Where can I find resources for street lighting design guidelines?

  • Resources like lighting standards, government regulations, and industry publications guide street lighting design.


  1. What are the key considerations in street lighting design?

Major factors are recommended illumination levels, luminaire light distribution, road parameters, pole locations and spacing, mounting height, and electrical supply.

  1. What standards guide street lighting design?

Organizations like AASHTO, IESNA, etc. provide standards and recommended practices regarding lighting levels, placement, luminaires, wiring, voltages, etc.

  1. What are suitable illumination levels for residential roads?

Typical recommended illumination levels for local residential roads are between 0.4 to 0.8 footcandles.

  1. What is the average pole spacing for street lighting?

Pole spacing typically ranges from 90 to 180 ft for major roads and can be over 300 ft for freeways, depending on mounting heights.

  1. How does weather impact streets lighting?

Adverse conditions like fog, rain, and snow increase lighting needs. Road surface conditions also affect reflectivity.

  1. What is light pollution in street lighting contexts?

Light spillage, glare, and poorly aimed stray lighting affect adjacent houses, properties, or natural areas.

  1. How does road width impact streets lighting design?

Wider roads typically need luminaires providing broader asymmetrical distribution, while narrower roads can use symmetrical distribution.

  1. What voltage levels supply streets lighting?

Standard supply voltages are 120V, 240V, or 480V, depending on the lighting loads and electrical distribution system.

  1. Why is load balancing important in streets lighting?

Balancing lighting loads across phases maximizes circuit capacity utilization and prevents lopsided voltage drops.

  1. How do LEDs help with streets lighting?

LED street lights provide high energy efficiency, long life, and programmable controls, enabling intelligent energy savings.

Engr. Muhammad Ali Raza

Hello, I'm Engr. Ali Raza, an Electrical Engineering Professional with a passion for innovation and a commitment to excellence. I completed my electrical engineering degree in 2017 and have since been actively engaged in the field, where I've had the opportunity to apply my knowledge and skills to real-world projects. Over the years, I've gained valuable experience in Engineering field, allowing me to contribute effectively to the development and implementation of electrical systems and solutions. I thrive in dynamic and challenging environments, constantly seeking opportunities to expand my expertise and make a meaningful impact in the world of Electrical Engineering.

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