Multifamily developers and owners spend thousands of dollars on landscaping, lawn services, and expensive outdoor elements such as pools, decks, and patios. Yet they often overlook the importance of exterior lighting, which not only highlights landscaping, but also provides a measure of safety.
Outdoor lighting has two purposes—functional and aesthetic—says Galt Robertson, project manager of landscape and design for Atlanta-based Post Properties. “Do you want drama or safety?” Robertson asks. “You want the area well lit for safety, but also dramatic in order to showcase the surrounding landscape and architectural details.”
Robertson suggests a mix of lighting to highlight favorite trees and shrubs while safely defining paths, walkways, and steps. At Post Properties' newest community—Post Carlyle in Alexandria, Va.—the developer and owner incorporated rope lighting, pathway lights, and tree well lights in the main courtyard. “All of this lighting combines to make the courtyard reduced in scale so it feels as if you are entering an outdoor room,” he says.
Multifamily developers and owners should always consider the color and the intensity of the outdoor lighting used. “It's a mistake to believe that brighter is better,” warns Diana Pittro, executive vice president of Chicago-based RMK Management Co. “Too many bright lights can make a multifamily community look like a runway.”
And, while it's important to keep areas well lit for safety reasons, Pittro reminds owners and developers to keep their residents' comfort in mind as well. “You do not want bright lights [to] shine into bedrooms or living spaces,” she says.
For example, at Regency Place, a new mixed-use, 112-unit luxury rental community in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., RMK Management used brighter bulbs along the driveway and softer bulbs in the back of the property, because that lighting faces residential areas.
Energy efficiency should also be evaluated when choosing outdoor lighting. At Regency Place, for example, RMK Management installed mercury vapor and halogen lights. “They match the aesthetics of the property while providing the maximum efficiency and light,” Pittro says.
Jennifer Popovec is a freelance writer in Fort Worth, Texas.