IES Recommended Lighting Levels: Everything You Need To Know February 3, 2023 – Posted in: Lighting Information, Commercial Lighting, General Info

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Introduction to IES Lighting Levels & Applications

IES Lighting recommendations are standards set by the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) and they provide guidelines on how much light should fall on each object or surface in order to achieve satisfactory lighting conditions.

There are several IES standards which apply to: the quantity of light, as well as its perception (brightness/contrast) and color quality. Properly applied, IES Recommended Lighting Levels help to ensure optimally lit spaces for a variety of applications such as outdoor safety, indoor comfort, and office productivity.

Furthermore, compliance with IES Lighting Standards have become increasingly important for energy conservation, since larger numbers of lumens can result in considerably higher electricity bills. The IES provides guidance based on the type of space and use so that users can make informed decisions about their needs.

There are lighting IES standards for commercial, industrial, health care, residential, and many other settings. Lighting designers often refer to these standards to make decisions on luminaires purchases.

IndustryApplicationFoot Candles
Airplane ManufacturingDrilling, riveting, screw fastening75
Airplane ManufacturingFinal assembly, hangar100
Airplane ManufacturingInspection50-200
Airplane ManufacturingWelding50
AssemblyRough easy seeing20-50
AssemblyRough difficult seeing50-100
AuditoriumsSocial Activities5-10
AuditoriumsAssembly Only10-20
Automotive ManufacturingFrame Assembly50
Automotive ManufacturingBody & chassis assembly100
Automotive ManufacturingBody parts assembly100
Automotive ManufacturingFinal Assembly, finishing, inspecting200
BanksLobby General10-50
BanksWriting Areas20-70
BanksTeller Stations, Posting & Keypunch50-150
Barber ShopBeauty Parlors50-100
Chemical WorksChemical Works30
Clothing ManufacturerReceiving, storing, shipping, winding, measuring20-50
Clothing ManufacturerPattern making, trimming50-100
Clothing ManufacturerShops, Marking50-200
Clothing ManufacturerCutting, Pressing100-500
Clothing ManufacturerSewing, Inspection200-500
Electrical Equipment ManufacturingImpregnating20-50
Electrical Equipment ManufacturingInsulating coil winding, testing50-100
Food Service FacilityDining areas, cashier20-50
Food Service FacilityCleaning10-20
Food Service FacilityDining5-20
Food Service FacilityFood Displays30-100
Food Service FacilityKitchen50-100
FoundriesAnnealing Furnaces20-50
FoundriesCore Making50-200
FoundriesInspection Fine100-200
FoundriesInspection Medium50-100
FoundriesPouring, Sorting50-100
Garages-Motor VehiclesStorage5
Garages-Motor VehiclesParking Garage10
Garages-Motor VehiclesService Garage10-20
Garages-Motor VehiclesEntrances50
Garages-Motor VehiclesRepair Area50-100
GymnasiumsGeneral Exercise & Recreation30
GymnasiumsExhibitions, Matches50
HospitalsEmergency Rooms50-100
HospitalsOperating Rooms100-200
HotelsBedrooms for Reading10-20
HotelsCorridors, elevators and stairs10-20
HotelsFront Desk50-100
HotelsLinen Room: Sewing100-200
HotelsLinen Room: General10-20
HotelsLobby: General Lighting10-20
HotelsLobby: Reading and working areas20-50
Iron & Steel ManufacturingStock, hot top, checker, cellar, calcining10-30
Iron & Steel ManufacturingBuilding, slag pits, Stripping yard20
Iron & Steel ManufacturingControl platform, repairs, mixer building30
Iron & Steel ManufacturingRolling mills30-50
Iron & Steel ManufacturingShearing50
Iron & Steel ManufacturingTin Plate50
Iron & Steel ManufacturingMotor Room, Machine Room30
Iron & Steel ManufacturingInspection100
LibraryOrdinary Reading, Stacks20-50
LibraryBook Repair and Binding20-50
LibraryStudy & Notes, Cataloging20-100
LibraryCard Files, Check Desk20-100
Machine ShopsRough Bench20-50
Machine ShopsMedium Bench, Rough Grinding, Buffing50-100
Machine ShopsFine Bench and Work200-500
Materials HandlingLoading Trucking10-20
Materials HandlingPicking Stock Classifying20-50
Materials HandlingWrapping, Packing, Labeling20-50
OfficesAudio-Visual Areas20-50
OfficesConference Areas20-70
OfficesCorridors, Stairways20
OfficesGeneral and Private Offices50-100
OfficesLobbies, Lounges, & Reception Areas5-20
OfficesMail Sorting50-100
OfficesOff-set printing & duplicating areas20-50
OfficesSpaces with VDT’s75
Paint ShopSpraying, Rubbing20-50
Paint ShopHand Art, Stencil20-50
Paint ShopFine Hand Painting & Finishing50-100
Paper ManufacturingBeaters, Grinding20-50
Paper ManufacturingFinishing, Cutting50-100
Paper ManufacturingHand Counting50-100
Paper ManufacturingPaper machine reel, Inspection100-200
Paper ManufacturingRewinder100-200
PrintingColor Inspecting100-200
PrintingComposing Room50-100
Sheet Metal WorksGeneral100
Sheet Metal WorksTin Plate Inspection100-200
Sheet Metal WorksGalvanizing, Scribing100-200
StoresCirculation Area Stockroom10-30
StoresMerchandising, Servicing30-100
StoresMerchandising, Self-Servicing200
Textile MillsCotton Picking, Carding, Roving, Spinning50
Textile MillsBeaming & Slashing150
Textile MillsDrawing200
Textile MillsOthers100
Warehouse & StorageInactive5-10
Warehouse & StorageActive Rough Bulky10-20
Warehouse & StorageActive Medium20
Warehouse & StorageActive Fine20-50
WoodworkingSizing, planning, rough sanding, medium quality machine and bench work, gluing, veneering, cooperage20-50
WoodworkingFine bench and machine work, fine sanding and finishing50-100
WoodworkingRough sawing and bench work20-50
Living Room10-20
Kitchen – General20-50
Kitchen – Preparing / Cooking50-100
Dining Room10-20
Rooms for Difficult Reading & Writing50-100
Basement / Garage Workshop20-75
Basement – Laundry20-100
Basement – Exercise and Recreation30

Achieving the recommended levels can be done by using various tactics such as utilizing natural daylight, installing more energy efficient light fixtures such as LED lights, and using layered lighting. Natural daylight is one of the most important elements in creating a well-lit environment as it provides visual comfort and is also a key factor in boosting productivity.

Energy efficient solutions such as LED bulbs provide focused directional light while consuming fewer watts, which can help reduce energy costs while still providing sufficient illumination. Layered lighting combines multiple types of light sources (ambient, task and accent) to create an even distribution of balanced light that focuses on comfort, productivity and aesthetics.

Achieving the Illuminating Engineering Society’s (IES) recommended levels can produce numerous benefits, both for a home and commercial environment. Not only does it help improve overall visibility and make occupants feel more comfortable, but it can also reduce energy consumption and help protect the environment.

A well-lit space is much easier to navigate, reducing accidents and therefore liability for the building owner. The improved design also increases productivity & efficiency due to fewer errors that might occur when people are in a dark environment or one with inadequate illumination. Finally, achieving IES-recommended standards can increase safety due to better ability to detect hazards such as slippery surfaces or items on the floor.

How Light Is Measured (Lux vs Foot Candles)

footcandle vs

Understanding the differences between lux (lx) and foot candles (fc) measurement of light is paramount in ensuring that the lighting requirements of any given space are met. Lux measures how much light is spread over an area, while foot candles measure how much light is present in a single spot in an area.

For example; a 10-foot square room illuminated by ten 1W LED bulbs might have 500 lux however, it will only have 50 foot candles since each bulb only illuminates one spot at a time. Knowing which type of measurement to use for your environment is crucial when determining the illumination levels best suited for your location and application.  The PDF below has an extensive list of spaces and applications with recommended foot candles taken straight from the IES Lighting Handbook. 

IES Lighting Standards PDF

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the IES recommended lighting levels residential?

Standard lighting requirements for average residential illumination is 30 – 50 lumens. It gives the area a general lighting to be used mainly for finding your way around and executing normal activities. Ambient lighting should generate a pleasant degree of light and exude a feeling of serenity and roominess.

What are the lighting levels for IES parking lot?

For sheltered parking lots with average environments, IES advises least flat illuminance of 0.2 foot-candles, least vertical glow of 0.1 foot-candles and uniformity proportion at 20:1 maximum-to-least. With improved safety standards, IES proposes minimal horizontal gleam at 0.5 foot-candles, minimum vertical shine of 0.25 foot-candles and uniformity ratio of 15:1 maximum to lowest.

What are the recommended lighting levels for manufacturing?

For manufacturing facilities there is three separate standards, depending on the detail.

Rough Detail 50-75 foot candles

Medium Detail 75-100 foot candles

Fine Detail 100-150 foot candles