Lighting

Lighting a church building is challenging and requires the input of specialist advice to achieve a successful scheme.            

We can help you make sure your lights have a positive impact on people’s experience of your building.

Download our guidance

Close up of a light bulb

Why is a lighting scheme important?

A good lighting scheme will help people:

  • See and move around freely
  • Read service sheets and see projected images
  • Appreciate what is special about your building
  • And enjoy special events

The quality and direction of the light is as important as its intensity. And a well designed lighting scheme will take all of these things into consideration.

Hire a consultant

It’s helpful to bring in a specialist lighting consultant at the earliest possible stages of the consultation. You can also ask your architect or surveyor for help.

They will usually provide advice based on a wide range of products rather than a lighting company, and will go through a tender process with you to appoint the appropriate contractor.

Although there is a cost involved, the total cost of the project is likely to be lower.

To engage meaningfully with your specialist consultant:

Think about what you need
Write a design brief

Include the special features you want to highlight (e.g. wall paintings).

But take care that the scheme does not have a negative impact on those features (e.g UV or heat).

Talk to your DAC for advice first.

The lighting consultant should give you an indication of your scheme’s light levels.

The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) recommends:

  • Ambient light: 150-200 lux
  • Directional lighting: 300-400 lux
  • Main body of the church: 100 – 200 lux
  • Pulpit or lectern: 300 lux
  • Choir stalls: 200 lux
  • Religiously significant areas (e.g. altars, etc.): 300 lux
  • Chancel, sanctuary and platform: 200 lux
  • Vestries: 150 lux
  • Organ (for reading music): 300 lux

Find out more about lighting places of worship

Trial your lighting scheme

It’s vital to perform proper trials of your lighting scheme with your consultant.

You cannot predict what is going to happen with lights until you see them in action and you cannot rely on computer generated views.

Initial tests should look at:

  • Colour temperature
  • Power
  • Position, etc.

A second round of tests should look at the light fixtures and wiring.

Ideally, you should test accessibility for maintenance as part of the trial.

Important:

This is a crucial time to notice any problems and fix them.

The cost of trialling your lighting scheme is going to be a lot less than the cost of not trialling it.

Aesthetic considerations

How will you minimise the impact of the scheme on the historic fabric of your church?

Do not fix cables to historic fabric
Have quality light fittings
Emergency lighting
Cabling is just as important as the light fittings
Switches and control plates

Control systems

It’s important to make sure that your lighting system is easy to operate.

Most modern lighting systems have a computerised control system. This will be pre-set by the lighting designer to meet your needs.

The control system allows the lights to be adjusted for different:

  • Parts of the church
  • Events
  • And times of year

Make sure that at least two people know how to use it. And keep a set of written instructions nearby.

LED lamps

Lighting can be costly for both the church and the environment.

But the latest generation of LED lamps are very efficient. They use up to 90% less energy than traditional lighting sources.

If you do nothing else, replace the bulbs in your building to reduce your energy bill and save the environment.

Sign up to Parish Buying

Testing and maintenance

The electric system should be tested every five years by a qualified electrician. And light fittings should always be kept clean to ensure ultimate performance.

You will also need to make sure that they are safely accessible for maintenance purposes.

Contact your lighting consultant for advice on specific maintenance measures.

External lighting

Floodlighting is an effective way of drawing attention to your church building.

But you need to consider issues such as:

  • Light pollution
  • The effect on your neighbours
  • The use of the building when the floodlights are on

Find out more about floodlighting

Bats

Some bat species are highly susceptible to light.

If your church has bats, you must formally assess the likely impact of the scheme on the bats.

Find out more about bats

Also of interest

External lighting for historic buildings

Get advice from Historic England

Make changes to your building

Let us help you plan your project