Lighting Essentials for Commercial to Industrial Transitions

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The U.S. is undergoing a significant transformation in its real estate landscape. According to a recent study by Newmark, 15.2 million square feet of office spaces nationwide have been repurposed for industrial use. This represents a 33.7 percent surge in just a span of two years, demonstrating a growing trend of commercial to industrial conversions.

We can also trends among property vacancies as an indicator for this commercial-to-industrial. At the close of 2022, while the U.S. vacancy average for industrial properties stood at a mere 3.8 percent, office properties lagged behind with a vacancy rate of 18 percent. This gap not only emphasizes the growing demand for industrial spaces but also signals a potential paradigm shift in how businesses prioritize and utilize real estate.

For businesses considering an investment into a commercial to industrial property transformation, it’s important to understand the unique lighting needs of the new space in order to create a properly lit working environment and attractive space for prospective occupants.

See our 5 tips below to get started on the right track for implementing a lighting system that excites tenants and maximizes value for your property.

1. Know the Unique Needs for Industrial Lighting Systems

Industrial environments differ significantly from commercial spaces, especially in terms of lighting requirements. Here’s a breakdown of the primary distinctions:

Demand for Task Lighting

Industrial environments, with their varied operations from machinery-centric tasks to assembly lines, necessitate a spectrum of lighting intensities. Precision tasks demand high-luminance, focused lighting, while broader tasks require diffused, ambient illumination.

New Standards for Safety

Standing desks and RICOH printers are being swapped for heavy machinery and hazardous materials. Ensuring that your new light levels will adhere to OSHA standards and IES recommended light levels is critical to meeting the necessary safety requirements of the new occupant entering the space.

Shifting Facility Layouts

Depending on the business needs, the space could involve machinery and racking systems being frequently repositioned. The new lighting system must be equally adaptable. Well-crafted designs well incorporate:

  • Modular lighting systems, which allow for easy reconfiguration, are essential to ensure consistent illumination across shifting layouts.
  • Smart motion sensors can automatically adjust to changes, ensuring optimal brightness regardless of machinery placement.
  • Movable fixtures, like track lights, offer focused illumination, catering to specific needs as equipment moves.

In essence, for an ever-evolving industrial space, flexible lighting design is paramount to maintain functionality and efficiency.

2. Implement Vetted, High-Quality Fixtures

When converting to industrial environments, LED is the clear frontrunner for maximizing lighting quality and system efficiency:

  • High-performing fixtures are up to 10x more efficient than incumbent technologies.
  • Maintenance demands are slashed with lifespans of 150,000+ hours.
  • Brighter, cooler tones of LED have been proven to promote alertness and productivity.
  • Energy waste and GHG emissions are reduced by up to 80%.

But not all LED is created equally – and implementing a low-quality product can compromise your system, plummet your ROI, and even create safety hazards.

Furthermore, industrial spaces often create harsher environments that will put the durability of your fixtures to the test. Ensuring you have vetted, high-quality fixtures that can withstand either high heat or colder environments (i.g. cold storage) is key to avoiding expensive failures.

Be Wary of a Saturated Market

As technology evolves and becomes more cost-effective, new entrants have flooded the LED market with low-quality, untested product. These products are often hard to identify, as spec sheets will include the typical hallmarks of a high-quality bulb (long lifespans, desired color, lumen output, etc.) but haven’t been stress tested in various environments and are much more likely to fail.

Consult with an Industry Expert

How can you be certain the LED fixtures you’re interested will hold up to the claims made on the spec sheet? Work with an industry expert. Lighting professionals like PEC have quality assurance processes to ensure your fixtures provide the performance, durability, and lifespan that expected, in addition to top-tier warranties that allow you to quickly remedy any potential failures.

3. Incorporate Centralized Control Systems

Intelligent lighting control systems are the key to unlocking the maximum value of your system – harnessing an additional 20-30% of energy efficiency with automated dimming and brightening capabilities.

Here are a few primary components that smart industrial facilities incorporate for their lighting:


Control systems allow facility management teams to automate lighting around a custom schedule.

Smart Motion Occupancy Sensors

Smart motion sensors allow design teams can set parameters to brighten the space when active, then dim or turn off depending on how long the space has been inactive. Smart occupancy sensors can also be set to stay on for longer or shorter periods of time depending on the space they are in. These sensors are frequently used in industrial spaces, where lights that automatically turn off can create potential safety hazards.

Daylight Harvesting

These systems use sensors to detect natural light and adjust the electric lighting accordingly.

Zone Management

These systems are connected to a network and allow for centralized control of lighting throughout a building.

4. Take Advantage of Photometric Designs

Photometric lighting designs, which use mathematical models, 3D modeling, and environmental simulations are how advanced lighting designers predict how light will interact within a space, which is instrumental in guiding any commercial to industrial transition. Here are some key advantages of photometric design plans:

Achieve the right light levels

Precisely determine the ideal light levels for specific activities within a facility. The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) sets standards, measured in foot candles, for optimal lighting based on the environment or task. By accounting for common tasks happening likely to happen in the new industrial space, rather than a commercial building, can ensure the new system adheres to safety standards and provides perfect light for the work being done.

Ensuring consistency

Photometrics not only helps in achieving the right light levels but also ensures uniform lighting throughout a facility. Variations, like shadows or “hot spots”, can hinder visibility, especially in industrial spaces with extended operating hours. Burned out bulbs in such facilities can be costly to replace, considering production halts and equipment sourcing. Often, operations continue with these burned-out bulbs, reducing lighting quality over time. Photometric designs address this by preventing hot spots and ensuring even light distribution.

Try before you buy

Photometric designs built on thorough, accurate facility data allows you to get a reliable preview of what to expect with your investment. See your new light levels and accurately forecast monthly energy spend to confidently determine if the new design plan is the right solution for your new industrial space.

Learn more about photometrics here.

5. Begin with a Professional Lighting Audit

The best piece of advice we can give you… don’t go it alone!

Working with an experienced lighting professional like PEC can help you extract the maximum potential valuable for your building transition. We have retrofitted over 8,000 C&I facilities across the country — and each one began with a complimentary energy audit. We will send a lighting design expert out to your site, thoroughly assess the space, walk the floor with you to learn your top needs and priorities, and construct a tailormade design. Get started with the button below.

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