As we work our way through fall and into the winter months here in the Pacific Northwest, the days become shorter and shorter. Many of us are heading to work in the dark and returning home in the dark. There are, however, some things that we can do to help our associations through this time of the year which will not only improve the aesthetics of our communities, making them more inviting and pleasant, but can also improve safety and reduce crime.

The Element of Crime 

The criminal component isn’t often considered when planning revisions to a landscape or the exterior lighting system very often, but how does a criminal choose their place of activity? Often times the decision to commit a crime is more influenced by the criminal’s perception of whether or not they will be caught, rather than ease of entry into a location or the “reward” from committing the crime. One way to reduce crime in our associations is to employ the strategies emphasized by CPTED or Crime Prevention through Environmental Design.

CPTED Principle #1 Natural Surveillance 

“See and be seen” is the overall goal when it comes to CPTED and natural surveillance. A person is less likely to commit a crime if they think someone will see them do it. Lighting and landscape play an important role in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.

Proper planning and lighting of parking areas, walk ways, and common areas can reduce or eliminate criminal activity by forcing criminals to label your association as a “bad” target.

Safety by Way of Light 

The perception of safety at night can be affected by several factors. The color of the light, lack of glare, lighting levels, and uniformity of the light.

Outdoor lighting doesn’t just keep the ‘bad guys’ away, it can also help us get around our community safely. Illuminated walkways reduce the possibility of trip hazards. Lighting on roadways managed by the association creates safety for residents enjoying time outdoors and vehicles returning after a day at work. Some safety issues can be regulated by increased lighting or a revised exterior lighting plan.

The Ooh’s and Ah’s of Exterior Lighting 

Even if safety and crime prevention aren’t at the top of your list, property value must certainly be in consideration. Properties with well maintained landscapes are certainly beautiful to behold in the daytime, but have you seen them at night? Often when we see a community at night that holds our attention and causes us to lean over to our spouse and say, “Wow. They really take care of that place,” it’s usually because they have exterior lighting that illuminates trees and shrubs, exterior pathways, water features, etc. Creating and maintaining such a system can draw good attention to the association and increase property values for the owners.

New Technology in Lighting Systems 

As communities and their structures age, the existing lighting systems become outdated as technology and developments improve. We are always looking for ways to employ more efficient systems, green technology, etc. into new constructions as well as retrofitting existing structures. New fixtures often produce more light and require less wattage to operate. LED systems and fixtures have been drawing a lot of attention lately and for good reason. LED, or light emitting diode, is about 85% more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs and about 10% more efficient than CFL’s or compact florescent bulbs. Not only are they more efficient, but LED fixtures have a dramatically longer life expectancy which reduces the maintenance requirements. Consider the frequency that a simple porch light has to be replaced. Then consider an LED bulb operating in the same fashion theoretically could last approximately 20+ years.

Whether your association is intent on improving safety for owners and guests, reducing the possibility of criminal behavior, increasing property values, or making the community a little more environmentally efficient; looking into exterior lighting solutions can help take some of the gloom out of a typical Pacific Northwest winter.

By Troy Brogdon

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