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Illuminating Your Space: A Guide to Lighting Options for Pre-Engineered Steel Buildings

Pre-engineered steel buildings are highly popular for residential, industrial, commercial, and agricultural use, thanks to their affordability, durability, and flexibility. They can be customized to fit the needs of the project, and this includes the lighting requirements. In this article, we’ll explore the different ways to add lighting to pre-engineered steel buildings.

Lourdes University Recreation Center which is a Pre-engineered Steel Building shows the proper way to light a building

A Guide to Lighting Options for Pre-Engineered Steel Buildings. Lighting is a crucial aspect of any building, and pre-engineered steel buildings are no exception. Adequate lighting is essential for maintaining a safe and productive work environment. It is also crucial for enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the building. There are several ways to add lighting to pre-engineered steel buildings, and each method has its advantages and disadvantages.

Natural Light

One of the most cost-effective and eco-friendly ways to light up a pre-engineered steel building is to use natural lighting. Natural lighting is the use of sunlight to illuminate the interior of a building. This can be achieved through the use of windows, skylights, and translucent panels. Natural lighting has several benefits, including reducing energy costs, enhancing productivity, and promoting a healthy work environment.


This is an example of a pre-engineered steel building roof with an installed skylight and curb. It also shows a standing seam roof system.

Installing skylights on the roof allows natural light to permeate the space during the day, reducing the need for artificial lighting. Skylights are available in various designs and materials, including plastic and glass, offering customization options based on your preferences and budget. Cost: Skylights, especially those made from high-quality materials, can be expensive. The cost of skylights includes the materials, installation, and any necessary modifications to the roof structure. Additionally, if you opt for skylights with advanced features like motorized blinds or shading systems, the overall cost can increase further. While skylights offer numerous benefits, there are some downsides to consider when installing them in the roof of a pre-engineered steel building. Here are a few potential drawbacks:

Cost: Skylights, especially those made from high-quality materials, can be expensive. The cost of skylights includes the materials, installation, and any necessary modifications to the roof structure. Additionally, if you opt for skylights with advanced features like motorized blinds or shading systems, the overall cost can increase further.

Structural Considerations: Adding skylights to the roof of a pre-engineered steel building may require modifications to the structure to accommodate the additional weight and ensure proper installation. This can involve reinforcing the roof beams, adding support columns, or making alterations to the roof's design. It's essential to consult with a structural engineer to assess the feasibility and potential impact on the building's integrity.

Potential for Leaks: Improper installation or poor-quality skylights can lead to leaks and water infiltration. This is a critical concern, as water damage can affect the structural integrity of the building and cause other problems such as mold growth or compromised insulation. It's crucial to hire experienced professionals and choose high-quality skylights to minimize the risk of leaks.

Heat Gain and Loss: Skylights can impact the building's energy efficiency by allowing heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter. The sunlight entering through skylights can increase the interior temperature, potentially leading to discomfort and higher cooling costs. Conversely, during colder months, skylights can contribute to heat loss, increasing the heating requirements. Proper insulation and selecting skylights with energy-efficient glazing can help mitigate these effects.

Glare and Sunlight Control: Depending on the positioning and size of skylights, there is a possibility of excessive glare, making it difficult to work or causing discomfort for occupants. Direct sunlight can create hot spots and uneven lighting, making it challenging to achieve uniform illumination throughout the space. Using shades, blinds, or tinted glazing can help regulate the amount of light and mitigate glare issues.

Maintenance and Cleaning: Skylights require regular maintenance and cleaning to keep them free from debris, dirt, and potential obstruction. Accessing and cleaning skylights can be challenging, particularly in buildings with high ceilings. Neglecting maintenance can result in reduced light transmission and compromise the appearance of the skylights.

While skylights can provide natural light and enhance the aesthetics of pre-engineered steel buildings, it's important to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision. Considering the cost, structural modifications, potential for leaks, heat gain/loss, glare control, and ongoing maintenance can help you determine whether skylights are the right lighting solution for your specific needs. Consulting with professionals and exploring alternative lighting options can ensure a well-informed choice for illuminating your steel building.

Clerestory Windows:

A pre-engineered steel building with a large glass end wall and clerestory windows on the side walls.

These windows are positioned high on the walls, near the roofline, enabling indirect light to penetrate deep into the building. Clerestory windows are particularly suitable for larger steel structures, enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal while providing ample natural illumination. Unlike the roof skylights, clerestory windows are a much better, more reliable way to introduce a lot of natural light into your new building.

Translucent panels:

This picture shows the inside of a pre-engineered steel building with three light transmitting panels installed in the roof. The picture also shows vinyl backed insulation compressed between the purlins and the girts

Are another way to incorporate natural lighting into a pre-engineered steel building. These panels are installed in the walls or roof of the building and allow natural light to pass through. Translucent panels can be customized to fit the design of the building and are a great option for areas where windows and skylights are not practical. Light transmitting panels, also known as translucent panels, are an alternative to skylights that allow natural light to enter the building. While they offer advantages, there are also potential downsides to consider when installing light transmitting panels in the roof of a pre-engineered steel building:

Reduced Insulation: Light transmitting panels typically have lower insulation properties compared to solid roofing materials. This can result in increased heat transfer, leading to higher cooling costs in warm climates and increased heating costs in colder regions. It's important to assess the insulation needs of the building and consider the potential impact on energy efficiency.

Glare and Hot Spots:

Light transmitting panels can create glare and hot spots inside the building when direct sunlight passes through. This can cause discomfort for occupants, create difficulties with screen visibility, and potentially affect productivity. Implementing shading devices, such as blinds or films, can help mitigate these issues, but it adds an extra layer of complexity and cost.

Limited Control over Light Transmission:

Unlike skylights, light transmitting panels may not offer the same level of control over the amount of light entering the building. While they provide natural light during the day, there is limited ability to regulate or block the light when desired. This can be a challenge in situations where precise lighting control is necessary, such as in conference rooms, theaters, or certain manufacturing processes.

Maintenance and Cleaning: Light transmitting panels require regular cleaning and maintenance to ensure optimal light transmission. Over time, dirt, dust, and debris can accumulate on the panels, reducing their effectiveness and potentially affecting the appearance of the roof. Accessing and cleaning the panels can be challenging, especially in buildings with high ceilings or complex roof designs.

Durability and Longevity: Light transmitting panels may have different durability characteristics compared to traditional roofing materials. Depending on the quality and material of the panels, they may be more susceptible to damage from hail, impact, or extreme weather conditions. It's important to choose high-quality panels designed for durability and longevity to minimize the risk of premature wear or replacement.

Cost: Light transmitting panels can be more expensive than traditional roofing materials. The cost includes the panels themselves, installation, and any necessary modifications to the roof structure. Additionally, the long-term energy savings from reduced lighting requirements may vary depending on the building's specific circumstances and location.

While light transmitting panels offer the benefits of natural light, it's crucial to consider their potential downsides. Reduced insulation, glare and hot spots, limited light control, maintenance requirements, durability concerns, and cost implications are factors to evaluate before choosing this roofing option. Assessing your specific needs and consulting with professionals will help you determine whether light transmitting panels are the right choice for your pre-engineered steel building.

LED Lighting

LED lighting is a popular lighting option for pre-engineered steel buildings. LED lighting is energy-efficient, long-lasting, and provides a bright, even light. LED lighting is also customizable, with a range of color options and dimming capabilities. LED lighting can be installed in a variety of ways, including surface-mounted, suspended, or recessed.

High Bay Lighting:

This shows high bay light fixtures suspended from the roof of a pre-engineered metal building.

LED high bay lights are an excellent option for illuminating large, high-ceiling spaces such as warehouses, manufacturing facilities, or recreational centers. They provide bright, uniform lighting while consuming minimal energy and requiring infrequent maintenance.

Strip Lighting:

A row of treadmills facing a large wall of glass windows with LED strip lighting illuminating them.

LED strip lights offer flexibility and can be installed along walls, ceilings, or even under shelves and cabinets. These lights are an ideal choice for accent lighting or to enhance visibility in specific areas such as offices, workstations, or retail displays.

Motion Sensor Lights:

Integrating motion sensor LED lights can optimize energy usage by automatically turning on when someone enters a room and turning off when the space is unoccupied. This feature is particularly useful in areas with varying occupancy levels like hallways, restrooms, or storage rooms.and long-lasting.

High-Intensity Discharge Lighting

High-Intensity Discharge (HID) lighting is another popular lighting option for pre-engineered steel buildings. HID lighting is energy-efficient and provides a bright, even light. HID lighting is also customizable, with a range of color options and dimming capabilities. HID lighting can be installed in a variety of ways, including surface-mounted, suspended, or recessed.

Surface-mounted HID lighting:

High-Intensity Discharge illuminating racks of cold storage in a climate controlled warehouse.

HID is installed directly onto the surface of the ceiling or wall. This is a simple and cost-effective way to install HID lighting in a pre-engineered steel building. Surface-mounted HID lighting is also easy to install

The choice of lighting for your pre-engineered steel building will depend on various factors, including your specific requirements, budget, and aesthetic preferences. It's important to carefully assess your needs and consult with professionals who can help you design the most suitable lighting system for your building.

Remember, proper lighting is not only essential for safety and productivity but also plays a significant role in enhancing the overall look and feel of your steel building. So, whether you opt for natural lighting, LED lighting, HID lighting, or a combination of these options, investing in a well-designed lighting system will undoubtedly contribute to the success and functionality of your pre-engineered steel building.

Do you have questions that Peak Building Systems can help with? Contact us today at (720) 282-5074 or visit our website here!

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