Complying with Dark Sky Regulations

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) was founded in 1988 by the professional astronomer David Crawford and physician Tim Hunter. The IDA’s mission is to protect and preserve the nighttime environment and minimize light pollution using high quality outdoor lighting.

Light pollution is caused by lighting that is not properly shielded and causes glare. Uplighting shining into the night sky above the horizon, according to IDA, causes what is known as sky glow.

So how does this affect the landscape lighting business? It’s important for all of us to be aware of staying dark sky compliant. Many homeowner associations have dark sky ordinances in place. Some cities have also embraced these practices. When working in such neighborhoods, it’s good practice to check the community rule book and/or meet with the city lighting inspector. This effort will provide a clear guideline of the regulations required. Maintaining open, semi-annual communication with the inspectors can keep a contractor informed of any changes in the regulations.

For commercial path lighting, the use of a fully shielded fixture (light directed only downward with no adjustability) is normally the requirement in these communities.

This would also be required on architectural lighting such as a wall pack or sconce. The illumination of walls, signage and monuments are also allowed if the light is directed on the object—and not facing upwards into the night sky.

Communities may allow for some actual uplighting, but there will likely be a limit on the lamp size and color temperature. Shields to block side glare may be required. The contractor may also be given a maximum lumen or foot-candle limitation that will be checked by the inspector.

Being proactive, and understanding the regulations ahead of time, will give the contractor or designer the proper credibility when bidding projects with dark sky requirements.

To learn more about the IDA, visit their website at