Southwest Tract Home Front Entry

Southwest Tract Home Front Entry

San Diego, California, United States

Here we have a typical Southwest tract home complete with giant garage door elevation for a street view. Luckily we have some substantial plant material to work with. When I show the individual lighting effects there will be more than just the single fixture we are explaining to keep the effect in context with the overall design concept.

We start any landscape lighting design project by first addressing any safety concerns such as grade changes. There are no less than three different techniques we could employ to illuminate the stair area.


Step #1

If it is new construction we could install wall lights like the CP. To install the CP the contractor needs to rough in the included fixture housing using flex conduit as shown in the masonry mount detail. Notice the use of 12 gauge stranded THHN 120 volt type of wire. I find it much easier to work with when pulling wires into wall lights to use this type of cable because the insulation is slick and small diameter. This type of wire must be encased in rigid conduit to be code. I prefer to specify any integral mount fixture in an adjacent wall not in the step riser.

The CP provides point source light to the steps with minimum glare. The fixtures below have a 5 watt halogen lamp which is plenty for this 4' wide walkway.


The plan would look like this (plan is rotated).


Step #2

The second approach is well suited for retrofit installation where boring out the walls for fixture housings is not possible. By using the AL at the edge of the wall we can illuminate the stairs with one fixture. This creates a soft glare free light and, since it's one stake mounted fixture, it's a very economical way to solve the stair illumination problem.

The plan would look like this (showing front yard and courtyard).



Step #3

The difference between good and great design is the ability to think outside of the "box". In lighting terms this means not looking at a landscape and thinking "1 plant=1 uplight fixture" or "stairway=wall light on each riser". This static design approach leaves out potential dramatic, yet sometimes less expensive, solutions to common problem areas.

Now comes the fancy solution - moonlighting down from the big-dog palm. Whenever you have natural overhangs like mature trees or house eaves it creates the opportunity to explore the third dimension of lighting - down lights.

FX Lighting in awesome mode.


A different solution is to down light the Sago from the same palm crown we used for the steps. To create a high impact light level we will use the narrow beam TresllisSolare (TS)-20-V. This will focus most of the light on the palm only - creating a dramatic effect. Notice the elegant shadow patterns on the ground plane.



Once we are already mounting lights in the big palm we might as well look at the Sago Palm. This type of plant in this location is very difficult to light for two reasons. It is very dense so light will not pass through its foliage. Further, it is located so close to the wall it is impossible to get a good angle on it. Uplighting a Sago or other dense plant from this position can create a hot spot on the trunk and little else.

Carrying on the down light theme lets us illuminate the entire front yard from the two palms. Notice we can cover front gate, steps, planter beds and most of the driveway from these trees. As shown below: always try to specify some uplight to balance the effect.


Plans copy title

Lighting Plan (TS only)

RS. (The center planter in the driveway is missing on the plan.)


The uplites used were: MU-50 on the big palms RS-20 on the small palms. The downlites used were: TS-20 on the driveway, TS-20-N on the steps, gate area TS-20-V on the Sago Palm PathLites and WallLites needed -- none.


Security Mode

Flexible Zone Switching: Run the up lights and down lights on separate transformers to allow the owner to program the down lights (safety, security) to stay on all night while having the option to have the up lights (drama) to go off at midnight.

An example of an elegant and efficient but effective all night security lighting using the TS-20 down lights only.