Skip navigation and go to page content

Stack the Deck in Your Favor: Regulations and Best Practices for Parking Garages Blog

Parking garages can be a challenging environment for lighting designers. From seasonal outdoor daylight patterns, to underground levels, these spaces are a microcosm for many types of illuminated environments. For an added layer of complexity, many fall under the federal, state, or local regulations.

Parking garages can be a challenging environment for lighting designers. From seasonal outdoor daylight patterns, to underground levels, these spaces are a microcosm for many types of illuminated environments. For an added layer of complexity, many fall under the federal, state, or local regulations.


Let’s start with the regulation garage projects are most likely to encounter: The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) commercial building energy code.

While a handful of states like Mississippi, Kansas, and Alaska have not adopted ASHRAE/IES 90.1, many other jurisdictions have some version of the standard in place. Alabama, Georgia, and Florida adhere to the 2013 version of the code, while Tennessee, Louisiana, and Arkansas are still working from the 2007 iteration. This shows the variance in code adoption even within the same geographic region. In highly regulated zip codes like California, Oregon and New York, officials codified the newer 2016 standards. While the state of Washington uses the 2013 version, local regulators added their own layer of rules to the existing code. California legislators decided to beef up the even newer 2016 regulations with their own state codes, which are some of the most stringent nationally. Other states, counties, and municipalities have also amended the code for their jurisdictions.

Despite the exceptions, adaptations, and variations, the ASHRAE code still gives us a benchmark from which to build.

Below are just a few of the topic areas of interest at the national level:

  1. Manual area controls
  2. Multi-level dimming controls
  3. Automatic daylight controls & photo sensors
  4. Automatic shutoffs for schedules & sensors
  5. Automatic dimming demand response
  6. Photo sensors & daylight controls
  7. Outdoor lighting controls: Schedules & sensors

Let’s take an in-depth look at each of these stipulations for parking decks :

Manual area controls

Interior spaces must have local, manual switches that allow occupants to turn the lights on and off, while overriding other controls, if necessary. ASHRAE 90.1-2016 requires at least one of these controls for all lights in the space. If a building is larger than 10,000 square feet, there need to be at least two manual controls, with each covering 2,500 square feet at max. In California, this is expanded by requiring all areas enclosed with ceiling-height partitions to have independent controls. SimplySnap offers gateways, lighting controllers, wireless sensors, and wireless switches to address these requirements. Wall switches can be installed and programmed with SimplySnap scenes to control different control zones, and the CBS gateway includes five programmable buttons.

Multi-level dimming controls

Light sources should be dimmable, with at least one intermediate step between 30 to 70% power, or continuous dimming. On and full off switches are also required. California’s code also requires LED fixtures and lamps to be dimmable from 10 to 100%. All of SimplySnap’s embedded and external light controllers are compatible with dimming drivers.

Automatic daylight controls & photo sensors

Light fixtures in interior spaces near windows or under skylights must be automated by photosensors. ASHRAE 90.1-2016 calls for continuous dimming, or at least one control point between 50 to 70% power, and a second control point between 20 and 40% power, or the lowest dimming level the technology allows. Additionally, there must be a third control point that turns off all controlled lighting. California requires lights near daylight zones to have independent, automatic daylighting controls. SimplySnap’s daylight harvesting feature allows for zones to be created for this purpose. The lights assigned to these special zones can be adjusted based on the natural light measured by an outdoor sensor.

Automatic shutoffs for schedules & sensors

Interior spaces must have an automatic shutoff using occupancy sensors, scheduling, or both. ASHRAE 90.1-2016 indicates that all lights must turn off within 20 minutes of all occupants leaving the space. California has additional requirements for separate controls on each floor, and in each space with certain sized ceiling partitions. The state also requires separate controls for general, display, ornamental, and display case lighting. SimplySnap’s occupancy sensors can be associated with a control zone to dim lights after a certain amount of time has passed, and turning them completely off after a customizable time frame has passed. Schedules can also be created to automatically turn the lights off or on at specific times, or coordinate with the sunrise and sunset in the area.

Automatic dimming demand response

Lighting systems in garages larger than 10,000 square feet must be able to automatically dim lights by at least 15% in coordination with an Automated Demand Response (ADR) server. SimplySnap can accomplish this in several ways with an ADR sensor, BMS gateway, or manually.

Photo sensors & daylight controls

Garages with semi-transparent surfaces or wall openings must dim all light fixtures near windows with photosensors. ASHRAE requires these fixtures to reduce power by 50% if they are within 20 feet of an unobstructed window. California requires fixtures meeting similar criteria to be controlled independently by automatic controls. SimplySnap’s daylight harvesting zones can account for and adjust to natural light, as measured by the daylight harvesting sensor.

Outdoor lighting controls: Schedules & sensors

Although there are some exceptions, most lights must turn off either from an automated schedule, lighting control system or daylight sensor. Fixtures that are less than 24 feet high must dim by 50%, according to ASHRAE, or up to 90%, according to California law. Lighting must also turn off when there is sufficient daylight. SimplySnap hardware and software easily accommodate these requirements using schedules, photosensors, lighting controllers and gateways.

Looking for more information about how we can help you nail the spec, win the bid and keep your clients coming back for more?

Contact us today and let us show you the light!


Explore the Parking Garages and Parking Lots Information page.

Learn more about parking and outdoor lighting on the Lighting Control Solution page.

Watch the OnDemand Parking Webinar or the Parking Solution video.