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Vandal resistant lighting: beauty in a heavy-duty package

Vandal resistant lighting is designed to survive high abuse. Vandal resistant lighting has always been known for its brawn – not necessarily its beauty. But times have changed.

“It used to be that you could look at a product and immediately tell it was vandal resistant,” said Tom Lane, marketing director for Fail-Safe, a line of vandal resistant products by Eaton’s lighting division. “But thanks to recent design, process and material advancements, we can now allow aesthetics to drive lighting design without compromising function.”

What is vandal resistant lighting, and where is it most common?

Vandal resistant lighting is made to withstand high abuse from a variety of sources. Long popular in public transit stations, correctional facilities, behavioral health centers and high-crime areas, vandal resistant products are also preferred in manufacturing facilities and distribution centers where, for example, lights could be hit by a forklift or any type of heavy machinery.

“These products are designed based on the assumption that they’re going to be at a greater risk for impact and damage because of where they’re placed,” said Lane.

How has a focus on style helped vandal resistant lighting expand to new applications?

Twenty years ago, vandal resistant lighting was all about brawn. Polycarbonate – the strong, tough materials used in products like cockpit windows, safety glasses and football helmets – were just getting big. “We’d give customers a sledgehammer or baseball bat and invite them to try breaking our Fail-Safe products,” said Lane. “But durability alone can’t sell a product anymore.” Instead, thanks to advanced design, process and material availability, today’s vandal resistant lighting can be designed to be as strong as its predecessors, but with a high degree of aesthetic appeal.

The results are appearing in a wide range of settings. Vandal resistant lighting is now regularly installed in boutique shopping centers, high-end schools, hospitals and many other environments. “If people will see it, it needs to be pretty,” said Lane. “No setting is immune to vandalism or abuse. But today’s vandal resistant lighting products do such a great job of fusing function and form that they’re almost becoming mainstream.”

How are LEDs changing the game?

When it comes to design, traditional light sources such as CFL, HID and incandescent share a self-limiting factor: they all have a lamp. “Lamps are more susceptible to breakage, and design had to account for that,” said Lane. “Now, solid-state LEDs create a myriad of new design possibilities.”

As LEDs become more affordable, they’re becoming increasingly popular in the vandal resistant lighting market for other reasons:

  • LEDs are more energy-efficient than other light sources, making them less costly to operate and a better choice for the environment.
  • LEDs are ideal in cold weather settings because of their ability to start instantly – unlike CFLs, which require time to start and build up to full brightness.
  • LEDs can be turned on and off instantly and repeatedly with no adverse effects. However, this action reduces the life of CFLs, and HIDs need time – often as much as 15 minutes – to cool down before they can be reenergized.

What’s next?

Style will advance as design, material, processes, and electronics progress. Components will become smaller, allowing lighting designers to be even more creative. But Lane is most excited about the possibilities that come with advanced lighting controls and LEDs.

“Controls are the future,” said Lane. “Soon, they’ll be integrated into all vandal resistant products, opening the door for occupancy sensors, daylight sensors, and even photo cells that are integrated into the fixture, tying into the overall facility lighting and energy control scheme.”

In the meantime, watch for LEDs to begin replacing all other light sources in the vandal resistant lighting market.

“We want our products to stick around as long as the facility they’re lighting,” Lane said. “And just like the strongest, toughest vandal resistant applications, our LEDs and high-abuse fixtures are built to last.”