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Outdoor Lighting Ordinance

Outdoor Lighting Ordinance

In 2003, the City Council approved an outdoor lighting ordinance requiring non-compliant lighting fixtures to be replaced by Nov. 15, 2018. The objectives of the ordinance are to prevent light trespass, reduce light pollution (also known as “sky glow”), reduce excessive glare, promote energy conservation, and improve safety and security (including addressing the special nighttime lighting needs of an aging population). Learn how to ensure you are compliant. pdf

Outdoor Lighting Ordinance and the Building Performance Ordinance Requirements

Privately-owned commercial and industrial buildings 20,000 square feet and larger must comply with both the Outdoor Lighting Ordinance and the  Building Performance Ordinance (BPO). The lighting requirements for the BPO include specific exterior lighting upgrades. These BPO lighting deadlines begin in 2021 based on building size. However, with the Outdoor Lighting Ordinance amortization deadline in July of 2018, owners are encouraged to comply with both ordinance requirements at the same time to capture economies of scale and realize cost savings for the exterior lighting upgrades required by both ordinances. Lighting rebates are available through  Xcel Energy as well as  Boulder County .

Objectives of the ordinance

  • Establishing maximum allowable lighting levels which are based on zoning district and use.
  • Requiring lighting to be reasonably uniform to minimize light/dark contrast.
  • Requiring all light in excess of 2400 lumens (roughly equivalent to a 150 watt incandescent light bulb) to be “white light," which includes metal halide, fluorescent, and induction light bulbs, because of superior color rendering properties.
  • Requiring the use of full cut-off light fixtures and shielding to reduce glare, light pollution and light trespass.

How does this affect my property?

  • The current ordinance was adopted in 2003 and allowed property owners with existing lighting installations that are not in compliance with the ordinance 15 years to comply. As of November 15, 2018, all properties must demonstrate compliance with the ordinance. 
  • Property owners with building permits for multifamily dwelling units and non-residential projects, which include outdoor lighting improvements, will have to submit lighting plans that meet the requirements of the ordinance. Lighting plans must indicate lighting fixture cut sheets, foot candle readings, lighting levels at property line and within the development, lumen levels for each fixture etc. (see a list of all necessary information in the requirements of Section 9-9-16(g), B.R.C. 1981 ) and are typically required with building permits to show compliance.
  • Alternatively, if the site has already been updated to comply with the outdoor lighting regulations in full and/or if no lighting on the site would exceed 900 lumens, a signed outdoor lighting certification (see link at the upper right hand corner of this webpage) affirming compliance with the outdoor lighting regulations may be submitted with any building permit or rental license. The certification shall be completed by the architect, electrical engineer, electrical contractor, or lighting consultant responsible for the plans or the final installation.
  • All new buildings and redevelopment of existing buildings (including remodels and additions) must comply with all the requirements of the ordinance.
  • Lighting plans are not required for single-family detached dwelling units. There are, however, some basic effective requirements for single-family dwellings such as requiring the use of shielded light fixtures (see below).

Outdoor Lighting and Single-Family Homes

To bring outdoor lighting into compliance, owners of single-family dwellings must, at a minimum: 

  • Install only outdoor light fixtures that are 900 Lumens or less (no more than a 60-Watt Incandescent bulb or 15-Watt LED bulb) / No bulbs over 3,000 (K) Kelvin in correlated color temperature (CCT) (Lighting packaging includes this information in “Lighting Facts”)
  • Outdoor light bulbs must be within a fixture that aims light downward and obscures view of the light bulb from view by a material that blocks or diffuses the light / No light may project upward.
  • Outdoor bulbs must not project below the encasing fixture (see ‘Fully Shielded Fixtures’ below) or be visible through clear glass.
  • Spot lights (or flood lights) are permitted as long as they are aimed downward, do not exceed 1200 Lumens (roughly 75-Watts Incandescent or 19-Watts LED) and are on a motion sensor and timer that turns the light off after 5 minutes of activation.

See Section 9-9-16(d), B.R.C. 1981 for more information.

Check your outdoor light bulbs

Non-compliant fixtures are those that do not shield glare from adjacent streets or properties. To bring a light into compliance, owners need to, at a minimum, replace visible bulbs with one not exceeding 900 lumens (equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb or 15-watt compact fluorescent bulb). Spot lights and flood lights must be aimed so that they don't shine across property lines. The lumen rating is commonly shown on the bulb packaging in conjunction with the wattage rating.

Frosted glass diffuses the light, obscures the light bulb and reduces glare. Full cut-off light fixtures ensure that no light projects above the horizontal, thus reducing light pollution. Full cut-off light fixtures qualify as fully shielded fixtures. If mounted at appropriate heights, the bulb is not visible from adjacent streets and properties.


Outdoor Lighting Complaints

Use Inquire Boulder under the “Code Enforcements” menu and "Zoning Code Violations" topic to let the city know if you would like to report an outdoor lighting complaint.

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