Exterior and Accent Lighting

Exterior & Accent Lighting - Standard Detail Drawings

Design Strategy:

Exterior building and accent lighting offer dramatic ways to highlight architectural features and bring buildings to life during evening hours. They can also help light the sidewalk and enhance the safety of public spaces. Exterior building and accent lighting lends brightness, festivity, and vitality to an active urban environment.

Application Process:

Applications for Exterior Building and Accent Lighting Permits are obtained from the Planning and Development Services Customer Service Center. Each permit application must include the following items:

  1. An Electrical Permit from Development Services for fixture installation (contact the DSCSC at 919-996-2495).
  2. A Vegetative Impact Permit from the Urban Forestry Division (contact 919-996-4858), if the installation of awnings is likely to impact city trees in front of buildings. The Urban Forestry Division must be notified prior to the installation of any building encroachments. No pruning of City trees is permitted until a Vegetative Impact Permit is approved.
  3. A Facade Grant application if awnings are installed as part of Façade Grant work (contact 919-996-4643 for more information).
  4. At least two sketches or photographs of the building facade - one directly from the front, and another from one side showing where the fixtures are to be installed, their finished height above the sidewalk, and all streetscape materials (trees, signs, etc.) and building features (awnings, signs, etc.) within 6 feet of the installed light fixture.
  5. Details of the fixtures themselves, including dimensions, materials and framing, color(s).
  6. Proof of a valid Insurance Policy that provides a minimum liability of one million dollars. The City of Raleigh must be additionally insured under the policy.
  7. A written Indemnity Agreement satisfactory to the City Attorney that will hold harmless the City, its officers, councilors and employees, for any loss or liability or damage, including expenses and costs, for bodily or personal injury, and for property damage sustained by an person as a result of the negligent installation, use, or maintenance of a permitted public space within the City of Raleigh (see Appendix Section 5 for sample Indemnity Agreement).
  8. Fee payment (see Fee Schedule below).

Please Note:

  • Established businesses requesting permits may produce a copy of the active Proof of Insurance
  • Business owners requesting multiple Minor Encroachment Permits for use of public space at one location, for one business, can use one Proof of Insurance to cover all minor encroachment requests as long as the City is additionally insured under the policy.

Required Permits:

  • Electrical Permit
  • Minor Encroachment Permit

Fee Schedule:

Electrical Permit (see "Minimum Permit Fee" in Development Fee Schedule)        
Minor Encroachment Permit (one-time): $150

Permit Provisions:

  • One-time permits are valid as long as the permitted use remains effective. Any time the scope of use, ownership, or location changes, permit application must be resubmitted.
  • An Electrical Permit is required for lighting fixture installation and can be obtained from Development Services.
  • At the time of submittal of permit applications, applicants are also encouraged to provide contact email address that will be added to a listserv created for permit holders. Downtown Permits Office maintains record of all permits including contact information.
  • The DSCSC notifies applicants regarding the status of their permit approval.
  • The permit holder is liable for all damages and repairs to the streetscape, trees and vegetation, sidewalks, streets, or other public amenities that directly relate to the use of the permitted space.
  • NOTE: The City Façade Grant Program provides limited matching grants for installation of lighting fixtures. Contact the Urban Design Center at 919-996-4643 for details.
  • All lighting fixtures extending into public space must meet the standards and specifications of this handbook and the City Code (Sec. 10-2089).
  • Tree-affixed lighting is prohibited.


  • The Planning and Zoning Division notifies permit holders of violations.
  • The permit holder is responsible for remedying the violation within the time period specified in the notice. Beyond that, fines or subsequent revocation of permits applies as per the standard procedure outlined in Section I.D.3 of this handbook.
  • Permit violations incur a first time fine of $100. Subsequent violations are $200 for each occurrence and permits are revoked if a third violation occurs within a fiscal year.


For exterior building and accent lighting to be permitted within downtown public spaces, all of the following standards must be met.


  • Building mounted light fixtures must not extend more than 18 inches into public space if less than 7 feet above sidewalk grade.


  • Light fixtures must be shielded to prevent glare for pedestrians, motorists, adjacent businesses, residents, or tenants. For example, bulbs (lamps) must not extend past the fixture housing.
  • All lighting fixtures must meet the standards of the City Lighting Ordinance. See Sec. 10-2089 for more information.
  • Light fixtures must be directed at the building or the ground, keeping uplighting to a strict minimum.
  • Rotating, blinking or strobe lights are prohibited, unless approved by the City Council.
  • Color, neon and LED lights are permitted.
  • The targeted combined minimum luminance level for the sidewalk area is 2 footcandles, with an average uniformity ratio of 3:1. This uniformity ratio applies only to horizontal footcandle levels.


  • Stores are encouraged to keep storefront lights on until midnight.
  • Buildings may be lit from an adjacent building with mutual agreement between the building owners.


  • The light fixtures must at all times be maintained in good condition.
  • Burned-out light bulbs must be replaced within 48 hours. Damaged light fixtures must be replaced or removed within 10 days of discovery.
  • Any pruning of nearby tree branches can only be done by qualified persons under contract by tenant/owner and under permit by the Urban Forester


  1. Electrical Permit
  2. Completed Minor Encroachment Application (check "Exterior Building and Accent Lighting")
  3. Fees
  4. Proof of Insurance
  5. Indemnity Agreement
  6. Facade Grant Application (if desired)

Go back to Private Use of Public Spaces main page.



Dhanya Sandeep
Senior Urban Designer
Planning and Development

Planning and Development
Service Categories:
Permits - Zoning