In the 1960s and 1970s, it was not uncommon to see concrete castings operating a lighting column on many suburban streets. Although very hard wearing, such lighting columns are not very attractive in the urban realm. These days, it is much more common to see metal lighting columns. They are lighter than solid concrete and can be designed to provide fixings for light fittings at much greater heights than other materials. In Victorian-age settings, materials like stainless steel can make a good alternative to what would have originally been installed as lamp posts – cast iron – which means the whole look remains in keeping.
Nevertheless, metal lighting columns do need to be protected from the elements in order to have a long life. Thankfully, lighting designers have a number of protective options to choose from when selecting the sort of columns they'll need for any proposed public street lighting scheme. What are they?
A good number of lighting columns are painted these days so that they not exposed to moisture in the air. Top-quality paint finishes will be dried in industrial kilns in order to create a covering which is not only protective but offers a uniform look. Steel lighting columns are frequently painted to protect them from oxidisation which can occur in wet environments, such as near to the coast.
Like other forms of street furniture, such as cycle racks and bollards, powder coating is an effective way of providing a high level of scratch resistance to lighting columns. Applied with a spray gun, powder coatings are electrically charged and cling to the metal they are sprayed onto before being cured. After this has been done, a uniform finish is achieved which is extremely tough and that can handle a good deal of abuse from abrasion. Powder coating finishes are popular for a number of metals, including stainless steel and aluminium. Although they can be very colourful, some coating specialists offer clear powders which maintain the look of the material being worked on.
When a material that might rust needs to be protected, a layer of galvanised zinc can be applied to protect it. In the case of lighting columns, protective zinc creates a shiny outer layer which twinkles attractively in the sunlight. Affording a silvery look, zinc is a sacrificial covering which oxidises instead of the metal beneath it. If scratched to reveal the base material, galvanised zinc will continue to oxidise and cover over any damaged sections over time.