What is LRV / Light Reflectance Values?
If you’re supplying or specifying balustrades in large commercial projects or a project where equal access is a consideration, chances are you’ve been asked about the LRV of stainless steel. But what actually is the LRV? It stands for ‘Light Reflectance Values‘, which are a measure of the percentage of visible and usable light that is reflected from a surface when illuminated by a light source.
Equality Act 2010 requires that all new and refurbished public buildings and work places comply with current regulations via their ‘Access Statement’, ensuring safe entry, exit and safe passage throughout the building. The regulations mean that people, regardless of disability, age or gender, must be able to gain equal access to public buildings. For visually impaired people this means, amongst other things, that there must be a good visual contrast between various elements of the building, including doorways, fixtures and fittings.
To achieve this, the relevant standards ask for 30 LRV points of difference between two surfaces. However, as handrails are generally round, giving light and shade, in many instances a reduction in the points of difference to 15 is acceptable.
Why is LRV Important on Balustrades & Hand Rails?
The LRV of a material in itself isn’t so important, it’s the contrast of this with the materials around. For example, a dark walnut handrail against a black wall won’t show up at all, whereas a stainless steel handrail in the same position is very obvious.
One way to visually understand how important the light reflectance values are, is to look at a space in black and white. Completely different colours can have similar LRVs, and once in black and white look the same.
The LRV of Stainless Steel Handrails
Stainless steel typically has an LRV value of between 39-45, with brushed stainless steel finish being approx 39-42 and the light reflectance value of mirror polished stainless steel being slightly higher at around 40-43 although some claim it to be as high as 63.
Whilst a mirror polished finish is important in highly corrosive area, unless it is a marine environment, usage of mirror polished stainless steel is purely cosmetic. This is something to consider when deciding on suitable handrails for a project. Stainless steel is an ideal material for handrails, as it meets all the relevant requirements