Shedding new light

Light changes the way we see things and can have a dramatic impact on a building’s appearance and what it is like to live inside. Construction Week explores the issues that arise for when considering different lighting applications.

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By  Colin Foreman Published  July 13, 2004

Shedding new light|~|Light Index.jpg|~||~|For the most part, the construction industry works with tangible elements that have an actual weight. Lighting is different because it has no weight and can not be touched, yet its application can arguably have a more dramatic affect on a structure’s appearance and performance than any of its solid components. To fully understand the capabilities of lighting it is important to remember that lighting is not just about light bulbs. Lighting is the application of technology to illuminate a space, and light bulbs are just one component, albeit an important one, of that system. The lighting system used varies greatly depending on the application. Lighting applications fall into several segments ranging from standard office and other mainstream applications to very sophisticated high-end applications like sports lighting and architectural lighting and city beautification. Different technologies are used for all these applications as the perception is different,” says Niels van Duinen, manager luminaries, Philips Lighting. For example, when placing a headlight on a locomotive the length of the beam can be calculated and an appropriate system can be engineered. At the other end of the spectrum, when lighting a discotheque visibility is less important and art becomes the issue instead of engineering allowing the design to create whatever he feels might be fun. “Nothing needs to be calculated for a discotheque, the only thing that matter is the load, the rest is up to your imagination,” says Duilio Passariello, Light Plus Lighting Design. Lighting can either be art or engineering or a combination of the two. When lighting a surgical theatre the solution is engineered, as the lighting will need to be very precise so that the surgeon can perform his job accurately. One the other hand, when it comes to monuments the application of light is more of an art as the purpose is to make the structure look more interesting and appealing. One application where the lighting does have to be calculated quite thoroughly is lighting sports events. “Sports lighting is about experiencing the emotion of sports, but a large part of it also involves enabling technology like high definition television and slow motion cameras,” says van Duinen. There are two contradicting requirements when it comes to sports lighting. The players need the horizontal plain illuminating so that the field is uniformly lit allowing them to see the ball and other players clearly, and the television requires the vertical plain to be lit so that the players are over illuminated and can be clearly seen by the viewers at home. “This is contradictory because television requires the angles of the beams to be beyond 60 degrees, and that is too glaring for the players,” says Passariello. The light levels have to be increased even further when slow motion cameras are used. This is because slow motion cameras operate by taking a series of very quick very quick shots so the light levels need to be increased to ensure that the film is sufficiently exposed. Philips recently did the lighting for the major stadia in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for the FIFA Youth and is now working on Qatar’s Khalifa Stadium for the Asian Games. All these stadia can host high definition television with some of them able to host slow motion cameras as well. For the major sports lighting guidelines are set by the governing bodies such as FIFA and the ATP, and before an event can proceed the lighting is checked to make sure that it meets the relevant guidelines. The guidelines themselves vary depending on the unique characteristics of each sport. When lighting basketball, for example, there can’t be a spotlight directly above the basket even though it would help the cameras, because the moment players look up to the basket they will be blinded by the light. Most sports require an angle of 45 degrees so that the floor is visible, but when television is involved the angle needs to be raised to 60 degree the focus is more on it looks, rather than just easy it is to observe. “With such a fine balance it becomes very technical with little room for subjectivity,” says Passariello. Office lighting is another application that follows a set of guidelines. Light Europe, Dubai has guidelines regarding sufficient light levels in places of work. However, these guidelines are not enforced as stringently as they are in Europe where failure to comply means almost automatic shutdown. There is a lot more to office lighting than just following the guidelines though. “Traditionally office lighting is simply following a set of recommendations that are all measurable parameters. So you can go into an office with a luxmeter and determine whether the lighting is good or not. This completely disregards the ambience created by the lighting,” says van Duinen. The emotion or atmosphere created can be greatly affected by the colour of light used. For example, blues create a feeling of energy and are often used in the morning. The nature of office lighting has also changed over the years as work practices as evolved. The modern office is no longer just a nine-to-five environment, so office lighting has to be more flexible. Devices such as motion detection systems and other flexible systems have become more popular to meet this growing requirement. Flexible lighting systems are also important outdoors. Roads require different lighting levels depending on the number of lanes and the speed of the traffic. On main roads like Sheik Zayed Road the traffic regularly varies from 5 km/h through to 140-160 km/h and this has to be done safely, so controllable, variable lighting levels are needed, which also present an opportunity for energy saving. A computer-controlled tele-management systems that could control all street lighting in Dubai so that if there is a traffic jam somewhere on the road network the light levels can be increased, or if a lamp is broken it can be identified and repaired. Another interesting area, particularly for this region is architectural lighting. With Dubai’s vision to attract 15 million tourists by 2010 lighting will have to be used to not only enable tourists to use the city at night, but also make it look attractive. The relationship between temperature and light is particularly important because when it is light is often too hot to go out, but at night it is cooler so that is when tourists come out to see the city. “For this type of project you have to identify what the palces of interest are and how light can add to it,” says van Duinen.||**||

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