Light at the end of the tunnel for big projects

It is easy to see the finished product: Street lights which guide us home in the evening, to architectural light shows across the Dubai skyline. CW caught up with Esam Al Mazroei, director of BMTC, and found out that the science of the lighting art is more complex than you might expect.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  December 17, 2005

|~|100vis200.gif|~|Esam Al Mazroei says that “scientifically planned street lighting not only acts as a visual guidance to the motorist, but is also is a crime deterrent”. |~|What is your involvement in the road lighting sector?

For over 20 years, BMTC has coordinated lighting for more than 60% of roads in Dubai. When Sheikh Zayed Road was under construction, the challenge was to provide lighting that would prove its sustainability.

With technical support from Schreder of Belgium, a new version of 2x1000W was developed, with the aim of providing uniformity at a higher mounting level and wider spacing — reducing the number of poles. But today, with advances in reflector technology, we can achieve higher luminance with less wattage and wider spacing.

A well-planned road network is disabled without the aid of proper lighting. Road lighting in Dubai is closely monitored by Dubai Municipality’s road lighting section. We do, however, provide lighting design support to clients and consultants when required.

Which other major road- lighting projects has BMTC been involved in?

Sheikh Zayed Road (starting from the trade centre to the Dubai-Abu Dhabi Border); Al Sufouh Road; Al Khalil Road; Zabeel Park; the trade centre underpasses and the Hyatt Corniche beautification.

What are the main considerations with architectural lighting?

In architectural lighting, the luminaries selected should be in harmony with the building’s architecture and façade. It requires the imagination of a designer, and is not strictly governed by lighting calculation.

Incident ray, reflected ray, colour rendering and colour temperature (colour of light) all play an important role. Architectural lighting is more of an art, whereas street lighting is more of a science.

And what are the main considerations when implementing street lighting?

Street lighting is a challenge because avoiding glare to the motorist’s eye, road curves, traffic density, wear and tear
of the road surface and safety of road users, all have to be
considered.

For example, a street lit to a good luminance level and uniformity (evenness of road lighting) but with luminaries causing high glare, will result in reduced visibility. If just the glare is reduced, visibility will improve substantially.

Research and experience has shown that good lighting reduces the number of accidents occurring at night.
Scientifically planned street lighting not only acts as a visual guidance to the motorist, but is also a crime deterrent.
When designing street lighting we take into account the type of road surface, installation type, pole height, the type of area (eg highways, residential areas, industrial areas, as well as the traffic density).

You recently completed lighting for the Beirut Airport Tunnel —what did the project involve and what was BMTC’s role?

Our role started during the design stage four years ago when we helped the client to achieve the best solution in terms of functionality and project cost.

The lighting in the tunnel is asymmetrical Counter Beam Lighting — the maximum luminous intensity is aimed against the direction of traffic. This system enhances negative contrast and increases the road luminance level.

We also had to ensure that the central lighting and lateral lighting systems were in accordance with the geometric constraints of the tunnel.

What were the main challenges you faced on the project?

The main challenge was to make sure that the designs done on paper were acheived in practice. The primary difficulty with tunnel lighting is determining the correct lighting level to be installed.

In theory, ‘just enough light’ is necessary to meet international requirements. Less than ‘just enough light’ causes the traffic to slow down or collisions to occur. Higher lighting wastes money, both on installation and maintenance cost.

Determinations become more complex with the realisation that the lighting decision has to be made before the tunnel is built.

How did your lighting systems fit in with the others used on the project?

On this project — and for the first time in the Middle East — an intelligent lighting dimming control system was designed and supplied by BMTC, in collaboration with Intelux and Ticos, based in Italy and Switzerland respectively.

The high pressure sodium vapour lamps are gradually dimmed to meet the external luminance — providing substantial energy savings. The system is also designed to increase/reduce the lighting levels based on the traffic congestion.

During the night and early dawn, when traffic density is low, the system automatically dims to save energy. We will shortly commission this system in another project — the Palm Island Access Roads scheme.

What other major lighting projects have you worked on?

BMTC has supplied Air Craft Warning Lights (ACWL) for the Burj Al Arab, Emirates Towers, the 21st Century Tower, and Capricorn Towers, as well as many others towers on the Sheikh Zayed Road and Dubai Marina area.

A rare feat will soon be accomplished in the JBR project by using the sophisticated GPS system for marking the towers with ACWL, whereby all the white lights will flash simultaneously without the need of hard wiring between the towers.

Are you involved in interior lighting?

Yes, we have supplied to the Knowledge Village Phase One, Ibn Battuta Mall, International City, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Jumeriah Lake Towers, as well as Dubai Healthcare City.

What new projects do you have in the pipeline?

We have orders to deliver 9000 street lighting fixtures in a major DM tender; lighting for seven underpasses for the Palm Corridor; as well as outdoor decorative lighting for DIFC.||**||

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