Lighting the Middle East vision with ever-changing innovations

Development and progress demands constant adaptation and innovation. As cities in the Gulf grow into 24-hour hubs of commerce and trade, keeping them lit at night-time requires up-to-the-minute lighting technology. Zoe Naylor reports.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  January 28, 2006

local lighting companies flick the switch of a changing market, as construction demands the latest bright ideas|~|106prod200.gif|~|Lighting designs need to take into account macro and micro details, including the environment, infrastructure, usage and light spill (pollution).|~|Commercial lighting applications are rarely as simple as just flicking a switch. A variety of factors need to be taken into consideration i.e. colour changes, energy-saving lighting systems and how to minimise light spill or pollution. Road lighting comes with its own set of criteria and may involve the use of sophisticated software programs to ensure an even distribution of light on the road, whilst minimising glare from light refection on the road surface. Whatever the project, the type of lighting that is chosen will depend largely upon the specific application for which it is required. One major lighting project currently underway is the Palm Jumeirah just off the coast of Dubai. Covering a vast area of reclaimed land, the project requires a variety of lighting systems. “We’re currently preparing the lighting master plan for the Palm Jumeirah,” says Barry Hannaford, director of Dubai-based lighting consultants, dpa. “This involves reviewing all elements of the lighting, since lighting can have a tremendous effect on enhancing or spoiling the environment. “Part of our role is to provide the master plan documents that will be issued to developers as guidelines for them to work within, so there’s some measure and control of what goes on to avoid competition with how the place looks at night,” he adds. A project of this scale involves macro and micro detailing: “You have to consider the overall effect i.e. roadways, the entire infrastructure, the beaches, different functions and uses and the major routes that people use to travel around it. We’re also considering the view from above as well as from the ground.” Once complete, the Palm developers will be able to refer to the lighting master plan for general direction on factors such as the type of light, quality of light and how to avoid spill light. Spill light — or light pollution — is prevalent in high activity construction locations such as Dubai Marina, Downtown Dubai and Jumeirah Beach Residence. “Because of the 24-hour construction activity in Dubai, very little regard seems to be given to spill lighting or glare from the site lighting,” explains Hannaford. “There seems to be less awareness of spill lighting in this part of the world — just try looking at the stars at night-time.” Light pollution not only affects those living nearby, it is an inefficient use of energy. “By concentrating the light where you need it, you’re not wasting light where you don’t need it,” says Hannaford. Key considerations include aiming the correct amount of light where it is needed and when it is required, so as not to over-light objects. “It is important to use the most efficient lighting sources applicable and the best optics; this may mean that instead of using a 250-watt light, a correctly focused 150-watt light source may do a better job. In turn, this will save on energy and reduce greenhouse gases,” says Hannaford. Given the Gulf’s sunny climate (the region experiences around 300 days of sunshine per year), solar powered lighting is an option. In Saudi Arabia, solar power has been used for oilfield lighting systems, advertising signage and traffic signaling, while here in Dubai, many of Dubai Municipality’s car parking metres now run on solar power. But despite this abundant source of natural energy, solar power remains a largely untapped resource in the Gulf when it comes to lighting. “As the efficiency of solar cells improves, the costs come down and the battery life improves, it may become more of a useable item,” says Hannaford. He says solar lighting is currently only really used where a small amount of light is needed: “It may be used on the Palm project for way-finding marker lighting of for effect — it’s not a powerful light source.” According to Nizar Amine, department manager at Cinmar Lighting Systems in Dubai, the company rarely deals in solar powered lighting for the same reasons: Poor battery life and high costs. “The system is not adapted worldwide because it’s very expensive and the battery life for lead acid batteries is usually one year up to a maximum of five years — and this is at 25°C,” says Amine. He says that the cost of solar lights is still high compared to normal power — and while petrol in the region is relatively cheap, it is unlikely that solar power will make much of an impact in terms of lighting. “If one day we stop relying on petrol or the price of it goes up significantly, then we may see a shift towards another power source, but it won’t necessarily be solar power,” adds Amine. Cinmar Lighting Systems is currently tendering for a street lighting project for DM, between Sharjah and Dubai. “One of the challenges is to design the system from scratch, bearing in mind that in 10 years’ time there may be additional lanes added to make it a four-lane road on each side,” says Amine. Important elements to consider in road lighting include designing a system that requires the minimum number of lights while still achieving the light level required, and minimising light reflection from the street. “To help achieve this, we use software lighting programs such as Calculux or Dialux to make sure we get an even distribution of light on the street, and to make sure that for safety reasons, the light doesn’t catch the drivers’ eyes as they go past.” Interior lighting for commercial purposes is also big business in the region, especially given the number of shopping malls. For this type of application, high interior lighting levels — known as lux level lighting — is used to attract shoppers, and often features metal halide or halogen lights. “The normal GLS (general lighting system) is around 60 watts,” says Amine, “whereas halogen lights, for example, are much more intensive and can go to a higher Kelvin of colour temperature —maybe up to 3000 K.” This type of lighting system also means more variety with the colour change: By increasing the voltage on one light and decreasing it on another, it will produce different colours. Fibre optics is another important area of lighting, and the system is currently being put to use at the new Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. “We’ve just been awarded the supply and installation of lighting for the museum, which will be one of the largest in the Middle East,” says Gary Arnold, sales director at FibrePros. FibrePros is providing the lighting for over 300 display cabinets that are being installed in the museum. These will be lit using fibre optics to illuminate the ancient artifacts on show — many of which are said to be priceless. According to Arnold there are three basic elements to fibre optics: The light box, which is the element that creates the light; the cable, which comes out of the light box; and then the light fitting, which goes on the end of the fibre optic cable. “The light source is remotely located away from the cabinet, the cable is then fed through a conduit and goes into the showcase. The fitting is inside the showcase and that’s the only bit that’s visible,” he explains. Arnold says that there are many benefits of using fibre optics for this type of delicate application: “There’s no heat, no ultra violet light, it’s very low maintenance and offers easy accessibility i.e. no one has to go into the actual cabinets to change the lamps, so there’s no danger of anything in the cases being damaged.” The first prototypes of the lighting system were completed in Scotland at the end of last year, with the second prototype due to go ahead at the end of January. “After that we go into full production — the first deliveries are expected on site in March or April this year,” adds Arnold. Lighting — whether it is for interior or exterior applications — is a market constantly on the move. In a region such as the Middle East, which is home to numerous dynamic construction projects, the lighting sector is constantly being pushed to its limits in terms of innovative design, new technology and the ability to deliver solutions on time. But despite this frenetic pace of development, it seems the region’s designers, manufactures and consultants are able to make light work of the opportunities on offer. ||**||

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