By Christopher Sell
We take a look some of the ideas expected to light up the UAE this year, including ‘plug and play’ technology.
With 2007 newly arrived, the coming year will bring numerous changes to the emirate’s skyline. Projects will be launched, new towers will rise and existing buildings will have to innovate to remain at the sharp end of Dubai’s construction cycle. While designers and architects are working hard to construct towers that push the boundaries, one increasingly popular way of ensuring this will remain is through the application of light and lighting design.
To mark this growing trend of architectural lighting, Dubai will see the arrival of Light Middle East in May, a design-led exhibition and conference that will focus on the aspects of light design and the latest technologies within the industry.
The show, which is organised by Messe Frankfurt Dubai and aims to provide the perfect market place for new trends, technological developments and source products, is being held for lighting designers, architects, interior designers, light planners, design engineers, design consultants and a host of other industry experts.
While it is open to speculation what will be the drivers of next year’s trends, a number of experts have come forward with their picks. Paul Gregory of Focus Lighting says that smart installations, which see lighting become programmable to offer a range of atmospheric options are the way forward. “I think we will see a greater use of smart lighting fixtures like ‘plug and play’ technology. Simply install the light, and the system identifies it and understands without special wiring or circuitry,” he says.
For commercial purposes, the greatest developments in the sector are in the field of physiological reactions to light quality, where research now shows that human beings are significantly influenced by the light in their immediate environment. Poor levels can affect mood and motivation in the workplace, thereby leading to poor performance. And this can be taken even further, considering the volume of office space that is currently in Dubai and especially the volume being constructed.
To that end, Philips has brought to the market an innovative solution called Dynamic Lighting system – a fully integrated smart lighting network that simulates the natural patterns of the sun. For example, the light quality in the office during early morning will be noticeably different to that later in the day. Additionally, levels can be adjusted for personal preference, with options for cooler, warmer, dimmer or brighter light in individual work spaces.
Aside for the fully automated system, Philips also has its Pure Light range, which, in an attempt to steer away from traditional light bulb strips, with their glare and impact on the human eye, the Savio offers a panel with a large surface of light with a uniform and comfortable brightness, which can be either mounted, suspended or recessed. The ultra-slim and flat luminaire has a natural anodised aluminium housing with a high-quality, translucent rim.
Gregory adds that in recent times, LED technology has advanced to such a level, that it is become a prerequisite for any major building project. “The common use of LEDs in lighting fixtures has been the greatest development in lighting technology. Our projects are based on the beauty of multiple layers of lighting treatments. The 50,000-hour average life expectancy of an LED gives us the ability to create complex designs that do not need constant maintenance, while also solving the problem of re-lamping.”
Dhruvajyoti Ghose, director of Australian firm LDP (Lighting Design Partnership), agrees: “We will see increased options using LED-based technologies for direct lighting and the arrival of the micro-fluorescent lamp. These technologies will improve the energy efficiency of installations.” In addition, Ghose believes that a greater investment in lighting control technology will help minimise the wastage of light in space where people are not continuously present. “Lighting will also gradually begin to move away from using point sources directed at surfaces to luminous materials that form the surfaces,” he says.
LEDs are also ideal for dealing with the abrasive and unforgiving nature of the weather in the emirate, thereby making them ideal for external fixtures. Philips has also developed LEDline, a new concept based on cutting edge technology that provides designers with an additional set of tools – floodlights that allows light to fill, underline, graze or pinpoint, mark or blend. Available in four lights, LEDline complements the geometry of the architecture, turning surfaces into curtains of light and transforming light into objects.
“Dubai offers an extraordinary prospect for creative design,” says Ghose. “The density of high-end projects evolving in close competition with each other gives rise to an increased dependence on the power of good design to create points of difference. Clients are no longer hesitant to pursue innovative designs. It has become the design benchmark for many of the countries in this part of the world.”
Other key players in architectural lighting are Osram and Italian manufacturer Ing. Castaldi Illuminazione. Local company BeLight – part of the Al Aqili group – has developed its colour-changing LED panel. “Its an updated version of what is currently being used at the Fairmont and Jumeirah Beach Hotel pool bar,” says sales manager, Vikas Sareen. “LEDs are so popular right now because everybody loves colour. With the LED panels you can choose whatever you want,” he says.
Another development is the innovative ‘stretch ceiling’ from Venezia Display Solutions. Created from a vinyl sheet which is heated to 50°C and stretched over a wall or ceiling, the material can be lit up from behind with LEDs. Further innovation can be seen in German company Vertigo Systems with their ‘Living Surface’ interactive wall or floor, where images are projected onto a surface, which reacts to movement of people. So far a big success in Europe, Uli Lechner from Vertigo Systems is confident that the product will be successful in Dubai: “There are many clubs and bars here and it is also popular for shopping malls, so it should be a great success,” he says.
UK companies have also been quick to secure contracts in the Gulf region. Spiers and Major Associates, which in 2000, picked up the Award of Distinction at the International Illumination Design Awards for the external lighting design of the Burj Al Arab, have won the contract for Aldar’s Al Raha Beach in Abu Dhabi as part of the beachfront development’s US $2.7 billion (AED9.9 billion) infrastructure budget. The company’s contract is for a project-wide strategic lighting masterplan and lighting concepts for all public areas within the development, including parks, canals, pedestrian walkways and footbridges.
The design process began in August 2006 and is due to be completed by July 2009. “This will be the first major development in the UAE that will have project-wide integrated lighting strategy from the very outset,” says Jonathan Spiers, principal, Spiers and Major.
Clearly contractors within the Gulf are aware of the advantages that are afforded by aesthetics and pleasing architectural lighting – a telling statement, because despite the efforts of contractors and designers to build an enduring tower, it is as much about what the public can see as well as what they can’t.