Singapore, Weekend 23-24th July 2016
A busy week with many things happening at the same time. An interesting and educational week as well on many fronts. You think you have seen it all and are able to anticipate things but it always amazes me that despite all the warnings and precautions issued, “oops moments” still happen! The failed military coup in Turkey had rocked us over the weekend and may well throw a big spanner in our Istanbul project. With the state of emergency now declared any travel plans are now strongly discouraged. We had a site coordination meeting planned in Istanbul in 2 weeks but that has now been postponed till late August. With the tragic events in Nice also fresh in our minds the idea of travelling for our projects is becoming less and less appealing! I anticipate that teleconferencing will become more and more popular these days…
Lighting master planning
While preparing for a joint master plan tender bid in Australia, it so happened that at the same time this week we were also very much submerged in finalising our lighting master plan presentation to the government here in Singapore due this coming Monday. It will be our first major presentation so making sure we are up to par is crucial. We met up with the lead architect (lighting is integrated as part of an overall urban city precinct masterplan) to make sure we are all on the same page. The Singapore government is very much moving towards creating a “smart nation” meaning they have great interest in anything that can contribute to the smart concept, including lighting. With the arrival of LED technology and the ever growing internet and app market there is no doubt that the opportunities for smart lighting are becoming more and more a thing of today. While the Singapore bid has lighting an integrated component in the overall master planning, in the Australian bid, lighting is the sole and key purpose. However because lighting has to be integrated with the city’s architecture, its heritage, its urban planning, its public community involvement and art program, we have been busy pulling together our team to assure ourselves of the necessary expertise in all these areas.
How smart are lighting designers?
The above smart lighting (r)evolution is also raising serious questions about the role of a lighting designer, in a world that is becoming increasingly smarter? With lighting systems becoming more and more about smart technologies and less and less about lighting and environments moving into the internet of things, one can legitimately ask where the responsibility of the lighting designer ends and where IT/Smart experts are taking over. It is a subject that needs serious attention as lighting (and lighting design!) risks being relegated to a secondary importance. To be continued…
Proprietary photo metrics?
In one of our sports lighting projects we are working on resolving an issue that has thought us a number of things. First that the lifespan and depreciation in harsh environments are not as good as the manufacturers may want you to believe. We are using premier grade 2KW metal halide floodlights and found that the lighting levels have reduced with at least 30% if not more, even though the failure rate is minimal. As a result the critical lighting levels in the centre of the pitch have dipped below standards. Thinking it was due to poor aiming the venue management decided to tilt the floodlights up to increase the lighting levels in the centre. The resulting effect was that, yes there was now enough light in the centre, but oh, no, now the spectators were glared and had a hard time following the game! We went some time ago to do a site assessment and found that adding more floodlights was hardly possible because of the poles structural limitations (only 4 pieces could be added to the outside poles which were not yet at full capacity). While the option of increasing pole heights and adding more floodlights is a consideration for the future, the immediate solution is to re-aim the lights within our initial glare limitation angles and re-aim all floodlights (including the extra 4) to increase concentration. As the support from the manufacturer (Abacus) was frustratingly slow we asked for the photo metrics to do the calculations ourselves, but were surprised to hear back that they don’t give out the photo metrics and had their own design services free at our disposal. I find this a worrisome development as other than assessing the resulting outcome I have no way to identify any flaws in the calculation process or check the design calculation factors… As it is an existing installation we have not much choice right now but I may have to rethink our position for our upcoming projects there…
I think we have all been there, going to one of our project sites, only to see some shocking installations! Two of my team went to site in Malaysia middle of the week to check on the site progress of one of our projects there a golf course clubhouse. Back in the office they shared their site pictures with me and it was a typical case of textbook failures from the client and the contractor in appreciating the importance and relevance of a lighting designer. By fat the biggest shocker was the quality of the façade plaster finish, which came vividly to life when the linear wall wash was turned on (see pictures below)…ouch! It is not the first time (nor the last time) that our grazing light reveals the contractors shoddy work…The cost cutting exercise (oh sorry, we call that value engineering…) had been done on their own account without involving us and the result was shockingly visible. Instead of lighting control panels we found that the electrical contractor had decided to install hundreds of simple 3-gang switches, but because for the control panels (Lutron nota bene) had already been delivered to site, they were installed next to each other? What? Further issues such as clearly visible colour inconsistency (in down lights and cove lights, non-dimmable T5 replacements of LED soft effect lights (why is it so bright!) and extremely poor substitutions of IP65 rated exterior lights (why is there water inside and are they tripping?)…were all text book failures in appreciating the benefits of good quality lighting design. The irony is that this client may now spent more money in rectifying the situation than if they would have purchased the specified lighting in the first place! Penny wise, pound foolish?
Keeping up with developments.
The other regular fixture in our office are visits from lighting manufacturers, keeping us up to date with the latest innovations and developments. One of the visits we had this week was from Sattler, a relatively new player in the market and specialised in suspended profile structures. I find it fascinating to see how some manufacturers are finding a niche in this highly competitive LED world and really go all the way to develop their concepts within their niche market strategy. Having visited their factory in Germany after Light & Build it was nice to see the again and being reminded how impressive their products are. We are looking forward to projects where we could use their expertise and product competence.
Natural light at work Finally, I managed to snap two pictures taken upon arrival in Singapore last weekend where I had the chance to witness both a double rainbow (from a plane it is actually a full circle, not a bow, but I could not capture that my seat) and a near full moon at dusk. Nature remains a lighting inspiration, always.
Have a great weekend
Perth, Weekend 16-17th July 2016
His Majesty’s Theatre.
This was the week of His Majesty’s Theatre. While I did engage in some other project and lighting related activities, this week was pretty much all about HMT, from the moment I landed back in Perth on Monday. With the “grand opening” scheduled for Thursday, we still had a few “loose ends” to tie up.
The final tune-up
First up on Monday, nearly straight on from the airport, was the final adjustment of the column floodlights. We had done the aiming during my last trip but that was done with the scaffolding still up. That had obscured the street view a bit and parts of the scaffolding had also restricted access and aiming of some of the floodlights. With the scaffolding down it became obvious that the light throw of the column floodlights were not fully aligned needing a final adjustment. While it maybe something that the general public may not notice, it was very obvious to us and not taking action to adjust would have bothered us for ever. The Theatre gracefully lend us their stage cherry picker (why do they call them that way…?) allowing us to reach the floodlights mounted on the awning from the pavement below. The actual adjustment just took a few minutes, but maneuvering the machine around was tedious and time consuming. Adjusting the 20 odd floodlights took us more than 3 hours. On top of that we were facing one of the coldest nights in Perth, not ideal for having to adjust floodlights with your bare hands! Thanks Gary!
The Media preview.
The next day was set aside for an exclusive preview for the local TV (Channel 7) and main newspaper (The West Australian). This was done to avoid any issues and unpredictable miss-happenings on the night and assure there was proper time to record and shoot video’s and pictures of the façade lighting. We ran the “countdown” sequence for the TV crew and showed the variety of colour options that are pre-programmed for various future occasions. Since the unveiling of the façade was to coincide with the season opening of the opera “the Elixir of Love”, in celebration of 50 years of the Western Australian Opera, the photo/ video shoots also included taking shots with some of the opera lead singers against the back drop of the illuminated building façade. We were at hand to make sure the lighting was properly up and running…
After five years in the making the big day finally arrived. It’s not often that the unveiling of one of my projects is a public media event, let alone a “black tie” event! The proceedings led us across the road where we witnessed the countdown of the façade lighting, followed by the “ooohs” and “aaahs” and applause. Hugs and congratulations amongst the team and all involved for a mission well accomplished. Away from us inside the theatre, a Channel 7 news reporter streamed the news live to the station, but the countdown showed on TV was a shorted version of the re-recorded shoot earlier in the week. We then moved to a cocktail party inside the Theatre, where the minister of Health, Culture and the Arts, Mr John Day, officially inaugurated the new façade lighting and commended all that had been involved in realising what he called a great new attraction to the Perth city centre. The crowd amongst which the west Australian Governor and many of Perth’s socialites then adjourned to the theatre to enjoy the opening night of the Elixir of Love, a humourful opera about a farmer’s attempt to win the love of the woman he desires so much…The opera was in Italian, but had some hilarious “Aussie” translations…strike me pink!
The media aftermath.
With today’s social media craze, the opening was tweeted “life” by many and the next morning the newspaper report the event in its morning edition and on it’s online website. The government issued a media statement as well praising all involved for a job well done. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter posts flowed in the aftermath. The world of reporting has changed, but as of today so has His Majesty’s Theatre…Thanks to all that have been involved. It has been a great team work and every one of the team has been essential to the ultimate success; The Perth Theatre Trust, His Majesty’s management team, Heritage Perth, IGuzzini and Mondoluce, Tech Works, Griffiths Architect, ETC and of course my own KLD team.
Have a great weekend.
Singapore, Weekend 9-10th July 2016
What, no travel this week? Yes and that is largely due to the end of Ramadan, which brought us a public holiday midweek to celebrate EID, the end of the fasting period. Best wishes and happy celebrations to all. Many people were on leave, including some of my staff and overall there was little action going on in this part of the world, a perfect time to catch up on projects and other things.
Singapore’s URA are calling a limited tender for this year’s Marina Bay 2017 New Year’s Eve countdown, an interesting project for which I was asked to participate. I spent some time developing the potential lighting concept; submission is due in the next few days. The last few years the City used to cover Marina Bay with 20,000 floating balls which were illuminated by floodlights. This year they want to change the concept…challenging because we are talking about an area as big as about 4 soccer fields and on the water…this won’t be cheap! However I relish these kind of challenges as they are out of the box from our regular architectural lighting projects. These projects are not done for the money, but for the honour of doing it…
I-Light Marina Bay 2017
Also being called are entries for next year’s I-Light Marina Bay, an event were lighting designers and artists are invited to come up with an eco-friendly lighting installation that, if selected, will be displayed for 3 weeks around Marina Bay. Manuel and me are considering participation (we submitted in the past but were not selected) and spent some time brainstorming possible concepts. Unlike for the countdown, the budget to develop your “artwork” is very low, only SGD15,000.00, way down from the budget that was proposed at its inauguration a few years back in which I participated with my whirlpool installation. In comparison to big city events like Lyon Light Festival or Vivid Sydney, the budget here is unneglectable and therefore nothing spectacular can be expected. From what I saw from last event (with the same low budget) it was not great, nothing really spectacular or memorable. Nevertheless the process of brainstorming and creation, even if we have little hope of getting selected, is still exciting and stimulating, hence we will challenge ourselves to come up with something and submit. Due soon too!
Amongst others I had some time this week to dedicate to my activities as a member of International Advisory Council who mentors the Chinese Lighting Designers Association. We are in the midst of finalising an event as part of the Shanghai International Light Fair end of August, which include finalising sponsors and organising speakers for the event. Quite a tedious and time consuming undertaking but I am doing it with pleasure gratefully using my worldwide network of trusted and respected relations in the lighting industry. Supporting this cause is really a passion and mission; there is still a lot of unawareness (especially in Asia in general and in China specifically) about the benefits of good quality lighting design, so sharing years of knowledge and experience (like I am doing through my blog) is an important thing to do for our profession. Raising the awareness and understanding is key, not only towards the design community (architects and the like), governments and developers but also within the ranks our own lighting designers (teach the teachers!) and last but not least the manufacturers themselves. While I am critical of manufacturers and suppliers in my presentations I always find a very appreciative response and acknowledgement that they could do better!
Inspiration and motivation
Finally I would like to pay homage to all my loyal followers and readers. I do not always realise how many of you find inspiration in my writing and the sharing of experiences from my life as a lighting designer but when I do get the feedback it gives me the motivation to keep going! Thanks Gerardo Fonseca, an architect who gave up his profession of architect to become a lighting designer very much inspired by my blog, to come all the way from Brazil to visit me in Singapore. I treasure these encounters, it validates very much my efforts in writing and sharing and most of all it stimulates me to keep going with my blog. Thanks to all of you out there!
Have a great weekend.
Singapore – Seoul – Singapore, Weekend 2-3rd July 2016
On Monday I finished my presentation for Seoul over the weekend saved it on a thumb drive and put it away, done. From the outset the summit seems to be mostly a government, multi-national corporations and academic researcher’s convention and I am not 100% sure what I am doing there. But I was invited and it is an opportunity to re-explore the Korean market where I have not done projects for quite a while…read further on how I went. On Tuesday I finished the draft for our city masterplan project (which I cannot mention as we signed a NDA with the government for confidentiality) and I am getting excited by the looks of it. In my research to similar type city environments I did find some interesting implementations that will serve as reference.
City lighting strategy planning.
The master lighting strategy that we are developing is very much build around the natural and nature heritage of the area. Still very much untouched, the designated area will be turned into a bristling city precinct with many of its natural (landscape) elements retained. Motorised traffic will very much be contained with emphasis on pedestrian and bike circulation. Many plaza’s and promenades with dedicated pockets for social, education, sports and entertainment activities. Buildings will be linked up through sky loops, aerobridges and elevated promenades. In my research to this part of the concept I found several interesting existing implementations notably in New York and Paris
I have been flying with Singapore Airlines for more than 25 years and on my flight to Seoul I was reminded again why I love flying with them. In order to keep my weight in check I generally pre-order a low calorie meal and had done on this flight too. Half way into the flight we were served our meal but as I started with the main course the stewardess came back to me full of apologies saying she had given me the wrong meal. I had not noticed it as I thought the beef and vegetables seemed pretty low calorie to me. However in their menu the low calorie main dish was fish and rice. I told her it was fine and finished the meal served to me. I thought that was the end of it, no issue at all, however later in the flight the chief stewardess came back to me with a $150 (!) voucher together with her most sincere apologies for the mistake. Really I asked her, it was no big deal! But she insisted I took the voucher…I was easily convinced (J) and was once more won over by their super service and personal attention.
My trip to Korea was split in two parts, one a visit to the Alto lighting offices and factories, the other delivering my presentation at the low carbon green growth earth energy summit. Alto has been the leading lighting manufacturer in Korea for decades with turnovers rivalling the leading big boys in Europe for instance. Only since the last 2-3 years they have focussed on developing the international market and that’s how we got know their products and appreciate the quality. Visiting their office, showroom and factory (about 1 hours’ drive outside Seoul) to get to know their team was an essential part of developing the relationship. The team has a great attitude as well as a sense of direction for the future with great plans for new product developments. The product range is still relatively limited and mainly aimed at the corporate, commercial and industrial sector, but their understanding of where LED technology is heading is driving their product development towards exciting new opportunities. Cooperation with lighting designers is seen as imperative for success and our discussions therefore focussed on the different lighting options lighting designers are after. A company to watch…
The green and not so green practices in lighting design
Last but not least I delivered my presentation at this energy summit and while I am still not sure whether the platform was the right one to promote greener practices in lighting it was worth exploring speaking to an audience that for once was not from the lighting or architectural design industry. Mostly academics, government officials and researchers (by the looks of it) attended and (similar to the PLDC format) the summit had various parallel sessions and subjects in different conference rooms to choose from. As far as I could see I was the only speaker about lighting (design) and considering the audience background decided to include a little introduction about what lighting designers actually do. It was actually quite refreshing to speak to non-lighting people and the presentation obviously aroused interest with several questions raised in the Q+A session afterwards. While the session chair initially had urged me to round up my presentation with my allocated time running out, the questions (including from the chairperson herself) kept coming and spilled well over into the next speaker’s time slot…sorry! It will be interesting to see if it will result in some interest in the future. I took several business cards for further follow up. Time will tell.
Otherwise it was great to be back in Seoul. I reconnected with the Gangnam and Iteawon areas (even bought myself a leather jacket!) and though the weather was hot and humid enjoyed it thoroughly. It has been more than 10 years since I was last here and like so many capital cities in the world Seoul has been growing at a break neck speed and has all the buildings and infra structure to show for it. The city seems ever so brimming with energy and as always entrepreneurial. The big boys (Hyundai/ Kia, Lotte, Samsung, Sanyong are present everywhere. I have added some city impressions for those who have never been to Seoul. Interestingly I felt that in visible LED technology in application they have still a way to go with many conventional lighting systems still being used…be back soon.
Have a great weekend.
Singapore, Weekend 25-26th June 2016
A whole week in the office without travel! A few outside meetings yes, but overall mostly behind my desk. As I write this blog the breaking news is that the UK has just voted to leave the EU. In a very close fight the BREXIT camp won over the REMAIN supporters bring a time of uncertainty in the world’s future and while we seem far away from it in Asia Pacific, shock events like this do make you stand still and reflect on where you are and what the future may hold or demand from you in the years to come. My blog has always been a great tool of reflection for myself, inspiration for others and often a trigger to make changes. It is coincidental (or perhaps not) that I am in the middle of a process of change personally and with my company and this week’s events just reinforce that looking after yourself and planning for the future are elementary for survival.
This week gave me the opportunity to spend some time with my new director of projects and business development to discuss steps to bring KLD to a new level of quality and expertise in line with today’s demands. Issues like branding, marketing, company documentation and tightening of our quality control and service delivery are all part of the process. We have been doing well with what we have over the last few years, but with changing times where the IoT is becoming more and more integrated in our lives, software programs and apps more and more sophisticated, it is time to look ahead and adapt to the “new” world. Innovation and change is a must in order to stay ahead in this game. Too often my travel and daily work routine prevents me from actually spending time planning for the future and having (making) time this week to brainstorm and start the process was a grateful experience.
Good design practice
In a parallel activity we engaged this week with one of our loyal hotel operators to discuss how to improve their design manual (which we felt had little in the way of giving guidance towards good lighting design) as well as brainstorming on the process of design and approvals to make sure the end result is as good or as close as possible to the design intent. The reality of life is that many developers (certainly in the hospitality industry) have little to no experience in working with top hotel brands and top design consultants and as a result the project infra-structure in terms of project management, budget provisions and approval process lack on many levels with at times disastrous end results. We have experienced this all too often; clients who do not respect the consultants recommendations, move ahead with procurements without the consultant’s sign off, combined with little or no actual project management and poor workmanship. For many of us an all too familiar situation. While the client is king, poor end results leave many people disappointed us included. The sad thing is that many of the clients actually don’t understand that they are at the root of it, so educating the client from day one is imperative. It was great to be on the same page with the operator and discussed several steps to improve the process, one of them being an early sign off on the budget, as money is generally the root of all evil. Being in agreement and committed to a budget eliminates much of the later stage pains. In one of our recent projects all budgets were locked in at concepts and it provides great clarity for the further development of the project.
From concept to reality
We have a few projects near or in tender stage which needed our full attention in regards to final specifications or tender queries. These are crucial times as we need to make sure the bidding contractors / suppliers have the full picture and ultimate tests and mock ups were carried out to confirm final configurations and details. In one of the projects we had been working on introducing a new lighting concept, build on the opportunities of today’s mobile apps. In this concept the bottles of wine are displayed on an illuminated shelf, in itself nothing new. However customers in the bar can select a bottle of wine from a menu displayed on an I-pad and when they confirm their selection the actual bottle on the display shelf lights up. The same lighting installation will be programmed to create some small light shows at the top of each hour or other events like birthdays or other. This week we got the system programming back just in time to issue it to the tenderers as an addendum. We are excited and look forward to see this exciting feature installed.
On the subject of apps, the amount of apps related to lighting is growing with the day. Many can be found as lighting controllers, but last week I found one that helps you to determine how to upgrade your current lighting installation to LED, typically aimed at the general public.
Have a great weekend.
Singapore – Perth, Weekend 18-19th June 2016
I flew into Perth over the weekend straight on from Guangzhou for a week of work in Australia. One of my projects was recently completed and I wanted to go visit it (Palace Hotel) now that it was officially open and occupied with tenants. But the better part of the week was consumed with the last bits and pieces of commissioning His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth’s iconic and historic theatre dating back more then 110 years. After more than 5 years in the making through governmental and local city council hoops and approval processes we are finally seeing the light! The scaffolding is coming down this Saturday and hence all lighting installation works, aiming testing and commissioning in areas only reachable from the scaffolding had to be completed by Friday. Last but not least on Friday was the closing date for the IES lighting design awards in Western Australia for which we wanted to submit 3 projects. As you all may know preparing lighting design awards for submission is also quite some work let alone for three projects, the submission forms, the lighting designer statements, the client consent letters and last but not least the selection of photograph adequately representing your project, including the necessary captions and explanations…with all that now done and dusted I am looking forward to a relaxing weekend with my children…
His Majesty’s Theatre
This historic heritage building has been screaming for lighting and it is hard to believe that all these years it never had a proper façade lighting worth its majestic architecture. We started this project some 5 years ago and over the years you will have had the occasional updated through my blogs. To make a long story short sometimes last year we finally got the go ahead, finalised and agreed on the budgets, which had grown a bit out of control due to the excessive costs of installation mainly caused by the strict health, safety and security rules imposed by the city. But we managed to secure the funds, get the approvals and embarked finally on ordering the light fittings and ultimately this year the installation. The scaffolding went up late last month and finally tomorrow will come down with work practically completed. There will be a few more lights to adjust, but they can be reached from the inside. Everyone is now getting excited and looking forward to the grand opening ceremony which is to take place at 6pm on the 14th July with the mayor, politicians, city council members and members of Perth VIP elite all invited to attend. Following the opening ceremony will be the inaugural performance of an opera, details to follow. As I had mentioned in one of my previous blogs working with a professional contractor who takes pride in doing a good job has been an immense pleasure. Focussed on getting every detail right, pro-actively thinking ahead and finding solutions when unexpected issues popped up, this contractor has been instrumental in the final success of the project. I can say therefore with confidence that the lighting that has been achieved is without doubt the best possible that we could achieve within the restrictions and limitations of heritage preservation and available budget. It is not often that you complete a project knowing that you could not have done anything better…this is one of them…all good things come to those who wait patiently…I can’t wait till the official unveiling as even during testing we had been instructed to do this under the highest discretion (by only lighting up parts at the time after hours) as to keep under wraps the final visual impact. Photo’s are not to be published and kept under embargo until official opening.
As a sharp contrast comes this project that was “sort of” completed last month and saw the main tenant (Woods Bagot Architects) move in with much fanfare and media publicity. This also is an iconic heritage building with a rich and near century long history in Perth. The contractor/ developer however had by far a lesser interest and personal pride to complete the project to the best of possible outcomes. Driven by costs control and possible other motives/directives unknown to me, the working relationship was always cold and distant instead of involved and cooperative. We had to initiate meetings, case for information and have still not officially signed off with our final payment still outstanding. We had a great working relationship with the architect, who ultimately moved into the building and we went to catch up with them this week to reminisce about the work done. The interiors now look great, but we do see the little things that could (should!) have been done better. The custom fixtures fitted with art glass (pendants and wall sconces) look nice but the colour of the light is too greenish. Partly due to the glass colour, but most of all because of the alternative linear LED strips that were used without consulting us, let alone approved / signed off by us. Typical case of the contractor shutting us out of the final production process and then putting us for a fait accompli with no further allowance to change the lighting strips to the correct type and quality. It bugs and frustrates me because it is so obvious, but from the feedback I get I seem to be the only one seeing it. Even the architect only noticed it only when I pointed it out. Part of the exterior façade lighting at the upper edge of the roof is already not working…why? It seems to be sloppiness of the contractor and unwillingness to do a good job, not wanting to go the extra mile. There is nothing wrong with the actual product, one of the high end brands and as we had already encountered during installation most likely due to poor connections and driver issues. Here is a link to the project: https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/wa/a/31750195/public-set-to-see-inside-historic-cbd-hotel/
Have a great weekend.
Singapore – Kuala Lumpur – Singapore – Guangzhou – Singapore, Weekend 11th June 2016
Another busy week with lots happening. The week started with another technical lighting test on site in Singapore to determine the inter-compatibility of our proposed high ceiling auditorium lights with the motorised lifter that will allow the raising and lowering for maintenance or eventual re-programming needs as well as checking out the connectivity in regards to dimming and DMX control. Then a quick trip to Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday to try ad complete the commissioning of the IBT façade lighting followed by my trip to Guangzhou to participate as an invited speaker to the lighting design forum and attend the annual general meeting of the Chinese Lighting Designer Association (CLDA) which were held on the side lines of the annual Guangzhou International Lighting Exhibition (GILE). My attendance to the CLDA AGM was in the capacity of being a core member of the International Advisory Council (IAC) that mentors the CLDA in becoming an association of international standing.
I can’t advocate enough how important compatibility testing and visual mock-ups are nowadays. The LED technology as well as related lighting control technologies are developing so fast that what you think you know today may not apply anymore tomorrow. Constant due diligence has become a nearly inevitable daily part of lighting design. With a deadline looming of coming mid-August, we need to go out for tender in the next 1-2 weeks and hence making sure we got it all correctly specified is crucial. This time we had mocked up the high ceiling RGB power lights to make sure all parties understood the workings and implications for installation. Theory and practice can sometimes be worlds away. We also had a serious look at the process of installing the recessed DMX downlights in the lower balcony ceilings which need to be installed from the top and hence in this case would require the creation of additional ceiling access panels. We stuck our heads into the ceiling space to check for obstructions but found it generally clear to go. A final visual test is planned early next week.
This project has been a long and dreading affair for various reasons. Principally the awarded lighting supplier took on the project on a design and install basis but in order to “cut” costs had decided they would only request the lighting manufacturers agent to supply, leaving out the T&C component offered as part of the package. The installation part however turned out to be a bit too much to chew from the looks of it and when poor installation works started to catch up with them, they found themselves alone on the dance floor without T&C support. They tried to circumvent this by saying that for the products that were failing, the manufacturer should come to the table and replace them free of charge. The manufacturer’s agent of course cannot ascertain what the cause of failure is alleging that in all likelihood it was due to poor installation and not due to product failure, a view I am also very much inclined to support. Till recently we had a client who is not happy about the “unfinished” situation and refuses to pay; a contracting supplier who is unhappy to continue work because they are not being paid with us caught in the cross fire. The contracting supplier has now taken the smart decision to finish the job first in the assumption that the client will pay later and has therefore resumed the commissioning for which we made this trip. We assessed the façade lighting on the night, identified the lights that needed further fine tuning so we could guide the contractor who was bungling down the façade in a gondola from the 300m high building. I then left back for Singapore leaving Andre to supervise the works, a tedious process, considering the height of the building and the difficult (some far away) viewing angles…
The GILE organisers provide design forums and symposia with speakers from all walks of life which are freely accessible for visitors to the fairs. These presentations are meant to be a platform for information and knowledge sharing and my invitation to speak was for the Think (Lighting) Design Forum. Due to the relatively short notice I decided to reprise my presentation from Abu Dhabi albeit in a adapted and revised format. Kindly hosted by A-Lighting magazine (one of China’s leading lighting magazine’s and the CLDA’s media partner) the Think Design forum was spread over 2 days with renowned guest speakers like Gad Giladi (former president of the PLDA), Johan Moritz (City of Malmo), James Wallace, Kjell Hult (Alingsas), Mark Burton-Page (LUCI), as well as local stars like Lear Hsieh, Hank Shih and Carrie Yu. A great program with great attendance.
A-Lighting was also the principal host of the award night and gala dinner that honoured achievements in the lighting industry to which all VIP guests and speakers were invited to. In typical Chinese fashion, the evening was loud and bright with much toasting (kampei!) going on. The Fair itself is rather different from Hong Kong or even Frankfort even though all are organised by Messe Frankfurt. The GILE is much more an OEM event with hundreds of manufacturers you will never have heard about, some with some interesting, intriguing names or offerings. I noticed one company calling themselves the 1% company in an appearance alluding to the dimmability of their products. Another company promoting lights for plant growth advertised that their LED products were specially designed to stimulate the growth of cannabis (yes, I am not kidding!).
CLDA / IAC
Last but not least I attended the CLDA’s AGM in my capacity as executive IAC member. With the meeting room filled to near full capacity the event was as always cheerful and conducted in the friendly spirit and enthusiasm typical to this association. The spirit of togetherness and common mission to make the association a success was reinforced by the issuance of this year’s association T-Shirts: colour yellow, the 8th one since its incorporation in 2008. My collection now includes green (2014), orange (2015) and now yellow. Highlights of the meeting were the announcement of an MOU signed with the city of Alingsas (from the famous lights in Alingsas) about future cooperation and exchanges and awards to recognise past years contributions to the association. I was surprised but very honoured to receive an award for my efforts over the past year, thanks Lear. After the meeting we moved to our dinner venue where the joyful mood continued into the night…
Have a great weekend.
Singapore – Mumbai –– Singapore, Weekend 4-5 June 2016
Monday and Tuesday were spent in the Singapore office with the usual project meetings, then the rest of the week in Mumbai for the kick of meeting of new project. My new director of projects was meanwhile in Anji to assist in the testing and commissioning of our hotel project there. A tough but well executed task as nothing is really to specifications leaving little room and joy for success at this stage. I reported on this project in one of my previous blog. A longer term plan has been proposed to bring the lighting and dimming installation up to standards. An interesting point to note is that the light fittings procured by the client without our involvement more than 2 years ago have now run out of warranty, basically on the day of opening…something to ponder on for future designs as warranty often starts from the day of procurement and generally not on the day of the start of actual operation!
In one of our Singapore projects we are doing our due diligence by doing visual mock ups to ascertain the lighting effect is as desired and most of all to support our client in the decision making. The lighting effect was as predicted and the client agreed and committed to go ahead. More tests will be carried out next week on some of the other lighting effects as the overall procurement cost for the lighting will be close to a million dollars and we want to make sure it is money well spent.
I also managed to complete my presentation for my guest speaking appearance at the Guangzhou Light Fair next week and sent the related abstract and speaker info to the organisers (Frankfurt Messe Hong Kong) for which they were chasing me for some time. My excuse being my late inclusion to the program and my heavy travel schedule :). More about this event next week. For those who will be in Guangzhou next week please do come and visit our CLDA activities. I am not sure of the venue(s) but I am sure it can be found without too much difficulty.
There is a long history and even a bit of a conspiracy theory in the project that we kicked off in Mumbai this week. The client is one that I worked for on several projects a couple of years ago. Only one (Goa) got completed to great acclaim, but the others got aborted prematurely when my client had an unexpected and unwanted run in with the law which led him to keep his head down for a few years. The story made headlines at the time but as always with the passing of time the story disappeared from the front pages and people got consumed with other news. He is now back with a vengeance reanimating the feature projects that he had had to abort at the time. He has re-assembled most of the “old” team including ourselves.
The conspiracy part is that he took the fall for the bigger boys at the time and they now repay the “debt” by injecting their support in the reanimation of these projects. Of course that is just hearsay and I have no means nor interest to confirm this. For me I am happy to see him back in full swing with a team that feels a bit like family and with whom I have some great memories. The “reunion” was joyous and I think everyone was happy that the unfortunate episode was behind us with full focus on creating a great project ahead. Our meetings were held at one of the clients head offices with the usual Mumbai traffic jams providing for more familiar ingredients. Two days of presentations and workshops with all key consultants were very fruitful and bode well for the success of the project. It is going to be a fast track project so we expect to be back within the next couple of weeks already.
To my knowledge I was the first to coin the “Light Talk” heading and over time I have found many others (trying to) using it. Some lighting magazines started to use similar headings for regular features but on my intervention and requests changed it in “Talking Light” or “Lighting Talk” in acknowledgement. This week to my surprise, I found a lighting manufacturer (Ligman) naming one of their new product ranges “Light Talk”. Of course I don’t think that I was the stimulator to their name choice, but in a way it is a nice confirmation that there is something in the name that resonates in people. That (my) “Light Talk” can be inspirational was pleasantly brought to my attention by one of our friendly Chinese suppliers, who on site in Yangshuo last week, confided in me that they religiously followed my blog with the aim to better understand the lighting designer’s mind and improve their products and services accordingly. Thanks for sharing Hidden, these are the kind of feedbacks that motivates me to keep going with the blog.
Have a great weekend.
Singapore – Hong Kong – Guilin – Yangshuo – Singapore, Weekend 28-29 May 2016
For the second time in a row back to China, this time to one of my favourite project sites, a resort hotel located on the banks of the famous Lijiang River in Yanghsuo. The project has probably another year to go before opening but is already shaping up as a great and unique project, thanks to a combination of heritage buildings (an old sugar cane factory to be converted in restaurants and public spaces) and some brand new buildings of award winning architectural quality that will be a feature by itself. The architect and interior designer are regarded as part of a new generation of inspirational designers in China. Before I set off to China on Tuesday I had a fairly hectic office day in Singapore with meetings and project discussions. Last but not least getting my new director of projects on an earlier start date with the team to help out in the commissioning of our Anji project that I visited last week as my current schedule does not allow me follow that up personally. Since most of the problems on site are not of our doing, our “forced” return to site will be subject to additional fees to which the client agreed…reluctantly…
Day and Night.
The most interesting part of this week’s trip to China is that it offers a textbook opportunity to experience the difference between a well-run and thought through project and one that has been running literally like a headless chicken. Last week’s project has no project manager, procurement decisions are made without consultation with the team and there is virtually no quality control on installation, just to name a few. As a result all the so called cost saving measures come back to haunt the owners with more money to be spent to rectify all short comings and for the operator unacceptable quality. As mentioned in my previous blog I had decided to hang in there to help the operator to get as good as a result as possible and hence I am now sending my director of projects, experienced in resolving lighting site issues. He will stay until the opening to assist contractor, client and operator. On Monday before I left to China I gave him an extensive brief and project update…good luck!
This project in Yangshuo is totally the opposite. Meetings are agreed weeks in advance to make sure all key consultants are available with their decision makers and design managers. The project has a site manager for which nothing is too much, you ask, he does it, always ready with a smile. Most of all if it cannot be done he will make sure he comes up with an alternative that works! I cannot explain enough how much such attitude makes a difference to the project. He would be the first to point out to you if there are any quality issues on site. These guys are worth their weight in gold…The client is keen in saving wherever they can but in a totally realistic and reasonable way. Most of all they respect their consultants and make sure they “consult” (isn’t that what they are supposed to do anyhow?) with you on important decisions. My fees are not high but the respect, trust and commitment from the client makes such projects worthwhile.
Due diligence and testing
Already we have had more visual mock ups and light tests the in the whole of last week’s project then at any time in Anji! In fact I cant even remember we did any, despite our may requests. It was all trial and error…No such thing here. The team is spending all the time and effort needed to get it right. The mock up room is in its 3rd revision but at every time the improvement is visible and makes sense. The clients drive to get it right, stimulates everyone. In the course of all that we get full support to do visual mock ups which we had organised for this trip. We had purposely brought in lights from Singapore and had a local supplier come in with other samples so we could actually test the various critical lighting effects for confirmation. The site is along the river a couple of kilometres outside Yangshuo, surrounded by the landmark mountains for which the Guilin area is famous. The site is therefore very dark at night and hence making sure we get the proper balance between exterior and interior lighting is critical.
Lighting up the mountains
Our site is located right within the scenery that is part of the daily sound and light show that is held twice every night (7.45 and 9pm) and as a result banks of huge 7KW floodlights blast a flood of light on the surrounding mountains at several moments during the show. Since the mountains are a big feature of the site we will light up the mountains that closely surround our property for the guests to enjoy permanently during their stay. Our lighting is intended to be more a subtle paint brush effect focussing on the visible rocky parts rather then the green foliage, with additional lighting of feature trees at the ground level perimeter. We had brought floodlights to test this as we were not sure with today’s ever improving LED technology, how far the reach would be and what sort of beam would come out best. As it turned out our 60W 15 degree floodlight in 4000K was just the right choice with enough punch and enough coverage. At the end of the testing we invited the team to have a look and receive only positive feedback. As the show was going on at the same time we had the opportunity to experience the combination of both. It will bring an additional experience to the guests!
Bringing life to the building.
On the second night we tested lights in the interiors of the main circulation corridors that run along the main façade of the building. The façade is designed as an open brick structure allowing air to circulate. The main feature of this façade design is to let daylight in during the day. Reversely during the night it will breathe life by light radiating out the open architectural structure. For this purpose our lighting concept focusses on softly washing the interior walls opposite the façade. While producing the necessary circulation lighting it also produces the soft light accentuating the architectural design. Testing the right light distribution and brightness is therefore crucial and with the help of some linear lights from a local supplier (thanks for the support!) we had installed several samples to assess the impact both inside and outside. From the visual tests we learned that we could easily reduce the brightness to less then half (!) and that the warmer colours (2700K or even 2400K) would be just nice. We are using warm 2400K LED lights in the rooms and it gives a very nice warm feel. We intend to carry that through the whole project. With the mock up room now looking nice and inviting, I can only look forward to the successful completion of the project. I think we have a winner here!
Time to kill…
With the meetings and testing finished on Thursday night we had some time to kill on Friday before catching the afternoon flight back to Hong Kong and on to Singapore which we decided to fill with a “river cruise” to see our project from the river side. It led us past the show stands where the sound and light show is held each night and further down to our property…I have shared the pictures to give you a feel of Yangshuo and its famous Lijiang River.
Have a great weekend.
Singapore – Hangzhou – Anji – Singapore, Weekend 21-22 May 2016
Back on the road again…this week to China in the lovely hinterland of Anji, known for its lush mountains and bamboo forests. The intensity of my visits here have increased over the last few months (I was here a little over a month ago) as we are nearing final testing and commissioning. The property is about to open next month and still a lot of fine tuning is needed. Before jetting off on Wednesday I had two days in the Singapore office which I used to introduce our new director of projects to the team so that a smooth transition can be hoped for when he starts in June. At the same time I had to deal with a project where the client is looking at going for the cheapest possible option but is asking us to do “life cycle” calculations to understand the impact.
Getting in new staff and certainly one that has to lead the team is sensitive. Some of my key designers have been with me for many, many years and are used to me and my ways of doing things so introducing a new layer of authority needs careful planning and introducing, so I had decided to ask him to come into the office prior to his official work start. We both felt that a few hours spent with each individual staff would facilitate the introduction and allow familiarisation with each other. I think it worked well and I really look forward to having him in our team.
Life cycle calculations
What our client really meant was doing ROI calculations to show the impact of using more or less expensive lighting systems. While it seemed like another bit of extra work we actually appreciated the request as it allowed us to explain why a superior quality and performance cost a bit more. We had prepared three options, one that we thought being the best, one being the next best still acceptable solution and one based on their “budget”, leaving out some components of the design to meet it. They wanted to know what benefits they would get for spending more than the budget. It allowed us to explain failure rates and lumen depreciation (L90/B10 at 50,000 hrs to L70/B50 at 30,000hrs or even less). On top of that we added in the power factor to reinforce the superior energy saving performance of the higher quality. This of course combined with other performance and quality criteria such as lighting effects, visual comfort and ease of operation and maintenance. We do not often get the chance to explain this properly and hopefully this will help them step over this ever so difficult to surmount “budget” threshold…
The rest of the week was spent in Anji, China working through the lighting installation of our hotel project which had shown several issues and problems. The two main and key issues that we had to resolve were related to emergency lighting and not surprisingly dimming of LED. To start with the first, we had discovered during our last visit that for some inexplicable reason some lights in our circuits had been linked up with an emergency battery and even worse to a switch to actually switch it on or off in case of an emergency! Really? Yes really, not an automatic switch on after a power failure, no the idea was to go to the switch and switch it on! This had resulted in the odd single down light being on a separate switch and not addressable with our dimming system (great!) as well as some double headed down lights of which one was allocated to emergency lighting. I don’t have to explain the look of having some visually non-working lights (we had to switch the emergency lighting off). I am not sure which nitwit electrical contractor had dreamed this up, but obviously this had to be rectified. The simple solution agreed with the client was to locate an actual dedicated emergency light (the spitfire/UFO type) next to the current emergency light, de-connect the emergency from the architectural lighting circuits and reconnect the lighting point back into its intended circuit. Minimal work, easy fix…
The oh, so familiar LED dimming problems…and not in a sophisticated environment like Singapore or Australia, no this time deep in the heartlands of China! I have to explain that we came late into this project as originally this client did not even have a lighting designer. At the time the client had already engaged with local lighting suppliers and even though we did get a sniff at proposing suitable lighting fittings, the client moved ahead with the procurement of the lights. From there onwards it was always going to be a tough call but as we are doing several hotels with this operator we committed to help and try getting the best out of the situation. While we had never really heard of the local Chinese brand that was purchased, we did know even less about the dimming system that “appeared”. Backed with our control schedules we impressed on the need for testing the compatibility between the system and the lights, but never really got involved. Over the last visit we had already noticed the poor quality LED typical flickering and limited dimming range, with 10% measured dimmed level still looking like at least 50% or flickering occurring at the slightest dimming action. Most of us have experienced this at one point of time. While this was a typical case of “I told you so”, we had opted to help identify and rectify the problems as good as possible. The biggest handicap proving to be the at times impenetrable Chinese culture of not wanting to lose face and therefore choosing the patch up thinks rather than to speak up about the real problem. After another inexplicable flickering and dimming mal-function, I called a halt to all works and held a “war- meeting”. It was like peeling an onion, but after nearly two hours of talks and probing we got to the heart of the matter. We were dealing with a dimming system based on a leading edge protocol (no idea about what quality as the brand was unknown if any brand at all) and lights that were a mix of cut-phase and 0-10V protocols. Through trial and error they were trying to fix it…we ordered an immediate inspection of all lights in stalled to physically find out what was actually installed as it became clear that the test had been carried out on different samples! Since the lights were installed by the contractor without our involvement we only had his feedback to relay on. At least we have a fighting chance to dramatically improve and make sure we match light and dimmer protocol. Could we have avoided this? No. Could or should we have spotted this earlier? Yes, absolutely. The lesson? Never assume anything!
Despite all the challenges we are facing it is still going to be a lovely resort…
Have a great weekend.