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.
Singapore, Weekend 14-15 May 2016
A whole week in the office without travelling! What a luxury! It gave me ample time to focus on current projects, my team and re-thinking the office operations in the wake of the departure of my project director. We reflected as a team on how we could improve and starting to look around for a new project director. As I write my blog I believe we have already found “the one”. Time will tell of course but for now he ticks all the boxes and we will work towards confirming him in the coming week. We are all excited and are looking forward to him joining the team. This will probably be the fastest turn around between a resignation and the appointment of a successor that I have experienced in my company. It is already difficult to find good, experienced and suitable people in the first place, let alone on such quick turnaround. We are advertising for the position on several platforms and received many (sometimes desperate looking) applications. People from all walks of life, some not even related to the design or a lighting world, have been applying showing that there are a lot of either unsatisfied or unemployed people around at the moment. I do need to clarify that the applications come from all sorts of backgrounds and countries, many from outside Singapore. Many of them having CV’s not even close to what we listed as requirements of what we are looking for. Ironically we found “our guy” through own research via Linked In. In this case we found him, he did not find us…a good sign? Three times lucky they say, so fingers crossed, we are certainly excited…
Is the abundance of people looking for work a sign of slowing economic times; most probably. We do see this reflected in our daily work as well. Projects are slowing down in execution speed, some even put on hold for a while, new projects taking longer time to kick off; some with a reduced scope. There is definitely a slow-down in new projects coming in which we can measure from the reduced requests for design consultancy proposals, but we are still good with most of our on-going projects with several new ones signed just recently. On this subject I do have to mention that we have now been ”kicked out” fully from the other 2 projects that we were doing with the same client. Having been released last week from one of the projects the client decided that it was probably best to push the reset button and sadly announced they had decided to terminate our services from all of our ongoing work with them. It seems to be done in a professional manner, no finger pointing, no criticism, just a commercial business decision to stream line the consultancy services with the other (locally based) consultants. We have been asked to compile an overview of all work completed and to prepare final invoices for all of the completed work as per contractual agreement. As I mentioned last week it is a shame not to be able to complete something you started with much enthusiasm and a little sting into our pride as consultants but business is business and we have to respect client decisions. We have identified our “shortcomings” and have strengthened our resolve and experience for a next time.
One of the trendy topics of recent has been lighting system quality compliance to TM30 or L90/B10. TM30-15 is the new IES standard method for evaluating colour rendition and will replace the familiar CRI, colour rendering index. Instead of the Ra and Re colour references, the new evaluation method looks at colour fidelity (Rf) and gamut (Rg) index, mostly comparable to hue and saturation. The method uses 99 different colour evaluation samples selected from the world of possible colours and from real objects, fabrics, paints, materials, skin tones measuring the distortion between the reference samples and the measured object, indicating the capability of the lighting system to render colours to the highest possible quality and consistency. The method is a good design tool specifically where colour qualities are critical.
The L/B standard is related to defining criteria to establish a product’s performance compliance to longevity and failure. Some manufacturers are starting to promote their product quality and differentiating themselves from the “cowboys” by referring specifically to their TM30 colour quality compliance (Soora for instance) or L90/B10 quality (Erco, IGuzzini, etc.). The L and B indexes are set against a life time of 50,000 or 30,000 hours and describe the amount of remaining light output (L) and failure rate (B) over time compared to new. Obviously L100 (zero lumen depreciation) is the highest light output that could technically be achieved, but realistically L90 (10% depreciation) over 50,000 hours is considered the highest achievable. Likewise B0 (zero failures) would indicate the ultimate achievable. Reality however dictates a more realistic definition with B10 (10% failure over time) being the highest quality class. So a L90/B10 quality compliance over 50,000 hours is regarded as the highest quality followed by L80/B20, L70 B30, etc. The L index ranges from 70 to 90, the B ranges from 10 to 50 with L70/B50 over 30,000 hours being the lowest quality. Manufacturers that do not indicate their L and B index are considered to be in this lowest quality class.
It is not a much used design selling tool when we specify but something we should embrace and consider each and every time. Specifying a 10,000 lumen fixture of L90/.B10 quality versus L70/B50 means that that in the first case we still have 81% of the original lighting output (considering lumen depreciation and failure) after 50,000 hours, versus the lower quality with potentially only 35% after 30,000 hours (!!!)…that is huge! I know there are different economic considerations to consider such as budget, level of sophistication and project lifespan, but at least we should educate our clients about this quality consideration. To make this picture more complete it would be interesting to get some cost figures attached to it. For instance how much does a L90/B10 fixture cost in comparison to the same one but with a L70/B50 quality label over time. If anyone has some figures to share please do! Certainly some food for thought for this weekend
Have a great weekend.
Singapore, Weekend 7-8 May 2016
My work week started on Tuesday which also happened to be my birthday. Thanks to everyone who took the time to write me a personal message or sent me good wishes, much appreciated! Since my passport is at one of the embassies for a visa renewal I was contained in my office this week, great time to catch up on projects and get some actual design done myself! In terms of project activities it was relatively quiet due to May Day holidays being celebrated in many parts of Asia Pacific. I had a bit of time to read up on non-project related emails which brought my mind to the topic of lighting magazines, awards and events. Having returned from the Lux Live event in Abu Dhabi recently I realised how much we the marketing side of lighting has progressed. Practically every country nowadays has a magazine dedicated to lighting, lighting design awards are happening all over the world and lighting fairs and events are crowding the agenda. While not that long ago you could easily manage and keep up with it, today there seems to be a fierce battle for our attention and participation. I for one, can’t keep up with it to a level I am becoming nearly uninterested…too much!
We have always had hard copy magazine’s like the Professional Lighting Design, Mondo Arc, Lux, Lighting Today, LD+A, Lighting, A-Lighting…and the list goes on. Nearly every country seems to have one and some are published world-wide. I receive many of them, some are monthly, some are quarterly. I have been a columnist in Lighting Today magazine since 2003 and over the years have written articles or had my projects showcased in many of them. In view of the onslaught of social media you would think that the hard copy magazines would slowly dwindle, but is seems the opposite is true. That, mixed with the ever increasing number of electronic magazines, today provides for an avalanche of reading. The hard copy magazines have also find their way in internet land, with many new players from lighting associations, manufacturers and media companies now crowding the airwaves. Add to that all the chat groups, social media postings, tweets and the blogs (yes I am contributing to this, I know) and you have such a massive amount of information coming to you daily that it would be a full time job to keep up with it. It is no surprise that much of this ends up in the electronic bin or just as decoration on the coffee table…my desk is bulging from the (mostly unread) magazines…
Somehow in parallel we have seen an explosive growth in lighting award competitions, mostly driven by magazines, associations and manufacturers. We used to have only a handful elite lighting design awards such as the IALD and the IES awards, now there are so many in so many parts of the world that it becomes nearly a minefield to sort out which one would apply to you or your project or not. In the recent Lux Live Lighting Design Awards in Abu Dhabi I discover to my dismay that most lighting design awards were won by manufacturers /suppliers! Was that because they so heavily sponsor these events? I would have thought (and hoped) that lighting design awards should be predominantly to promote the professional and independent lighting designers, but perhaps I live in dreamland. One of the key conditions of becoming a professional member of a lighting design association is to be independent and earn your income solely form lighting design fees…Yes there are big multi-disciplinary companies (architects, interior designers, M&E consultants and the like who have a lighting design department to support them in turnkey projects, but competing with the independent professionals I feel is not a level playing field, let alone if we start including the manufacturers participating in design competitions. No issue with them participating but it should be in the category of “best lighting design by an architectural practice or manufacturer”! Then there is the fact of who is judging the entries and whether the judges can actually personally visit the short listed project. Too often I have the feeling that judgement at times is guided by commercial or personal relationships between the judges and the nominees. I have attended many award ceremonies even have had the honour of being a judge on a few, but very often I am flabbergasted about the judging and the award decision…I just can’t escape the feeling that award competitions have become a commercial tool by the organisers exploiting the hunger for recognition by established and young and upcoming lighting design practices. I participate from time to time, have won several awards over the years, have been ignored several times only to be shocked to see who finally won…I guess the absent are always wrong, so I better start sending in some…but I do it without much enthusiasm…J
The final category are the events, the light fairs, the conventions, the seminars and now also the internet based webinars. Fresh from Lux Live Abu Dhabi, which run nearly parallel to the spring edition of the Hong Kong Light Fair, hot on the heels of Light & Build the month before and PLDC in Rome late last year. As I write this blog The Light Fair in San Diego has just ended. Ahead (in the coming months in this region alone) are the Guangzhou Light fair, The Low Carbon Energy Summit in Korea, the Shanghai Light Fair, the Bangkok Light Fair, LED+Light Asia in Singapore and the autumn edition of the Hong Kong Light Fair just to name a few. These are just the manufacturer driven events. Next to that are the numerous lighting seminars, design events and other who all have some form of lighting and lighting design involved. I have often spoken at interior design, architectural or energy forums that embrace lighting design as an important and key element of overall good design. Some of these “conventions” and “summits” however, are actually organised by commercial cowboys jumping on the popular LED trend. I have accepted speaking at one of them in the past out of curiosity and part ignorance, but the moment that you have to pay your way (!) to deliver a talk alarm bells should be ringing as established and respected designers should be paid to share their expertise. While I do not always get speaker fees, I certainly need to get my transportation, accommodation and out of pocket expenses paid. On the other side of the medallion are the manufacturers who are continuously bombarded by requests for sponsorship. In an interesting side note, the high costs of participating in major events as L&B have pushed some manufacturers to different strategies. Rather then paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a booth at such event, they organise targeted events on the fringes inviting key specifiers and clients, a classic hot missile approach. The costs may end up the same but the ROI should be many times higher because of the personal and one on one approach…
Interesting developments and food for thoughts, feel free to share yours with me…
Have a great weekend.
Singapore, Weekend 30-1 May 2016
Guaranteed no travel over the next week as I just submitted my passport for a business visa renewal! (Un)fortunately the country’s consulate here in Singapore is not that efficient when it comes to processing applications of non-Singapore residents which means that I can only collect my passport back end of next week…This will allow me to focus on my practice, my team and my ongoing projects. With my project director resigning and being booted out of one of our projects this week I have some reflection and stabilisation work to do over the coming weeks. I guess we all go through “failures” from time to time and acknowledging them, learning from them and moving on is as much part of our lives as the successes we share. This week I would like to reflect on the two types “failures” I experienced. I do emphasize that these reflections are personal and not meant as a vindictive thought towards staff or clients, but shared in the spirit of the blog of what is going on in my life as a lighting designer.
As the founder and principal of the company that bears my name I have a responsibility towards providing for the staff that form the heart and driving force of the company as well as towards our clients in the delivery of our services to the quality and professionalism expected. This, to a large degree, comes down to people skills and managing people’s expectations. The size of our practice is considered small and with an open plan office set up we see and hear everything wat is going on in the office. We are virtually a small family that (should) care for each other and in principle have each other’s back. I certainly, as the “patriarch” of the family, have a responsibility to make sure everyone behaves as a family member and look after everyone accordingly. Like every family as we grow and mature, there are new additions and departures to and from the family. New additions or departures can unsettle the existing balance and cause disruptions and adaptation problems.
But as our little family has been growing, I have been on the lookout for a suitable “number two” to make it less dependable on me with a wider base of knowledge and team responsibility. The first one I hired was young, ambitious and self-assured. Being a tight nit group it took the team a while to accept the “new arrival” at the time but it gradually sorted itself out to a smooth working balance of power, capabilities and responsibilities. However over time he grew more ambitious and not surprisingly decided after a few years to venture out on his own. A proposed partnership in the company was not in his plans…that happens and you deal with it, but it meant starting the process over again. Did I fail in growing him as a future leader and partner? Obviously yes in regards to keeping him in my own practice, but possibly not if he succeeds in establishing himself with his own venture…time will tell.
My project director who resigned this week was deliberately the opposite, of an older generation, presumed wise, knowledgeable, mature and skillful, which had generated much expectation for a long partnership. I had judged his skills from our social encounters and professional discussions but it is only once someone is put to the test under actual work conditions that you can see if projected maturity and knowledge translate in practical project and management skills. The integration in the team and the change, inspiration and leadership that I had hoped for did not show or materialise. I attributed it to issues typical to many new beginnings, adjustment to the new work environment, a different system, my own team being “hostile” (not ready for a change?) and different styles of communication. In the end I can only blame myself. Whether the sudden resignation is an admission of his own failings or the result of shortcomings of my own leadership is academic. I assessed his competence, I assumed certain leadership qualities, made the decision. But it did not materialise and the integration failed. I am sure we both learned and can only wish him well in his new “family”.
Proud and concerned about the well-being and image of my company we strive to deliver to our clients beyond expectation. While that is easily said it is a daily challenge to achieve this with at times unreasonable deadlines and budgets to comply with. Nevertheless good communication and an efficient, tight project management generally keeps our client not only well informed but also up to date with our progress. Over the years I had very little project failures, but I have had them, the notoriously unhappy client, the-my-way-or-the-highway client, the totally unreasonable client. Regardless of how far you bent over backwards, you can never satisfy them which occasionally ends in early termination from a project. Most of the time when it happens the relationship has already deteriorated to such level that the termination is actually a relief ending the “suffering”. Invariably, and proud as I am, I see that as a failure to satisfy my client. But you can’t win them all as they say. While it may just be a personality or cultural clash, a termination is always a failure from either one or both to come to a resolve.
Coincidently the project that I had fully entrusted to my project director run into such “clash” and out of left corner we were un-ceremonially booted out of the project during this week’s site visit. We can only deduce that we did not perform up to expectation, which to me is a failure of the company regardless of how you twist and turn the story. The fact is that the client viewed our team and thus the company as incompetent or unable to perform to their satisfaction. We clearly did not manage their expectation in that respect. Could we have done better, did they change the goal posts…perhaps, perhaps not? I did not get much wiser from the de-brief and hopefully we will in the weeks to come better understand what and where we went wrong so we can learn for the future. As the principal I am obviously troubled by this, but as the “boss” I can only blame myself for not having anticipated and interfered earlier.
Meanwhile in lighting world…
To end on a brighter note I was proud to be named along my peers and shown on a large billboard at the ongoing San Diego Light Fair amongst as one of the past keynote speakers…proud to be named among some of the perceived leading lighting designers of this time…
In other news a little German town unveiled floor recessed traffic lights at a pedestrian crossing going with the times where many people today are so busy social app-ing that they look down to their phone rather then up around them! Another manufacturer used the same argument for integrating LED signage and emergency exit lighting into carpets as well…
Finally and following in the steps of the car emission scandals (Volkswagen, Mitsubishi) lighting manufacturers have been caught out on overstating performance and efficiency! It seems a worldwide epidemic for companies in all product sectors to misreport all in the name of money I dare say…
Have a great (long) weekend.
Singapore – Perth, Weekend 23/24 April 2016
Finally a week in Perth with the weather down under slowly moving to autumn. Day temperatures are still lovely in their twenties during the day, beaches still very worth of a visit, but night times cool down quickly…the sunsets remain as magical as ever… I had a “royal” week with a visit to His Majesty and a visit to The Palace…
A project I have been reporting about for years (since 2012!) is finally moving into its final stages with installation started and a big media launch scheduled sometimes towards July. His Majesty’s Theatre (HMT) in Perth is a 110 year old theatre venue where some of the greatest actors like Geoffrey Rush, Kathrine Hepburn, Sir John Gilgud, Yehudi Mehunin and Margot Fonteyn amongst others have performed. The building, by all accounts one of the oldest theatres in Australia, is an architectural icon in Perth and validating its architecture and ornamental features at night has been on the to-do list for years, but for some reason bureaucracy and budget priorities prevent it from happening. About 5 years ago the city’s Heritage Perth organisation got a state grant to apply to heritage buildings in the city and HMT was back on the radar. I was asked to develop a lighting concept which was received with great enthusiasm. Then followed literally “years” of tossing and turning the concept and execution to be within budget, operational safety and security standards, heritage restrictions and possible implementation schedules all spiced up with city and state bureaucracy…a great recipe for “success” J. But we are finally there. The final budget was approved late last year, the implementation procedures agreed and the installation contractor appointed. All light fittings have been delivered to site and this time I went through all lighting positions with the contractor so that cabling works can be undertaken to the exact positions of the lights to minimise any possible damage to the heritage building fabric. This test and review was initiated by the contractor (!) and I have to say kudos to him for understanding the critical nature of (façade) lighting and wanting to make sure he got it right! Not many contractors take this level of pride in their work. He was all prepared with prewired fixtures when we showed up making the final confirmation of the lighting positions through visual mocking up a fast and efficient affair. Can’t wait for the project to finally come to light after more than 5 year in the making!
The other “royal” project I had to attend to this week was the Palace Hotel, another historic building from the glory gold rush days that was recently renovated and restored. While it was a hotel formerly as its name indicates, it has had several other uses over the years, lastly as an office space for Bank West. Attached to the heritage building is what is known as the Bank West Tower a near 200m high building. Bank West has meanwhile moved to other premises and the new owners (a mining conglomerate) have plans to develop the heritage building as a social hub. However so far no operators have been found and the building is still in process of being finished. Because of the heritage restrictions the interior lighting was confined to the re-use existing lighting point but reconditioned to modern (LED) technology. There had been some concerns about the lighting levels on the old heritage stairs leading up to the first floor and therefore we decide to audit the installation on the lighting performance. Australian Standards indicate that lighting levels between 40 to 80 lux should be achieved as a minimum average depending on the application. The standards to indicate that in hospitality, restaurant or bar environments, lighting levels can be a bit lower due to the nature of the spaces. Initial readings on an earlier visit had indicated levels below 20 lux, but that was with some scaffolding and building materials partly obstructing the light. With the space now mostly cleaned up and free of obstructions it felt much brighter and we measured levels from 20 to 50 lux in the most critical areas. With these results we felt comfortable to advise the client that until the final usage of the spaces was confirmed the lighting was performing as desired. We did review and suggest options for lighting level improvement should this be necessary in the future, but for now we left the Palace with the recommendation that all was fine for now and the satisfaction that we had done a good job…
Have a great weekend.