Singapore- Shenzhen- Guilin- Yangshuo- Bangkok- Singapore – Sydney, Xmas Weekend 24 – 25 December 2016
And so we have arrived at the end of the last working week of the year (at least for our office). We closed at noon today (Friday) and before I fly off to Sydney for my Xmas holidays with family and friends in the early hours tomorrow morning, I tussle between writing my blog and last minute issues to be resolved with those clients (mainly Chinese) who as always do not follow our Xmas tradition and for some reason do not seem to understand that we are shutting down till the new year and keep pushing for resolve on some issues. One of our projects here in Singapore nota bene plans to commission on the 31st of December! Only the installation contractor and the client seem to be present as all other lead consultants including ourselves are gone fishing! Having just returned from China yesterday questions and issues keep crowding the airwaves on another project that has kept us on the edge till the last minute before we locked the office.
Overall it has been a satisfying week and for that matter a very satisfying year! We are ending on a high and look forward to another great year ahead. It will be my last blog for a while as I have not decided what to do in the new year. As I mentioned before I have some new plans but I will decide in January how to kick them off! This last week of the year started on Sunday with an early rise and flight to Shenzhen for kick-off work meeting on Sunday (my fault because I had no other date available, but the client and project team obliged, thanks!), a typical Chinese drink-dinner at night, followed by another early rise on Monday for a 3 hour high speed train trip to Guilin and a 1+ hour road trip to Yanghsuo. Our two day site meeting (also requested by us in view of the Xmas holidays) resolved many issues and saw us flying back via Bangkok on Wednesday. Yesterday and today saw us wrap up the trip and final deliverables for other projects before the holidays.
This trip served two purposes, first we met with a new client for a very exciting new project (design due before Chinese New Year!) and a kick off meeting with the design team at their offices. The client is involved with the China Cup Yachting competition and we are “literally on board” for the lighting design of their hospitality VIP yacht. Due to confidentiality I cannot share any photo’s but is is an exciting project. During the diner later in the evening our client boss made a for me historic statement. He had enough of project that were continuously cost cutting and value engineering, in his opinion we should focus on earning more money! “Stop cutting costs! Let’s try earn more money!” Yeah…way to go! We also used the opportunity to have a catch up design workshop with the same design team with whom we are on another project together, the client graciously making their offices available to us. we did use the opportunity to show of our design skills and called the client in to have a look at our presentations to great admiration…they were duly impressed. Let’s hope we can now fulfil the expectations we have created!
After a short night and a heavy head (from the night before drinking J) we got up in the early hours to catch the high speed train and after 3 hours and another good hour by car we arrived on site in Yangsuo around noon. After the obligatory tour to get a feel of the progress on site we got down to business planning and organising the visual mock ups and reviewing site installation details. While the day time was used to prepare, the night time was reserved for reviewing and signing off on the lighting effects. As the night falls early in the approaching winter, we managed to do the night viewing straight at nightfall with a late dinner afterwards. As in so many projects we are facing a disconnect between the site contractors used to do things the China way and the lead consultants who have “slightly” different standards when it comes to quality and protocols and an “emergency” meeting was called on Tuesday to discuss with the team specifically what is need for reliable dimming for LED’s. The site is still in incandescent phase dimming mode and look at you with a blur look when you start talking about 0-10V protocols (let alone DALI or other!). Our last minute flurry of emails and messages was exactly about trying to resolve all that, but by the looks of it, we will only be a le to do that after the holidays…aaaargh…will they ever learn?
I leave you with some mood pictures of my travel the site and other images giving you a feel of this last week on the road! See you in the New Year some time…
Enjoy your Xmas weekend and a very happy and successful New Year!
Singapore, Weekend 17 – 18 December 2016
This week was fully dedicated to shooting video footage for our corporate video, which we will launch in 2017 together with our revamped website. My daughter Kyra, who runs her own production company Kyramedia, came to Singapore, all equipped, to shoot staff interviews, work sessions, project meetings, site visits and client testimonials which will all find their way into the final edit. She developed a script and storyline that will highlight what we stand for, what differentiates us from the pack and how the client experience of our services have made a difference. It is not an easy task but I have full confidence after this week and having seen some of the footage that she has shot, that we will end up with a corporate video showcasing our capabilities that we can be proud of.
Work sessions, deliverables
During the week we filmed several of our internal work meetings such as work sessions from the various project teams, individual staff at work, drafting, designing, rendering, all these typical activities that make out what we do in our office while showing actual deliverable outcomes on computer etc. One of the key aspects of our services is the creation of lighting design concepts, hence we put quite some attention into showcasing our design process, the sketching, the rendering, the imagery, the modelling and visualisation of spaces including dynamic walk-through. The future of visualisation is truly getting very exciting for lighting.
We also conducted individual interviews of each staff from which we will use relevant outtakes and footage that will give a personalised feel of the company. After all the company is as good as its people and adding the personal touch is critical to reflex the human aspect of the company. Everyone brings something to the company and to our clients irrespective of their position, they all contribute to the final success and to how the company is perceived by others. Being put in front of a camera was also an interesting experience for many and some of the unprepared answers gave us some hilarious moments. Thanks for putting up with it!
Project and supplier meetings
Important aspect of our work are obviously the interaction and communication with our clients, fellow consultants and suppliers. We taped several of these meetings in our office as well as outside. Lighting design is team work and showing of the coordination and consultation with the parties involved in the process of design are therefore very relevant. Actually filming and focussing on this aspect also made us realise how relevant and important this is in our design process.
Since the corporate video and some of the footage will be used on our new website we also organised a coordination meeting with our web designers to make sure it all moved in the right direction. We are equally excited about our new website that is getting into shape. Our website has been around for the last 5 years and the navigation was getting a bit dated as well as the graphics. Time for a new fresh and trendy look! With todays world of social media we have to keep up with the times!
We also took the opportunity to go to site and shoot some footage of our interaction with client and contractors, inspecting the lighting installation works, the testing of lights and making sure lights are properly linked up to the respective lighting controls. We had the suppliers on site as well so we could physically test some samples in their proposed locations and get feedback on improvement options if some of the lighting results were not to satisfaction. In our work it is critical to supervise the installation and hence our project site visits have to feature as part of our service deliverables.
We will also have snapshots of our projects in the video but more as a background or short illustration complement rather than physically making them part of the actual video. Our website will feature these projects extensively so we do not want the video to focus too much on all the projects we have done, but more about the team behind the success of the company.
For this reason we also went to interview some of our clients and collaborators to collect some relevant and valuable testimonials. Most of our work is through referrals so it is logical that client and collaborator testimonials will feature in our corporate video. From a personal point of view it was very nice to hear them highlight what they like about the company, what in their opinion sets us apart and why they like recommending and working with us. Great and motivating stuff! Thanks for those great testimonials!
Annual staff dinner
Fittingly the week ended with our annual staff dinner to which husbands and spouses were also invited, our extended family! It was a great evening in which each individual received an award (also known as the KLD “Oscars”) in recognition of outstanding work and performance by each of the team. It is a great occasion to acknowledge each ones contribution in a relaxed setting this time and a waterside restaurant at Marina Bay. Thanks everyone for the outstanding efforts over the past year!
Enjoy your weekend
Perth, Weekend 10 – 11 December 2016
My last working week in Perth this year, but what an exciting week it was. We are laying the groundworks for next year with new projects in the pipeline and catching up with project clients before their upcoming Xmas break (summer holidays in Australia) was crucial. While the general consensus is that the economies are down and many not sure what the future will bring (including the uncertainty surrounding the incoming Trump administration, Brexit and increased populist movements around the world) there still seems to be a lot in the pipeline. We have our work cut out for the remainder of the year and will definitely end on a high, but securing longevity and continuity for the company in the coming year and years is a constant focus and hence taking the time to meet, catch up and follow up with potential new project clients is a must, certainly now. Often when economies are down, design work is undertaken so that plans and design documents are ready to go when the economies start moving again.
John Glenn and the City of Light
As I write this blog news is breaking that the first astronaut to fly around the earth in the sixties, John Glenn just passed away aged 95. It is specifically significant for Perth as when he flew over Australia at night Perth stood out and he called Perth the City of Light, a nick name that has stuck all those years, even though Paris is now probably more famous for it. The reason that Perth stood out so brightly is that it was surrounded by outback countryside with virtually no other lights for thousands of kilometres. Today Perth is still very much spared from the pollution that many cities suffer throughout the world, we still have beautiful starry nights. I still remember John Glenn’s flight as I remember the first landing on the moon a few years later. I was fascinated by the space race and still have the newspaper cuttings from that time. John by the way went back into space at the ripe age of 77 years to become the oldest man ever to fly in space. See more at the link below:
Lighting Designer Performance Bond?
During the week I received a message from our Jakarta office asking me if I could provide a performance bond, which was a demand by a potential client and to be submitted as part of our fee proposal! From my experience performance bonds are asked from contractors and generally relate to big contracts, not the relatively minute contract of a lighting designer. The performance bond requested was 20%of the fee! We discussed this as I felt uncomfortable and a bit alarmed that a client would ask for a bond. So far we have never had to provide a performance bond as a lighting designer. We have asked suppliers and contractors to provide them as part of tender submissions, but then we are talking about millions worth of contracts, not a few thousand dollars for LD fees. Anyhow we submitted with the statement that a performance bond could be provided on signing of a mutually agreeable contract arrangement. The idea being that if the client does not trust us to deliver, we wanted to make sure that with the provision of the bond we will also have “watertight” terms and conditions in regards to their payment commitments to us. It has to work both ways don’t you think?
Is there a future in wind farms?
During the week I was surprised to read an article in regards to failing wind farms (those who provide energy by huge wind mills) in South Australia. The article claimed that quite often the wind farms broke down (made in China?) or either there was too much (auto switch-off) or not enough wind resulting in an average of only 8% energy being delivered by the wind farms rather than the capacity of 40% that they are supposed to deliver! As a result the article claimed that there was insufficient power available in the grid and assistance from neighbouring states was called in to top up the shortage of energy supply. Big question marks were raised about the future of wind farms, not only because of the failure to deliver, but also because the costs and visual disturbance these monsters create. Having them out at sea out of view is maybe acceptable, but having a forest of these monsters in our natural landscape is another story all together. The judges are still out on this one I guess and personally I am also not sure what to think of it…we do need renewable energy, but can’t we find more ingenious ways to harvest wind energy?
Life on Perth.
During the week we followed up on several projects and had the opportunity to revisit one of our recently completed projects, one that is up for an heritage award, the former Palace Hotel at the corner of Williams and St Georges Terrace in Perth. The architect of the project, Woods Bagot, decided afterwards to move their offices in the building and they did a marvellous job in refurbishing the interiors to fit their architectural studio needs. The building is quickly becoming an icon of the city. We followed up on one of our projects in Kalgoorlie where the client is keen to convert an existing installation into new LED technology, acknowledging in the process the need for expert input to make that transition smoothly. I wish more clients would acknowledge that rather than talk to biased lighting suppliers! The upgrade of the uniting churches in the city to replace and improve the lighting with new LED technology and other lighting features is moving into full documentation and should result in a final package for presentation, approval and implementation go-ahead in the early part of the next year! We look forward to that…
Enjoy your weekend
Singapore, Weekend 3 – 4 December 2016
The end of the year is approaching rapidly which means that we are wrapping up on some projects in regards to deadlines to be completed before the Xmas holidays and looking ahead to the New Year, what it will bring and how we should prepare ourselves for an even bigger and better year ahead. Normally I stop blogging in December but I have decided to go on till the last week of December before Xmas and then take a bigger break in January. I am also planning to change the approach to my blog as there are new things in the pipeline for the New Year. First I will open up my blog to guest writers, they maybe from my own team, they may be suppliers we work with or architects and clients that we have worked with in close cooperation. It will remain a weekly blog, at least that is the plan and while I free up my blog writing time by inviting guest writers, I am preparing to launch exciting new educational lighting design modules, Light Talk re-arranged and revisited you could say, in which I am combining my almost 37 years of knowledge and experience with my blog writings from the last 7 years in down loadable bundles and packages rearranged and reorganized in and around specific subjects of interest. It may ultimately result in another book, we will see. I can’t say too much about it right now but keep an eye on this blog for further announcements in the New Year. All I can say is that I am really excited about it and hope that many of you will enjoy this new way of experience and knowledge sharing…
Staff reward time.
It has been a good year for us so logically this is the time as a company boss I need to think about rewarding my staff for all the great work they have put in this year. I am very grateful for the team that I have and how they have stepped up this year to deliver our service to our clients and business relations above and beyond expectation. There is no doubt that a well-deserved bonus is in place and potential salary rises may also form part of the equation. It is a careful deliberation as it needs to be done in consideration of the future economic growth forecast so that any bonuses and salary increases can be sustained. So gratefulness needs to be balanced with sound financial sense so the decision will have to be made in consideration of our current situation and forecasted financial outlook. But I know I am in a position to reward my staff which is good, how much will be a matter careful deliberation. I will make my final decisions when I do the individual staff reviews in the coming weeks. For now we have planned a big end of the year dinner with all staff and family to see of the year in style.
New Year plans.
One of our New Year plans is to launch our revamped website which is currently being redesigned. We are very excited about that. Part of this exercise is also the production of a corporate video which is being produced by my own daughter Kyra, who has a media production company. I am delighted that she has taken on the job and later in December she will come to Singapore to do some shoots in our head office and tour some of our project sites as part of the storyline. Other developments that are cooking in our office are new presentation programs and platforms. There is no doubt that computer technology has evolved enormously and making use of new opportunities in the rendering and visualisation of lighting effects should be embraced, which is what we are currently doing. We are testing and working on multiple new approaches and will over the course of the next year gradually introduce them to our clients. Once we are on the ball with these I will share with you. For now you will understand I prefer to keep a little competitive edgeJ. On a side note, as someone who likes manual sketching, I bought myself the latest digital Moleskine sketchbook, the one with a pen that automatically transfers your drawing onto a digital platform, which can be your tablet, mobile phone or laptop as long as you down load the app. I have tried it but have so far found it not as “magical” as advertisements are making you believe. I probably need more practice, but so far I find it disappointing and will probably refer to my old-fashion hand sketches which I then just scan for further sharing.
Park View Square and other projects
Our PVS project in Singapore meanwhile is shaping up nicely. We went through several toe-wringing sessions with the team and the installation contractor with some serious doubts whether we would be able to achieve our design to the full ability, bovver the course of the last two weeks with an intensified attendance and cooperation it seems that the hard work is paying off. Not all projects run smoothly and there are often periods where tensions run high due to time constraints, unexpected setbacks or other. Communication and cooperation towards finding the solution rather than pointing fingers has always worked best and I am pleased to see that is what we are seeing now. It can only benefit a great outcome! On another project overseas which I can’t really name because of high sensitivities we are facing a totally different situation. The contractor who took on full responsibility to supply and install has spectacularly failed to deliver totally underestimating the amount of work and expertise needed to complete this highly sophisticated façade lighting project. It refused to pay for the supplier/ manufacturer’s service package for installation, testing and commissioning (to save money) and now find themselves stumbling at every step of the way. Because of the contractual arrangements, both the lighting supplier and ourselves are more or less side-lined and why we have been to site many times it is not our scope to project manage the completion of the site installation to satisfaction. The client in desperation has been trying to force us into the role of project managing the completion of the job but we have steadfastly stood our ground. We have already out of goodwill supported and coordinated well beyond our scope, but the client also needs to respect the way they have structured the contracts and if anything beyond that is needed they would have to fork out the related fees or get the contractor to pay for the additional expert services to bring it to a good end…hopefully this will now happen and we will finally be able to properly finish this project…what a difference a project makes.
We also received some new high res pictures of our Raffles Hotel Jakarta project that opened a few months ago, some photos below.
Enjoy your weekend!
Singapore, Weekend 26 – 27 November 2016
You may notice that I am not travelling a lot at the moment…It could be a sign of slowing economy or simply because we are delivering our work to such satisfaction that our clients are happy to carry on without having expensive meetings :). We do have a lot (really a lot) of communication via Skype, WeChat, Whatsapp groups, which seems to be gaining a lot of popularity. Many of our projects have these chat groups that include client, project manager, design consultants and depending on the progress of the project the site and contractor team as well. Instant messaging, photo and video exchange make communication very fast and practically in real time! It works well for us in our projects and helps reduce the number of design and coordination meetings specifically on site significantly. Though as I am writing this I am getting pictures sent through from our project in Tahiti (yes very far away) which shows the installed lighting mock up producing a poor lighting result. The client says they bought as per spec and from our recommended supplier…while I have my doubts and cannot really verify from here we will sort that out on Monday, but this is a typical situation where long distance communication is a big challenge and just being on site allows you to correct or rectify the situation on the spot. For now on the pictures it definitely looks too spotty and too bright. In a client’s mind there are many different interpretations of what “as specified” means. There is of course the possibility that we did not specify the correct light, but I think we did…we will find out…
Smart lighting controls.
This week we also dived into the world of smart lighting controls by meeting representatives of Esave, Schreder and Casambi to get a better feel of the various systems that are available and the protocols they follow. There are several platforms available, from the standard “ZigBee” platform through Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. While they principally target the same results, some seem to be more advanced and reliable than others in terms of outreach and coverage, network response and operational features. We are researching this currently for our city master planning project which is focussed on outdoor lighting, our general interest in smart controls is in regards to all applications, interiors or exteriors. There is no denying that the future is in smart controls and understanding the opportunities will help us in our design work. One of the key issues is often the proprietary aspect of a system, with many clients wanting to have system that is not limited to one brand only. At this point in time many of them are still proprietary. In general it seems that the more advanced systems are nearly limitless in their capabilities with new features still being developed as the IoT makes further inroads into the lighting industry. From ROI calculations it becomes clear that besides the energy savings from LED conversion a further big saving (20-50%) can be achieved by dimming the lights to minimum levels when there is no usage of the road or space with ROI’s that can achieved within the first 1-2 years already!
Towards “invisible” lighting
As it also happened we met with Rosco (which we mostly know for their filters) who are now moving strongly promoting the improved features of their LitePad product. The interesting part being that it can be shaped (2d and 3D!) in practically any form to suit. While it was being demo’d as a square tile, it can take one any shape in principle. It can have a mirrored back ground but it can also be imagined and a see-through bringing another dimension to the product. The overriding trend I want to highlight here is the move from firstly non-architectural lighting players into the world of architectural lighting, but also the move towards highly integrated products that become part of the built environment without it really being perceived as a light source when switched off. I also met with a company called ETN which promotes the ORA brand in cooperation with a company (EDL) leaders in the production of laminates. ORA is a sound system that can be built invisibly into (behind) the laminate, needing less then 70mm space. While this is not a lighting product it does show the way that lighting will undoubtedly move as well…invisibly integrated into the environment, windows becoming light, walls becoming light, floors becoming light…with the development of micro-LED and RGB Laser fast progressing the days of visible light sources will soon be numbered…I also read up about magnetic LED lighting, that allows you to put a magnetic light tile anywhere you want, or compose patterns to personalise your space with control by app or hand motion…
Finally I leave you with something I did not know existed…a white rainbow. It is apparently a phenomenon that is produced by tiny droplets of fog, which has much weaker colours and appears as white, also known as a fog bow. It can apparently also be created by moon light (moon bow) rather than sun light for the same reason. Regardless the photo that appeared in the media was stunning.
Enjoy your weekend
Singapore, Weekend 19 – 20 November 2016
A surprisingly quiet week. Little action, just a few meetings, some skirmishes between project consultants, but nothing of great excitement, which allowed me to spent time on other lighting issues and personal projects that are running parallel to our daily activities. Re-designing our website is one of them; after 5 years we are ready for some refreshment so we settled on the company that will help us over the coming months to rebrand and refresh our corporate look on the net. Depending on the outcome we may decide to carry that look further in other corporate documents. After the failure of two supposedly experienced and senior project directors we decided to re-organise the team internally to deal with the demands of a modern day lighting design practice. We engaged some new staff and will for now focus on grooming and growing our own “stars” rather then trying to find them from outside. Charlie’s (Martin’s) “Angels” are now in place! With end of the year holidays approaching there are still a considerable number of projects on full speed, with still some travel required, but overall it feels like everything is gradually moving into a lower gear.
One of our dear client’s has continuously excelled in making working on the project a great joy. Not only by being a great paymaster and taking well care of us during our site visits, they also have been very creative and motivating by coming out with little goodies, most of which they plan to actually use as merchandise when the hotel opens. Bags, shawls, T-shirts, pen’s and notebooks decorated with the hotel logo or related imagery have been developed of which we all got as little souvenirs and thank you gesture. Now they are bringing this to a whole new level, one that shows a great appreciation to the consultant’s team. We have all been asked to send in a couple if our preferred sketches which they will convert as an image on T-shirts. Each consultant will be honoured with a T-shirt promoting one of their favourite design sketches. A great and cool idea! I made my selection this week and forwarded the high res images to the client. Can’t wait!
This week as also Super Moon week. On Monday we saw the moon at its biggest as it passed the Earth close by. If you missed the Super Moon from this week, there will be another one in December but it will be slightly smaller than the November one which was the most “super” Super Moon :). The moon follows an elliptical path around the earth with the furthest and closest distances varying over the years. This time around the closest distance in orbit is 356,509 kilometres, just two weeks earlier it had swung out to 406,662 kilometres. The last time the moon was this close was in 1948 and the next time the moon will come within 356,500 kilometres will be in 2034 (356,448 km) and then in 2058 (356425 km). Because its closer than normal distance the moon looks bigger, hence the term Super Moon. With the estimated size being about 30% bigger the question arises whether the average illumination level of 0.25 lux that is normally associated with the moon can be augmented to 0.33 lux with a Super Moon?? The moon has always fascinated millions of people, me included. It is an amazing thought that a surface located such distance away illuminated by a sun so much farther away in our solar system manages to illuminate our earth to such extend. If you have experienced moonlight in a totally dark environment in the country side like I have you know what I mean…magical…
On to a totally different subject that got my attention this week…we are all experiencing the onslaught of emails mostly from Chinese lighting factories promoting their latest products. I get heaps daily, it’s hard to block out as there are new ones all the time. It seems they now have found new ways to “get” to you. This week I noticed for the first time that our company Facebook page was “tagged” (amongst 98 others!) by a Chinese manufacturer. Some even liked the page! It may have happened before but it was new to me. It is without doubt that social media platforms are the new way of marketing. If we use them to promote our practice, we can hardly be surprised that “they” use it reversely to get to you…
Samsung and Tesla
Finally some corporate news that is confirming a worldwide trend of integration of products and services. First Samsung announced it’s takeover of Harman a world leader of automotive products and also the parent company of Martin Lighting for 8 Billion dollars, a big acquisition. While a direct link with lighting still seems far away, its immediate interest is to move into the automotive business aiming to make inroads in the intelligent, wireless, driverless car business by taking on Apple and Google’s foray into this market. In the longer run it is logical to assume that developments in the smart lighting industry are to follow.
At the same time we saw the announcement that electric car maker Tesla has moved into the market of solar panels by developing a new generation roof tiles with integrated solar generation capacity. The glass tiles are offered as a textured glass, slated glass, Tuscan glass and a smooth glass version. In a statement to the media, Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, announced that the roof tiles would be cheaper than ordinary ones, longer lasting while providing electricity at the same time…who wouldn’t want that?
Interesting times ahead and developments that we should follow closely as they will certainly keep changing the world as we know it!
Enjoy your weekend
Singapore, Weekend 12 – 13 November 2016
What a week it has been…
Welcome to Trumpland…
I think very few of us will have predicted what just happened in the US. It is fair to say that first with Brexit in the UK and now with a Trump presidency in the USA, we have a new world order with lots of uncertainties ahead. What it will bring in the months, years ahead is anybody’s guess. Populist movements around the world seem to move away from international cooperation opting to focus on their own countries instead of building a world of cooperation and consensus. It is too early to judge whether this “reset” is good or bad for the world in general or for our lighting profession specifically. We may have to brace ourselves for a sharpened division, creating more confrontation that will require very strong political skills on all levels to navigate the potential pitfalls along the way.
Will it affect our lighting or lighting design world? It may well be…protectionist movements in regards to (lighting) manufacturing may create new challenges and hurdles previously protected under free trade agreements. With new trade barriers possibly in the making and higher import tariffs being applied to protect the local economy, we may not that easily be able to procure the light fittings we want and may have to sharpen our specification skills to use even more locally made products, a trend that was already growing strongly but may in the near future be the only way. It will certainly stimulate the local economies but will it also keep researchers and innovators motivated on a worldwide scale? Multi-national lighting manufacturers invest lots of monies and efforts in developing their products for a world market, will they still get enough return on their investment to keep going? The global speed of technological developments in LED’s has been phenomenal with a general aim to develop internationally accepted quality standards for easy integration. But will that still hold true in the longer term? We are seeing more and more that governments issue decrees to stimulate their own economies, but as their quality and performance levels are not necessarily up to par with international standards we may need to do a few steps back before we can move forward again…
Travelling may also become more tedious, certainly in light of terrorism that has taken the world in a stronghold. Under the populist movements current open border policies may be reviewed with international travel become more difficult. My work gets me to travel to another country (mostly Asia Pacific / Middle East) nearly on a weekly basis, so free and easy travel makes it still reasonably bearable. More importantly the question arises whether protectionist movements will also mean that the lighting designer may in the future also need to be from the same country? With operations in Australia, Singapore, China, Indonesia and India I have already acknowledged the need to have people on the ground, speaking the local language, understanding the local culture and working together with local suppliers, but it would be practically impossible to have an local office (employing local staff) in every country we do projects. The internal communication and administration between the offices I have now is already complicated, let alone if we would have more…
With the populist movements gaining strength in countries around the world, will world-wide environmental agreements such as the reduction on carbon emissions be abided by or renegotiated and if so will that have any impact on sustainability targets in (lighting) design?
Not all doom and gloom
The news of the Trump presidency has been quite depressing, occupying the thoughts of many, but ever the optimist I am, it is not necessarily all doom and gloom. It is certainly a reality that we need to accept or at least be aware of when planning our long term project design commitments. Away from politics we have seen great developments in lighting which will hopefully continue despite more tense political climates.
We have seen many of the traditional lighting manufacturers making a successful transition to LED technology, some taking their time, some coming back with a vengeance and I suspect that in the coming time we will see a further profiling of key lighting manufacturers driven specifically by the development of new innovative products. Innovation is the key here. Those who have remained relevant in lighting market are those who have radically embraced product innovation built around the typical opportunities that LED technology offers. Not all manufacturers have managed to make the switch while the LED revolution has also allowed many new start-ups, new kids on the block, to enter the playing field, some of those previously not at all involved in lighting industry. The political climate should create a definite boom and stimulation towards increased local manufacturing and innovation.
The ever growing Internet of Things have propelled big technology companies like Google, Apple and many others right into the lighting playing field as well. It is fair to say that this is therefore one of the most exciting and challenging things to look forward to in the coming times. The wireless communication is borderless and likely to revolutionise the way we think about lighting, the way we appreciate and use lighting, and as a result the way we as lighting designers need to redefine our horizon in the near future…Trump or no Trump…I found a few cartoons that sorts of depicts the mood many of us are in…
The Lighting Gallery
To end the week on a high(er) note, I attended the opening of Million Electric’s new showroom called the Lighting Gallery in Singapore. When I am in town I will always make an effort to support and attend lighting events like this, certainly if they promote better awareness of lighting and lighting design. The gallery not only houses 2 levels of product displays but also has a 3rd level fully dedicated as an architectural lighting demonstration center with Erco, Modulex and Artemide products installed in a demo room very much reminiscent of Erco’s room in Ludenscheid, though on a smaller scale. The demo room is open for everyone to use to demonstrate lighting effects to project clients. These events are also a great platform to meet with your peers and fellow industry players in general. I caught with many and enjoyed the evening as it made me forget for little while the crazy week we had behind us…
Enjoy your weekend
Perth, Weekend 5 – 6 November 2016
I arrived in Perth over the weekend in hot anticipation of my meeting with the Dutch King and Queen who started their state visit to Australia in Perth. Having received an invitation as a member of the Dutch business community in Perth I had summited my application together with Alex who like Queen Maxima is also from Argentinian descent. They apparently received thousands of applications but only 350 were lucky enough to be invited. During the week we progressed further on our churches project including a site visit for the assessment of some additional work. At the end of the week I visited Curtin University to have look at student’s work on the invitation of one of the head teachers to provide them with a professional assessment of the lighting products that they had created in their first year.
King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima
I am not really a royalist but I have grown to appreciate our King and Queens efforts in promoting our country and their relentless support to the Dutch business community around the world. For that reason I was keen to meet them in person and when I also got further invited to participate in a one on one discussion with the royal couple I was even more excited. The discussions were held after the official “passade” (where people one by one are introduced to the royals, shake hands and have an official photo taken as selfies or taking pictures with your phone up close were obviously not allowed. My discussion group, “the Creative Industry”, consisted of a total of 5 professionals, an industrial designer, a visual artist, a photographer, an industrial designer and myself a lighting designer. Other discussion groups covered other topics of relevance. Only 8 discussion groups of 5 people had been created with the royal couple spending about 10-15 mins per group. Each of us were given one on one time to share our experience of living in Australia and the challenges facing us in exercising our profession. I was also given the opportunity to present my book to the couple which I did with great pleasure. Queen Maxima said she appreciated the gift and would read, but whether they actually will is another question all togetherJ. But the idea that I have been able to give them my book and the possibility that they may eventually read it so they can get a feel of what my life abroad is like is nice…
We are getting towards the critical part of these projects where detailing installation methods and specifications of the lighting needs to be locked in. for that it is also important to understand the electrical implications of cable routings and power supply in consideration of the heritage of the buildings. For that we had brought in our electrical specialist and over the next few weeks he will work out the electrical design and assess the implications on the building structure and eventually on the lighting design if any. Lighting design is not a stand-alone discipline and even if it is just a lighting upgrade it is critical to involve the electrical (the invisible part of lighting) in the design to make sure it can actually be realised. The electrical design is being undertaken under our umbrella to make sure it is sub servient to our lighting design. Too often the electrical consultant (generally already devout of any creative thinking) is a party pooper when it comes to resolving creative lighting design so having them as a sub-consultancy to our lighting design team is a great an exciting prospect. We have also been asked to look at some of the exterior lighting that had previously been installed as specifically the in-ground up-lights seem to have the wrong optics (glary and light polluting) and are located too close to the building to have any proper effect, some areas also having drainage issues!
Besides enjoying the great Western Australian weather (it’s beach time again…), pottering around in my small little garden, I did take time out to visit Curtin University on Friday to look at a lighting exhibition by 1st year students of the Interior Architecture curriculum. Lighting design is a part of the studies and in their first year they are asked to actually physically design and produce lighting fixtures. Understanding lighting theory and the transformational qualities of light in space are elementary and hence this exercise gave them a first had taste of what lighting is and what it does in space. With emphasis on sustainable design and encouraged to source their building materials from industry off cuts or recycling materials from discarded waste, the theme for this year was movement. Movement in the widest sense of the word from mechanical, digital to optical movement. I am always stimulated by interaction with students as they have still some inhibited approach to design and as a result some of them (as was the case here as well) came out with some really out of the box concepts. Limited in time they were also confronted with the reality of production and the use of techniques such as rapid prototyping using CNC machines, laser cutting and 3D printing. My favourite was a design was a fusion of gravity, levitation and lighting; a ball being blown in the air, floating above the fixture illuminated from below. Others explored flexible concepts of form, others interacted lighting with nature such as plants or water. Well done to all the students. I much believe in supporting the new generation of designers and if possible will make myself available to share my experience with them and provide them with guidance from my professional experience as a lighting designer.
Enjoy your weekend…
Singapore, Weekend 29 – 30 October 2016
No travel this week! Finally a full week in the office without having to hop on a plane! This allowed me to dive a bit into some of our local projects. While we of course like to have local (Singapore) projects we generally do not pursue them with great vigour as from experience we know that these are generally quite “painful” in terms of involvement. Most of our local projects involve weekly meetings some multiple meetings per week, which are very time consuming and not very “fee-efficient”. Whenever we can nowadays we charge an attendance fee for our local meetings to at least cover our time involvement but many of our clients do not want to hear about this so you have to somehow weave this meeting attendance into the fees to cover ourselves properly. Overseas visits are much more efficient and dedicated, everyone is in the frame of mind to complete and settle as much as possible in the short time we are all together. Moreover they are costed specifically and clearly so really, no reason to not do the same in Singapore. We are also embarking on updating our website to give it a new and fresher look as our current website is already more than 5 years old and new social media and interactive web technologies allow the website to be much more exciting, so look out for it in the new year! I am also progressing well on my new book and some other exciting new personal projects I am working on. I will share with you when the time comes as with so many things I work on it in the background of our daily activities whenever I can, so sometimes I am progressing well sometimes it lays on the shelf for a while due to other pressing matters.
Hospitality projects over the years have become part of our core expertise, purely driven by our success in this application and the amount of projects available in this sector. So I guess we can confidently say we have built quite some experience in this field. So much so that we have reach a stage where there are now quite some expectations about the quality of our deliveries from both our clients as well as the operator. With many of our projects we deal with new clients, some who are new in the game, some being old hats, but clients we have no prior experience with. In general when a project is offered to you, we would accept it, after all we need to keep “bread on the shelf”. But occasionally as happened in the past week we decline a project, this time in cahoots with the interior designer. One of the Chinese hotel operators with whom we were dealing on another project with another client, offered the same team another project in which they were both operator and client. However after having been presented the project and a “we will think about it” we came together and decided that the design direction, requirements, style and overall target group would not suit our image and declined respectfully. Rejecting projects is a tough call but at times must be made for the good of the future, specifically when there are clashing views on how a project should be realised. Proceeding just for the “money” may harm your image in the long run, but mostly create unnecessary friction and tension in the short term…not worth it.
Directly related to this are those projects where the client has no appreciation for the value for money when it comes to lighting. We are involved in such project (with some frustrating email correspondences during the week) where we are trying to uphold our quality standards in the lighting design but where the client does not feel they should spent that amount of money. The result is a friction between client and ourselves with an operator only looking at the end result which has our name attached to it. While my policy is that the client is king and we should always diplomatically try to resolve our differences, there are times (we have had a few of these projects) where we are caught between a rock and a hard place. Adopting a “my way or the high way” approach has seen us been kicked out of projects (client: “ok, we will do it ourselves then”) or when trying to find acceptable compromises seen the operator disappointed with our inputs and the final outcome. We failed them…There are obvious financial consequences to both approaches!
Park View Square
Most of the week was taken up by on site lighting tests and mock up reviews with our PVS project that has now moved into high gear with the aim to complete the renovation before Xmas. This is a very challenging project with very visual aspects and luckily the client and contractor are fully appreciating the need to visually assess critical parts of the design before proceeding to final order or installation. Our hanging structure is taking shape with a timber mock up installed to appreciate proportions, shape and finishes. Technically the structure will do what we want it to do. Visually with the brass/copper finish and black track and spots I think it will look as good as can be. Key will be to control glare and brightness as to minimise the visual impact and focus the attention to the floor rather then the hanging structure itself. For that reason the chosen finish of polished brass/copper will help reflect the surroundings and make the structure visibly “disappear” as much as possible. Dealing with reflective materials is always challenging.
We are also fitting out lights in a champagne room that is fully cladded in rose-gold finish. Everything reflects everything…finding the right way to integrate lighting without it becoming an glary, reflecting eyesore was one of the challenges we tackled this week.
Finally the wine tower’s new lighting (from previously back lighting to now dramatic up-lighting) was also subject to some testing to decide whether one row (more drama) or two rows (more sparkle) was the best solution…I will leave you in suspense about the decision…but as the whole wine tower will be connected to a dimmer we are confident we will be able to program the lighting to great effect.
We always learn and are forced through our projects to sharpen our skills and knowledge all the time. In this project we had been advised that some very expensive bottles will be held in the displays and that as such the exposure (intensity and duration) to light should be controlled to minimise any damaging effects. The first layer of protection is exposure to light (keeping the bottles in the dark (cellars!), but if you want to display them then you need to light them up. The second layer of protection is the quality and type of the bottle glass. Coloured or UV filtered glass is applied when it comes to highly expensive and sensitive wines. Ambient temperature and humidity is another obvious factor in conservation of the quality. Last but not least there is the lighting and from research it seems that particularly lighting below 500nm (blue to ultra violet light) can have impact the long term quality conservation. LED’s are known for their relatively low level UV content but in this particular case we decided to integrate UV filters in our lighting to make sure at least lighting will not be harmful. We have tried to extract information from the wine and champagne manufacturer as to what they consider as tolerable lighting energy quantities but to date we are still waiting…anyone who can enlighten us on this subject?
Enjoy your weekend…
Singapore – Hong Kong – Guilin – Yangshuo – Singapore, Weekend 22-23 October 2016
Not much rest in the office as after a catch up day in the office on Monday it was straight off to China again, this time to Yangshuo in the famous Guilin Mountains. We managed to navigate in between two typhoons, one just leaving the area, and another one (Haima) on its way. The strength of the oncoming one was rated such that is forced the closure of Hong Kong Airport on Friday, cancelling most in and outbound flights. We were lucky and had a smooth ride back to Singapore on Thursday. As I write this blog a picture is trending from a man peacefully reading his newspaper at Starbucks, while the torrential typhoon rains are flooding the space around him…
Monday and Friday saw a slurry of meetings with team and lighting suppliers. I find it particularly fascinating to follow the challenging route of the manufacturers and their suppliers to keep focused and stay the course or even ahead in this ever so competitive LED lighting market. Time and again something new pops up that sets a new bar for others, hence I maintain my open door policy as much as possible despite our busy work schedule. There is no doubt that the economies in the region are feeling the pinch which is clearly felt by the reduced project numbers but there is still good quality and a substantial amount of work out there and with that confidence we are still growing our team.
Visiting us on Monday, Reggiani is one of those lighting manufacturers that have been around since the early days and probably one of those market leaders that took the very first plunge in setting up their manufacturing plant in Ningbo, China, more than 20 years ago. But they struggled the last few years with the arrival and tsunami breakthrough of the LED lighting flooding the market and virtually pushing conventional lighting manufacturers back to the wall. But Reggiani is back in force with a great range of products (Mood and Yori) with features quite unique and hardly found with any other brand. I don’t really blog about specific brands but I find in this case the commitment and the way they are fighting back to remain relevant in this cut throat business exemplary for a brand that for long was one of the leading lights. It could have been a “Kodak” moment for them but they regrouped, redirected and reformed the company strategies and for sure they are here to stay. Well done.
What I failed to mention in last week’s blog is to commend one of my senior designers for stepping up and holding up our flag high at the Architectural Light + Design Symposium held at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre recently. Grace stepped up to fill in the spot when I was unable to present. It was a great and courageous step for her, moving out of her comfort zone having never presented a paper on such respected public platforms. Presenting a lighting concept to a familiar client and project team is quite different from putting yourself out there to the scrutiny of your peers and public, so hats off. But this is also a character building trait. Pushing yourself to new challenges and completing them through commitment and positive attitude creates not only great personal satisfaction but also increases one’s confidence that you can do more and do better if you set your mind to it. Grace’s stepping up has been energizing the whole team and I am gratefully accepting their challenge.
Yangshuo; more is less
I returned to Yangshuo as part of the finishing touches of this project. To the credit of our client he maintains his strive to get a top quality product and, while still tight on his budget, listens to his consultants and accepts that regular site visits to make sure the installation follows the design as close as possible are a necessity. Every time we return to site (last visit was in August) we take the opportunity to test lights on site in areas that are in sufficient state of progress that testing allows to properly assess the best installation method. There is great team spirit in the project team which is most of all fuelled by the positive attitude of the owner. Their respect for the consultants makes us grateful and wanting to go the extra mile with a smile. As designers we have certain standards and views but being on site allows us to submerge ourselves into the real site situation and appreciate that you could still do with less without affecting the quality of the end result. The owner to his credit, is consistently challenging us to do more with less which we accept graciously as a great challenge to our own design skills as well. But it does mean regularly being on site and doing our due diligence whenever we can. Lighting designers tend to take safe options (insisting on dimming for instance) when we are not sure of the final product or site installation. This was another trip with the aim to achieve more with less…
Enjoy your weekend…