In your eyes

10 mins read

How the power of lighting, supported by new technologies, is able to set the tone of an environment transforming commercial and public spaces. By Neil Tyler.

Lighting is able to transform commercial and public spaces with a wide range of new innovations now being employed, from show rooms to cathedrals and sports stadia, that are able to change environments by using more sustainable solutions.

In recent years commercial lighting has shifted away from incandescent and fluorescent lights and towards LED technology which is both brighter and able to produce much better light quality than is the case with traditional luminaires.

Not only are LEDs more cost effective but they also offer a combination of energy-savings, much greater design flexibility, tunability, dimming capabilities and low voltage applications.

Lighting can be used to attract, engage and retain visitors for longer and with the press of button, it’s now possible to completely transform spaces creating a far more dynamic environment.

The emergency of LED lighting fixtures and its minimal power requirements have paved the way for innovative low voltage lighting infrastructures, in which luminaires are powered by a single CAT 6 network cable and fixtures with nothing more than 12/24/48V instead of the 120V of traditional high voltage infrastructure.

While LED technology has transformed the capabilities of the lighting industry, it has also enabled users to maximise efficiency, reduce wasted energy and save money.

However, with LED technology more attention is needed when it comes to the way in which light fittings are controlled. And although switching LEDs is very straightforward, dimming remains more complicated.

There are three control protocols available for dimming lighting: phase dimming (decrease in power), 0-10V/1-10V (analogue) or DALI (digital). The DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface) is now widely recognised as the global standard for lighting control and as a two-way communications protocol, it is able to guarantee interoperability of dimmable light sources from different lighting manufacturers, giving users almost complete control over and communication between all lighting system components.

Cost, however, does remain a limiting factor when it comes to DALI, according to Jon Theis, director at TheisCraft Lighting Controls, but there does not need to be a trade-off between benefits and costs.

“All you need is the right solution,” according to Theis. “There is no denying that DALI is far superior to other lighting control standards and unlike traditional analogue dimming systems, which use a DC voltage signal, DALI uses a digital signal for more precise and flexible control — offering a versatile solution.”

The digital signal enables data to be collated through the system’s software so it’s possible to analyse consumption and identify faults with connected DALI devices. 

“Installing a DALI system is also much more straightforward than other systems, as lighting can be reconfigured entirely through software without rewiring,” explains Theis. “But despite that, DALI still offers a high level of customisation, despite its inherent simplicity.”

Each DALI device can be individually addressed which allows for zoning (groups) to be implemented using software independent of circuits. As a result, lights can be programmed to suit the needs of a specific space, and a range of different settings are possible within one system — providing the flexibility to offer simple standalone room options or networked solutions.

“Because the systems is scalable it also allows work to be carried out in phases. And because you can use dimmable light sources from different lighting manufacturers, DALI gives planners, specifiers and luminaire manufacturers the security of supply from many sources,” adds Theis.

“As a result, DALI is widely used in professionally designed lighting control systems within commercial settings from hotels to office buildings. But now, we are also seeing DALI being used in residential lighting projects thanks to its simplified wiring structure, superior dimming performance and enhanced flexibility.”

There are limitations with DALI, though. The initial expense, due to commissioning costs, can account for perhaps a quarter of a project’s price using a standard commissionable DALI solution.

“Projects also need to be fully installed before the site can be commissioned, and any changes once the fully addressable DALI system is installed can involve additional site visits and commissioning costs,” Theis warns.

According to Theis the DALI market is still missing a simple, non-commissionable option for projects with standalone areas that need lighting control, such as those found in the residential sector.

“The lighting control industry needs a new take on DALI: one that offers all the benefits of DALI control — yet little to no commissioning. Imagine a full spectrum of flexible DALI products — power supply units, rotary DALI dimmers, relay units, switch interface modules, phase dimmers and PIRs — that go far beyond lighting.

“A single channel relay unit, for example, would allow complete control of non-DALI and non-dimmable devices, and all these products would work cohesively together, using the unique DALI group selection switch to negate the need for specialist commissioning software and tools.”

Such a DALI solution would offer a degree of flexibility and simplicity unlike anything else seen in the market. Not only would setup and electrical contract configuration be easier, but it would also require zero maintenance.

Any future additional equipment could be added without the need for trained specialists, and any failures could be replaced one-for-one with no commissioning.


According to Miguel Aguado, Marketing & Technology Manager, Lutron Electronics the UK’s building stock is amongst the oldest in the developed world and contributes 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint.

The energy used in buildings produces half of this CO2, while waste from construction, demolition and excavation represents a staggering 59% of total UK waste so decarbonising our current buildings should be the first port of call.

“Smart building technology presents a prime solution to the building stock problem. By digitally retrofitting to create smarter and healthier buildings, both financial and carbon savings can be made, whilst avoiding intrusive building work. The most important place to start with a retrofit in terms of carbon reduction is lighting,” according to Aguado.

Due to its pervasiveness in buildings, cost saving ability, ability to improve occupant productivity and wellbeing, as well as safety, lighting is seen as the perfect first step in decarbonising the UK built environment.

“While the pandemic disrupted many aspects of society, the imperative need for sustainability has remained constant, if not more urgent. “Expectations of efficiency and decarbonisation are becoming increasingly important,” Aguado argues.

So where to begin?

“Our buildings represent an open goal for national improvement, with smart lighting systems the ideal solution to drive the desired and necessary change.

“Firstly, and perhaps most crucially, wherever there are buildings, there are lights. They are the most ubiquitous and intrinsic building technology, fundamental to their performance. Therefore, a single piece of legislative change could have a sweeping impact on the overall energy efficiency of our buildings. The universality of lighting must make it the clear first choice for action,” according to Aguado.

“Over recent years, we have tangibly seen the impact of LED lighting. Indeed, in the journey to net zero, efficiency has been more effective than reducing carbon emissions.”

Energy efficient lighting installations can easily realise savings of more than 50% over legacy technology. However, the sensing and communication capabilities of lighting systems provides benefits that are far greater than the sum of its parts.

“By adding presence detectors, daylight linking, timeclock events, and personal control and the impact can be upwards of an additional 60%, over the energy savings already provided by LED lighting,” says Aguado.

On average, in a commercial building, energy accounts for 1% of the total cost to the business, while the running of the building itself accounts for 9%. The remaining 90% is devoted to the people and the accumulated knowledge and skills that make a workforce productive. Lighting has a greater impact on employees than any other building technology, helping productivity and overall wellbeing.

Smart lighting controls are able to take the lit environment a step further. By combining data from lighting systems with that from additional sources (including weather, time of year, etc.), it is possible to unlock even greater benefits to building operations and provide a better setting for users.

“Through the collation of data, we are moving closer to the perfect lighting environment,” says Aguado. “The use of automation, personal control, and data analytics can help realise not only further energy savings, but reduce the spread of disease which, as we have seen, can have a devastating snowball effect on the global economy.”

The advancement of wireless lighting enables smart systems to be applied in any environment – however, we are not yet seeing the potential of these technologies being realised.

“The current UK regulations (Conservation of Fuel and Power: Part L) are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of necessary action and are currently failing to fully utilise the technology available. In terms of efficiency alone, smart lighting systems represent a clear opportunity for rapid improvement. Combined with the productivity and safety benefits, it’s clear why smart lighting should be top of the agenda,” explains Aguado.

“A comprehensive, actionable regulatory framework is needed to motivate change. Part L must make capabilities, such as presence detection, daylight linking, and timeclock events, compulsory for all new buildings and throughout the multiple stages of renovation.

“Legislation should also prescribe the adoption of smart building technologies in new and existing projects, propelling the industry and the economy into a hyper-efficient future.”

Design in practice

Turning to design when it comes to lighting the focus tends to be on simplicity and for many architects there has been a return to more minimal and simple designs, shapes and geometries and, in addition, creatively targeted lighting solutions have an important part to play.

Lutron Electronics has been involved with a range of projects from hotel design to re-lighting the interior of Norwich Cathedral.

When it came to Norwich Cathedral the lighting design practice Speirs Major required a flexible, and reliable lighting control system that would be able to amplify the beauty of the Cathedral and highlight some its unique features.

Lutron’s design looked to address the principal areas of the Cathedral including the aisles, nave, choir, crossing, presbytery, ambulatory, transepts and chapels, providing general lighting and task lighting, as well as highlights to entrances and steps to ensure safe access.

The company created an interior lighting system to support the liturgy and provided flexibility for various cultural activities and tourism, while reducing the energy load.

At each entrance and change of level, carefully managed light levels were designed to ensure easy access and improved safety for people of all abilities and a further layer was added for concerts and community events.

Lutron applied a flexible background level of light to enable everyday activities, layered with highlights that provided focus on the key liturgical elements and objects of religious and cultural significance.

Norwich is an example of Romanesque architecture, so soft up-lighting was used to highlight the sculptural forms of the ceilings and the cathedral’s important features.

Each lighting effect can be individually controlled and dimmable from 0% to 100% brightness which mean that the cathedral could shift the focus of worship around the building and create different atmospheres for the many uses of the various spaces.

The all-LED design also delivered significant savings in energy and maintenance in comparison to the previous tungsten-halogen scheme.

Turning to the retail space in 2021, Rolls-Royce opened a new flagship showroom in Mayfair, London, where customers were presented with an immersive retail experience inspired by Galleria-style shopping and the showroom included various zones, such as a ‘speakeasy’ bar and consultation areas with product samples.

Hygienic & Environmental Engineering Services (HEES) needed a lighting control system that could light distinct zones depending on the desired ambiance or requirements of the end users, so it turned to the RAPID lighting control system developed by CP Electronics.

Beyond simply switching lights on and off during opening hours, each zone required certain brightness depending on the desired ambiance of the display area, like an early evening setting where lights dim in the bar and lounge areas.

To deliver this different light fixtures needed to be installed throughout the showroom and in non-customer facing areas, with manual control available as well as the automatic programming. Luxurious light fittings were fitted around the intricately designed spaces and arranged in around the shapes of the different zones that included display cars, AV installations and furniture for clients and this meant that the lighting had to be installed and controlled so no shadows were cast over the show cars by fixtures and fittings.

Working with CP Electronics, HEES chose an addressable, hardwired RAPID system that included AV integration with the store display as well as scene set plates for store colleagues to control the lighting.

Commissioned by a CP Electronics engineer once the installation had taken place, scenes were set up for the different showroom zones and opening hours and could be cycled through automatically or using the scene set plate – so, automatic adjusting of lighting levels according to the time of day, keeping the showroom bright during the day and with a softer ambiance for the later hours.

Another scene that was integrated into the RAPID system was a display which would be the only illuminated part of the space at night-time. One of the vehicles on display could be lit up while promotional footage on three screens played on a loop.

Capable of integrating AV into these lighting scenes, the RAPID system could be programmed to do this as part of an out of hours scene.

According to Sam Farrant, Specification Sales Manager (London) at CP Electronics, “For a luxury retail environment, the lighting is key to creating the right atmosphere and so the controls specified had to be able to keep up with the design requirements of each zone. Using the RAPID solution, we were able to ensure the amazing light fittings across the showroom were illuminating the space in exactly the way the end client was envisaging.”

The Steaua Stadium is a new, multi-purpose stadium that’s located in Bucharest, Romania and is the home of CSA Steaua Bucuresti.

Dynamic lighting was seen as crucial to the stadium’s functionality and user experience and the contractor selected an LED lighting system from Philips Signify that featured 252 Arena Vision LED DMX and 152 Uni Flood RGBNW fixtures. The lighting control system comprises of an LPC 1 (Lighting Playback Controller 1) and a TPC (Touch Panel Controller) developed by Pharos Architectural Controls.

It features individually controllable and independently running timelines and scenes, and the control system provides the ability to build dynamic, precise and fully bespoke pre-programmed lighting effects using the Pharos Designer 2 software.

The TPC is a sophisticated touchscreen lighting controller offering vast design potential with a fully integrated user interface and a single power-over-ethernet (PoE) network connection. As well as being a stand-alone controller, in its own right, the TPC has a 4.3” fully customisable touch panel and can integrate with the broader range of Pharos Designer controllers and remote devices. 

Commenting on the project, Mark de Gruyter, Regional Manager - EMEA at Pharos Architectural Controls said: “As a replacement to the outdated Steaua Stadium, the new stadium is an incredibly impressive venue. The attention to detail is evident, and the state-of-the-art lighting system ensures the stadium can be used all year round for a wide variety of sporting fixtures and other events. 

“The control element from Pharos has allowed the venue to integrate dynamic and programmed lighting into its activity, offering a wealth of options when it comes to enhancing the experience for visitors.”

Power Electric SRL was the solutions provider for the project’s lighting requirements. Ciprian Viscopoleanu from Power Electric added: “The Steaua Stadium is an incredibly important venue in Bucharest, attracting thousands of national and international visitors. Our team’s expertise made it possible to integrate the architectural lighting design in such a manner that a variety of dynamic scenarios are possible, from projecting different colouring according to the playing team, to synchronising lights and music with specific timing.”

These three examples, Norwich Cathedral, Roll-Royce’s showroom in London and the Steaua Stadium in Rumania demonstrate how light is being used to enhance user experiences but do so in a way that combines creativity with sustainability.