The lighting team at Arup was responsible for creating some of the most energy-efficient lighting installations on the Olympic site, including the aquatics centre and the handball arena. Jill Entwistle reports

The flowing, wave-like roof of Zaha Hadid’s aquatics centre posed a challenge for the Arup lighting team because, unlike a standard pool, there were no trusses from which to hang lights. The sports lighting in the main pool had to meet exacting broadcast standards but also had to prevent any glare for swimmers – and it had to be suitable for subsequent use.

Inspiration for the solution came from high-end retail and involved a system of lighting ‘bubbles’. The team came up with the idea of using elliptical openings in the ceiling to house the fittings. The luminaires – 400 and 1,000W metal halide projectors – are recessed and not directly visible, and so avoid excessive glare.

The 88 light pipes provide enough daylight for most of the year and are backed up by artificial lighting

Brackets for bubbles

The lighting team designed special brackets for the luminaires and created a 3D model of each fitting to check for clashes. The tight schedule meant that contractors had to finish installing several lighting bubbles every week with more than 500 luminaires installed in total.

The lighting design team worked hand-in-hand with the architect to ensure the lighting complemented Hadid’s vision. In the training pool, lighting fittings – recessed coffers and fluorescent backlights – have a sculptural quality. To ensure the building remains well lit for legacy use (when the temporary stands will be removed), the patterned glass façade was analysed to ensure it sufficiently reduced glare.

Arup was also responsible for the handball arena, which will host handball and the fencing discipline of the modern pentathlon, and goal ball during the Paralympic Games. It’s an exemplar of energy saving and legacy use, with free lighting for most of the year. Afterwards, it will become a community resource for sports and events.

Working closely with architect Make, Arup Lighting has ensured that no artificial lighting will be needed for 60 per cent of the year. The plan was to use light pipes, so daylight analyses were carried out to check that they could deliver the 200-lux minimum requirement for playing community and school sport in the arena.

Calculations predicted that 88 large light pipes would provide enough daylight for nearly two-thirds of the year. For darker days, the light pipes are backed up by artificial lighting.

The lighting team worked with manufacturers to develop the larger bespoke pipes they needed – 1.5m across, instead of the standard 600mm diameter – which were low glare but retained the architect’s desire to conceal the lightweight structure of the steelwork supporting the roof.

The bespoke pipes are 1.5m across and provide a notional ceiling 14m above the field of play

The solution required close co-ordination between the lighting team, the architect and the structural engineer. The pipes provide a notional ceiling at 14m above the field of play. They will have to be blacked out during the Games because broadcasters need the consistent quality of light that is only possible with artificial lighting.

This was initially problematic because the arena’s lightweight roof structure makes it difficult to access the pipes. The solution was a special remotely activated blackout shutter built into the base of the light pipe.

Directed by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) structures, bridges and highway team, Arup was also appointed to collaborate with architect Allies and Morrison to develop concepts for 13 permanent footbridges, temporary bridges, six permanent underpasses and lighting design for four permanent art installations, including works by Jason Bruges and Martin Richman.

The lighting team also worked with artists to devise a common procurement document, allowing the ODA to save money by sourcing all lighting equipment from a single manufacturer.

The park is located in an ecological zone, and an important concern was the impact of the lighting on wildlife, particularly bats. This meant working closely with the teams designing the stadium, the landscape and other elements of the park.

Collaborating with bridge engineers, for instance, meant that bespoke LED fittings could be integrated into the parapets of footbridges, not only producing an elegant solution, but ensuring light levels that wouldn’t disturb bats.

Going underground

Lighting the underpasses also called for creative thinking. A large temporary installation in a main underpass into the south of the park involved working with the structural engineer to devise a functional but aesthetic catenary solution.

The lighting team also helped to review different lighting products and analyse costs, advising the ODA on issues such as how to use lighting controls across a wide area like the Olympic Park, and whether to use LEDs or traditional light sources. A significant ODA objective was to reduce costs by buying all the lighting equipment for the park from a single supplier.

The lighting team worked with Spiers + Major to produce a common procurement document, writing a technical specification for the SBH works for tender documents. Sutton Vane Associates carried out a similar exercise for the landscape and public realm lighting.

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