Michael Grubb of Sutton Vane Associates describes his company’s contribution to the park and public realm lighting for London 2012

In 2008 the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) appointed LDA Design and Hargreaves Associates to design the parklands and public realm in the Olympic Park, with Sutton Vane Associates (SVA) as the lighting design consultant. SVA was responsible for devising a strategy to cover the different requirements for lighting the parklands and public realm economically and sustainably both during the Games and in the years beyond.

The lighting for the Games had to fit into the two other phases of delivery: transformation, the period after the games through to 2014; and legacy, from 2014 onwards. The lighting strategy therefore had to balance priorities at each stage, including higher levels of lighting during the Games themselves to enable wayfinding and ensure safety and security; and then lower levels in the transformation and legacy phases to save energy and protect biodiversity. It included the use of renewable energy sources, removing and recycling some lighting, and carefully restricting the use and location of lighting.

The park and public realm lighting was coordinated with other lighting installations for venues and other facilities, and also designed to work with specific landscape features such as the concourse, seating, planters and trees. The location and distribution of the lighting was subject to a number of technical constraints, including crowd flow and restrictions on installing lighting columns over underground services.

Each Halo Light contains a turbine, a dozen ceramic lamps and a ring of colour changing LEDs

The delivery authority has six priority themes across the project:

  • health, safety and security,
  • design and accessibility,
  • sustainability,
  • legacy, and
  • equality and inclusion.

  • In terms of sustainability, the lighting strategy had to include energy saving, recycling and biodiversity. In fact lighting was considered an important component of efforts to reduce the energy consumed by the park and considerations were broader than simply rating one product against another. For example, most of the lighting columns have 1,500 x 800cm photovoltaic panels that feed energy into the grid, which is more efficient than powering the lighting directly. Consideration was also given to the energy embedded in the lighting masts and LED lanterns, where it was important to be able to replace LED lamp arrays rather than the whole lantern.

    After the Games, temporary lighting (mainly metal halide lighting on 8-10 metre columns), will be removed under a cost-efficient buyback and recycling scheme to improve value for money and reduce waste. This will leave mainly LED lighting on smaller scale six-metre columns using renewable technologies such as photovoltaics.

    Where biodiversity is concerned, the lighting strategy identifies ‘dark zones’, free from artificial light, to benefit the park’s birds and mammals. Protecting biodiversity in the wildlife areas and waterways was a high priority and drove decisions such as specifying LED lighting for identified ‘bat corridors’. LED lighting does not emit ultraviolet light, which would disturb the moths that bats feed on.

    Cohesive design

    To ensure a cohesive lighting design throughout the park, the strategy demanded that all designs were in accord with a set of general criteria and parameters. It also recommended that an external lighting designer should be appointed to advise the ODA on how well the lighting scheme was complying with the strategy.

    Another part of the strategy was to identify a hierarchy of architectural components to guide the ODA and its partners into making priority-led investment decisions. A set of overarching lighting design principles was also developed. These included the need for a family of luminaires to create a co-ordinated look throughout the park. Lighting columns were to be the same, creating a common theme of height, materials, structure, finish and light quality across the park.

    This approach was developed further into the idea of common procurement for all lighting columns and lanterns. This resulted in an aesthetically pleasing lighting column that houses lanterns, photovoltaic panels, banners, public address and CCTV.

    A set of requirements for colour rendering was also developed for each area, along with rules on the prevention of obtrusive light, reducing visual clutter, maintenance, materials and hours of operation.

    The ODA’s decision to embrace advanced lighting and energy-saving technologies such as LEDs has reduced waste and improved the quality and distribution of light. Each LED luminaire contains state-of-the-art lamp and gear technologies with a sealed optical lens array that provides an even distribution of layered light. The internal LED tray system is removable, so the sources can be replaced or upgraded in the future. An energy-saving step-down Dali control ballast was also introduced so the light levels could be reduced during the transformation and legacy phases of the project.

    The road most travelled

    Routes through the park will be reconfigured in the transformation phase after the temporary venues and structures have been removed. The park will be fully accessible to the public, so it was an important part of the brief to create lighting that connects communities safely and securely but which is also sustainable. To minimise light pollution, and to concentrate footfall at night, only key routes – linking communities around the park through a series of clear intermediate destinations – will be lit, and luminaires with cut-off light distributions that avoid glare and light pollution were specified.

    Priority was given to those routes to ensure most people used the same pathways rather than spreading out throughout the park, enhancing safety by focusing activity while providing a dark area to encourage biodiversity. Illuminance, colour temperature (3000K throughout) and uniformity were detailed for each route.

    A temporary overlay lighting solution has been devised for the common domain areas, the open circulation, hard-landscape spaces that will contain temporary elements such as bins and information kiosks which will subsequently be removed. For this reason, a simple cost-effective solution was required that didn’t compromise the visitor’s safety, in this case temporary 10m-high galvanised steel lighting columns housing a cluster of medium-beam spotlights (3000K ceramic metal halide lamps).

    During the Games, lux levels will vary depending on location and use from an average maintained illuminance of 30 lux with a minimum of 15 lux for highly populated concourse areas to 15 lux average and 5 lux minimum for general routes. In the transformation and legacy phases, lighting levels will be reduced so areas such as towpaths will have 5 lux average and 1 lux minimum.

    Park and public realm lighting: process and parameters

    The park and public realm lighting strategy was commissioned and approved by the ODA and submitted to the planning decision team.

    The strategy document was created to provide an organised and cohesive approach to lighting design across the park and has been used by designers, constructors and planners to guide detailed design of lighting schemes during all three phases: the Games, transformation and legacy.

    These decisions were partly shaped by strategies such as the urban design and landscape framework (UDLF), which requires as much of the Games’ lighting as possible to be retained in the legacy period, minimal light pollution, lighting to assist wayfinding and security, and low light in areas where it will benefit fauna.

    UDLF appendices and inclusive design standards provided typical design details, a palette of materials and finishes to be used in the development of the parkland and public realm.

    The inclusive design strategy includes a statement that lighting should create neither an obstacle nor unnecessary glare. The waterspace masterplan limits lighting along the waterways. The biodiversity action plan said that the lowest light levels should be in North Park, and that artificial lighting near bat habitats, foraging areas and bird flight paths should be minimised.

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