With 36,000 light fittings controlled by one system, this Abu Dhabi mall boasts the world's biggest Dali installation

Abu Dhabi’s new Central Market is designed to be a modern interpretation of a traditional Arabic market. It’s also the world’s biggest Dali installation. Combining luxury boutique goods with food and craft markets, the mall offers retail, dining and entertainment outlets with more than 160 shops, 20 restaurants, an eight-screen cinema and several outdoor terraced gardens.

The complex, made up of three towers, contains a total of 36,000 fluorescent and LED light fittings, all connected to a Dali control system from Helvar. Lighting designer DPA specified luminaires from Lucent, Meyer, Erco, iGuzzini, Bega, Simes, Zumtobel, Light Projects, WE-EF, ACDC, DAL and RSA, which were installed by Dubai-based BMTS.

The lights and blinds in the complex are controlled with networks linked together using TCP/IP – no manufacturers’ proprietary protocols were allowed.

The system uses the full range of Dali protocol commands and functionality for both day-to-day lighting control and emergency lighting. Using occupancy sensors, the system can also automatically switch between day and night modes, depending on the number of people detected by the sensors.

The Dali system made it possible for the building to mark the 41st anniversary of the UAE's founding

A dimmer for everything
Control routers are fitted in electrical service risers throughout the building. These routers control individually-addressed Dali control devices in luminaires or mounted in the ceiling void. Groups of non-dimming luminaires, such as the corridor lights, are controlled through Dali relays. The system can dim all fluorescent lamps using digital electronic ballasts and dim all incandescent sources through Dali-controlled dimmers, or transformers that vary the lamp voltage using trailing-edge technology.

Networking 551 routers with a centralised PC was one of the main challenges for BMTS and Helvar. The system uses Dali and Tridium’s Niagara software, which ensues smooth networking of the routers. The software also monitors faults and shows error messages for gear failure, lamp failure and router failure. As well as this, the software generates energy consumption profiles based on selected groups of luminaires, so the landlord can bill directly for energy used.

Optimising sunlight
The lighting system at the Central Market also had to monitor and control the lamp burning hours for the individual lamps through a Dali protocol. Other requirements included the creation of lighting scenes inside and outside the building and the installation of a sun-tracking system. This element links to integrated lighting controls, maximising the amount of daylight inside the building and reducing artificial light sources to save energy.

The hot climate in Abu Dhabi makes it possible for the Central Market to open up its outdoor spaces to the public for shopping and dining for up to six months a year. This added a new dimension to the project and an extra set of requirements.
Lighting the outdoor spaces and optimising the amount of sunlight became a priority for this section of the project. The outdoor area is open until 10pm and is an important central venue in the complex. It requires a variety of pre-set scenes to suit different times of the day.

A new suite of software has been developed to achieve the required intermediate positions to track the sun effectively. Correct positioning of the Venetian-style blinds was important to avoid direct sunlight entering the area without compromising daylight harvesting. This requires a response to both the direction and height of the sun with respect to a controlled window. The sun height determines the blind tilt angle response and the window orientation, and shadowing effects determine when the tilt response is required.

Integrated blinds and routers
The lighting routers and blind controllers are integrated into the Dali system. This allows for full automation of the non-intelligent blind motors through the 490 blind control modules and automated control of blinds through the sun-tracking algorithm.

The blinds can be controlled manually through switches next to the windows. By pressing a switch it is possible to move the blinds up and down to any position. If the switch is depressed for less than half a second it will alter the angle of the blind slats. If the switch is pushed for more than two seconds the blind will either fully retract or extend. The position of the blind is monitored and after a default 15 minutes it returns to the last position, ensuring the building maintains maximum efficiency.