‘Don'’t apply the wrong lighting standards to the Middle East’

ABU DHABI-- As the Middle East’s lighting industry looks to apply more standards to its work, designers have warned against imposing norms that don’t suit the region.

A number of local authorities in Middle Eastern countries are already adopting lighting and energy-efficiency benchmarks from overseas, such as the UK’s Breeam environmental ratings for buildings, and standards developed by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America.

But Waleed Fakousa, an associate with CD+M Lighting Design Group (which has worked on projects including the Dubai Mall, pictured above, and Abu Dhabi’s Ferrari World) questioned whether such measures were being introduced to the region in haste.

Speaking at this week’s Middle East Smart Lighting and Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, Fakousa said: ‘There is no point in migrating immediately to full-on lighting standards when the market’s not ready for it. Before we implement standards, we need to understand where the Middle East is standing compared to the rest of the world, and what criteria other countries follow.’

It’s not a question of which approach is right or wrong, he said, but rather a matter of recognising differences in climate and culture. The Middle East, for instance, tends to prefer bright lighting because people are used to bright sunshine.

Fakousa took the example of European standards that aim for an electrical load of 11.8W/m2 to achieve light levels of 100 lux in shopping mall concourses. A typical Middle Eastern shopping mall would be much more brightly lit, to 300 or even 500 lux, he said.

‘Some clients in high-end retail spaces want that, because they got used to the brightness,’ said Fakousa. ‘We need to respect that. We cannot expect with a certain power to get a certain brightness in the UK or Germany, and with the same power to get double or triple the brightness here. No chandeliers, no incandescent, nothing authentic. You would end up going for just task lighting. You can’t take only the watts per square metre and forget about how much light you need to achieve with that.’

Similarly, for building facades, green building guidelines prevent designers from reaching the light levels that Middle Eastern clients expect, Fakousa said. ‘We experimented with it and the client’s first question was, where’s the light?’

‘You can’t switch from black to white, or the other way around, overnight. You have to have  a transition and you have to decide your priority. The priority for streetlights: make it efficient. The priority for institutional lighting: make it efficient. But when you’re talking about a seven-star hotel or public realm, [does it make sense that] you can’t have a chandelier just because you can’t afford it energy-wise? There's a big question mark over that. We need to share our challenges and try to figure out a solution which works best for the Middle East.’

One source of answers might be the Middle East Lighting Association, established last year with the backing of manufacturers Philips, Osram, GE, Sylvania, Tridonic and Gulf Advanced Lighting. The association’s general manager Gerald Strickland told the conference that energy performance policies and standards are weak or non-existent in many countries in the Middle East, and addressing this will be one of the association’s priorities.