Consultants take issue as 'Dubai Lamp' law looms

LIGHTING CONSULTANTS operating in Dubai have been raising their concerns this month as the requirement that all new buildings in the Emirate must use Philips’ so-called Dubai lamp looms.

The move, which limits the choice of certain formats of lamps to a handful of products from the same manufacturer, appears to have been made without significant consultation in the lighting community.

An order from the city’s buildings departments says all new projects must use one of just eight variations of the ‘Dubai Lamp’, which is being manufactured by Philips in a five-year deal with the city. Inspections on the use of the new lamp will begin in December, the city says.

'I don't think enforcing [the Dubai lamp] in the professional market at this point will be the best way forward, until it’s further developed' says Waleed Fakousa of the newly-formed Lighting Institute, top. Mark Vowles, director of lighting consultancy Nulty+, described the move as 'a step in the right direction, but it’s the wrong way to get there.’

The Dubai Lamp claims to be the first commercially available LED lamp that achieves 200lm/W. But while this high level of efficacy represents ‘a significant step in lighting technology’, professionals still need choice, says Waleed Fakousa, director of The Lighting Institute (TLI), a new body representing lighting professionals in the Middle East.

‘I was surprised at them enforcing it to the professional market, especially as the only option,’ Fakousa told Lux. ‘It's clearly a product for consumers more than for professionals at this point. I think it has great potential, but the design community is really demanding, and it doesn't cover all of what designers usually ask for. You don't have the warm colour temperature of 2700K, there are no vintage bulb shapes which are very popular here, it’s not available in CRI of 90+, and it’s not dimmable, which are key elements in a lot of high-end projects in the Middle East.’

‘It's definitely a good start but I don't think enforcing it in the professional market at this point will be the best way forward, until it’s further developed,’ said Fakousa. ‘There are also very good quality lamps in the market having only 1-2 watts more, at competitive prices.’

Mark Vowles, director of lighting consultancy Nulty+, echoed similar concerns, saying: ‘If we’re doing a five-star hotel and the interior designer specifies some really nice table lamps, we’re limited to 3000K or 6500K, a CRI of 80, and not dimmable, in a handful of different shapes. Reducing energy and rooting out dangerous products is important, so in that sense I suppose it’s a step in the right direction, but it’s the wrong way to get there.’

One lighting consultant with a well-known firm, who asked to remain anonymous, called the decision to require the use of the Dubai Lamp ‘misguided’ and ‘disturbing’. Another consultant said they were ‘dumbfounded’ by the move.

Philips' Dubai Lamp achieves best-in-class efficiency of 200 lm/W, but lighting consultants and designers operating in the Emirate are concerned that making it compulsory is restricting their creative freedom

None of the lighting professionals spoken to by Lux had been consulted in advance – or knew of anyone who had been. Vowles said: ‘There seems to have been no input from the lighting design community at all. If they had approached the lighting design community to discuss ways to save energy on lighting, we could give them any number of suggestions that would have much more impact than this, without compromising choice in this way.’

Fakousa believes the apparent lack of consultation may have arisen because officials weren’t sure who best to approach on behalf of the lighting community – which is one of the motivations behind the formation of The Lighting Institute.

The institute will work to keep up the dialogue with the municipality, Fakousa said, and has helped organise a public discussion about the topic at the upcoming Light Middle East exhibition. ‘We need to be available to reach out to,’ he said.

Dubai’s approach has been compared unfavourably to that of the neighbouring emirate of Abu Dhabi, which has won plaudits from the lighting community for developing clear criteria and guidelines for public realm and street lighting, without stipulating that any particular product be used.

Lux contacted Philips and the Dubai Municipality seeking comment, but neither had responded at the time of publication.