Mathew Lewis, ETC product manager, ApexPro

Q: How do audio and lighting systems enhance the aesthetic or mood of a building/venue?
A: There are so many cool applications on the market today, many of which can provide an almost theatrical experience. For instance, a foyer can be enhanced by having its wind paths linked to sensors that will change the colour of the light in the area. Similarly, lighting can be linked to trigger sound effects. At a fundamental level though, we look at the colour-rendering index, which measures how accurately a light source reveals colours compared to natural light. This impacts not just the beauty of an environment, but the mood too.

How you fill a space with sound or light and the absence of it is an immersive experience for those using a building. The ‘sad building’ syndrome for example, is often relative to the sound and light systems. The SA industry has to be better convinced that the concept of creating a work environment that’s conducive to productivity is not a dark art but rather a healthier and much-needed choice.

Q: What should architects/designers be considering in terms of sound/lighting?
A: Most important from our perspective – and we come up against this all the time – is not taking into consideration the technology behind these systems at the design phase. Being brought in at the end of a specification process is a challenge because it introduces a list of constraints that we have to work around, and there may be no scope to achieve a client’s objective.

Ideally, we like to meet the end-user and the integrator at the same time as the architect because it is this combination that can clarify needs and expectations, and ultimately application. Any recommendations we make can then be conceptualised into the building, especially if energy savings are a focus.

More importantly, it provides for a certain level of future proofing so that end-users don’t end up with obsolete systems.

There is also an opportunity for architects to exploit our talents in the theatrics of lighting and audio, especially if there are design features that can be enhanced with our systems, be that sound- or lighting-scapes.

Q: What are the application ideals?
A: Any really, but it comes down to spaces. What is the space, how many spaces are there, and what best suits the environment? Spaces are living, breathing environments, so systems
need to evolve in conjunction.

This is why audio and light systems should be scalable and flexible. Our product solutions focus on granularity of control, meaning you can have control of a single room or an entire building at will, with a changeable daily, weekly or even odd-occasion timetable. A mix of automatic and/or manual also allows for a scalable system.

Today’s lighting and audio systems are intelligent and being used in big spaces such as hotel lobbies, arenas and conference venues, which lend themselves to room-by-room or subspace control.

Q: What are the quirks of the African market?
A: The continent used to be a market of, generally, stage or convention events, but we are seeing that knowledge and expertise expanding into commercial and residential environments. The more sophisticated the technology becomes, the more it is being integrated into bigger and broader applications.

Today, with a large percentage of the expertise behind lighting and audio derived from the theatrical environment, we’ve gone way beyond switching on a light or sound system. Today it’s all about how to make these technologies more interesting and intelligent – and how to integrate them to achieve energy efficiency.

We currently have projects, or have worked on projects, in Mozambique, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Ethiopia. We’ve found these nations more receptive to new advances in technology than at home here in SA, where we find some resistance to trying new things.

Q: Please outline a recent project of interest.
A: Times Square Casino in Menlyn Pretoria. Internally, we programmed our systems to trigger specific lighting and sound for dramatic effect when there is a jackpot win. Equally as dramatic is a system that controls the amount of exterior lighting on the building, astronomically automated to sunset and sunrise times.

Q: What international trends impact SA?
A: The biggest trend is really around health, safety and environment, especially the regulations that the EU is planning to introduce. One of those is the banning of all tungsten incandescent bulbs and the move towards LED, which in turn enhances energy efficiency.

International best practices are also focused on the implementation of sound and lighting into evacuation systems, such as when there is a fire. The new lighting and audio designs now account for how to include an evacuation message and bring more light into a building when an alarm is triggered. We can expect to see similar introductions into the SA market in the not-too-distant future.

By Kerry Dimmer
Image: Janine Petzer

Article written by