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Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE

Issue 57 Oct / Nov 2010 : Architectural

PHOTOGRAPHY: Emaar Properties

For residents and guests of the Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates, ‘living the high life’ will take on both figurative and literal meaning. The mixed-use tower - featuring bespoke residences, corporate suites, and the world’s first Armani Hotel and Residences - is not only the world’s tallest building and man-made structure, it sets new world standards for luxury living.

The emphasis on restrained elegance and sophistication in Burj Khalifa is uncompromising, with the use of light in all its forms playing a key role. The architecture of the building itself makes the most of the unique desert radiance, while the interior features a lighting scheme by New York-based Fisher Marantz Stone, carefully crafted to reflect a specific design philosophy.

“It’s not meant to be a showy display of interior lighting, but a careful exposition of restrained and minimalist design,” says Paul Marantz, co-founder and design principal at Fisher Marantz Stone.

Several floors of the Armani Hotel’s hospitality and reception areas, guestrooms and residences give way to multiple floors of serviced and private condominium apartments, and several floors of offices right at the top of the building. Underpinning Fisher Marantz Stone’s lighting design, and simultaneously providing the ultimate in sophisticated home automation, is a state-of-the-art system from Philips Dynalite.
According to Marantz, three key attributes were required of the lighting control system: it had to be distributed and modular; it had to be supremely intelligent to support sophisticated programming requirements; and it had to be virtually invisible and easy for the end-user to operate. “We knew Dynalite had the hardware and intelligence to meet these demands, and were happy to have them aboard,” he says.

Local system integrator and engineering firm Tectronics provided system engineering and design, supply, testing, programming and commissioning of the Philips Dynalite system. “There were some highly specific system design criteria that needed to be met, both from a space and installation perspective,” says Sleiman Bakouny, manager of the audio visual division of Tectronics. “Philips Dynalite was one of the few who could meet these requirements practically and economically.”
The hundreds of guestrooms, residences and offices housed within Burj Khalifa each contain a lighting control and automation system founded on the same basic architecture.

Over 7,000 Philips Dynalite multipurpose controllers have been installed within the building, each one configured to a specific load schedule, thanks to the uniquely modular controller design that allows different output modules to be ‘plugged’ into the motherboard. This facilitates the use of mixed loads in the one controller - mainly leading and trailing edge dimming, ballast control, and relay control.

According to Bakouny, having the controller configurable down to the load-level meant that minor changes in the system design could be easily accommodated. “This is a great advantage in a project of this scale. Designers can leave decisions about luminaires and termination types to the last minute and maintain flexibility,” he says.

Each suite also contains up to ten Philips Dynalite slim-line fascia-matched Revolution Series 2 operator interface panels, with more than 14,000 installed throughout the tower. In-built intelligence ensures the panels retain their programming when disconnected from the communications network, founded on Philips Dynalite’s sophisticated peer-to-peer communications serial bus network, DyNet. This links each panel with the multipurpose controllers for that suite, and integrates an AMX audio visual solution into the system.

Every suite is linked to a central control room via 13 separate DyNet riser trunks. Philips Dynalite DLight III Server running MapView software acts as the system head-end in the control room, providing control, status and scheduling information. As part of the distributed architecture, the local room networks have been designed with appropriate levels of isolation to ensure that if the head-end goes down, operation at a room level remains unaffected.

This complements the lighting designer’s other ‘smart’ criteria, and results in a system that presents a lighting scheme appropriate to the time of day and the user’s location within the apartment - at the simple press of a button. “The aim was to provide an intelligent system that wouldn’t be confusing to use,” Marantz says.

The challenge of programming the system to achieve this advanced functionality fell to Tectronics. Once the programs were finalised for the 50 or so different suite configurations, it was simply a matter of connecting a notebook computer and downloading the code into each room control system.

“The installation methodology used on the project was also rather revolutionary,” says Bakouny. “There were two main issues. The first was to ensure that all the main wiring could be completed without any of the electronic circuitry in place; the second pertained to the use of unskilled labour on the project.”

A two-stage installation scheme was envisaged, whereby the rack assemblies were installed while the environment was still dusty, and the circuit loads checked using a dummy bypass unit to pick up any shorts or overloads. Once the room was clean again, the electronics were installed into the racks with minimal risk of dust contamination and damage to the circuitry.

The second Philips Dynalite innovation was to introduce structured wiring for the Cat5 data cables connecting the 14,000-plus Revolution Series 2 panels into the control system. “The aim here was to avoid stripping wires on site,” says Bakouny. “So the customary screw terminals were replaced with pre-terminated RJ12 connectors which simply click into place. Both these innovations sped up installation - a significant benefit when you’re dealing with 160-plus floors!”

 “This has certainly been a massive mission for us,” says Laurence Coote, Philips Dynalite sales director. “To have such a high level of integrated systems included in a project this size is very significant.” He adds that Philips Dynalite also supplied more than 800 relay controllers for switching of the external and common access lighting in the building, plus all the lighting control systems for the hotel public areas—including ballrooms, function rooms, meeting rooms, lobbies and restaurant areas.

Marantz emphasises that the key contribution of Philips Dynalite to this project was indeed the intrinsic distributed intelligence of the system, which allowed it to be programmed to achieve the advanced functionality his company envisaged, while remaining essentially invisible to the end-user. “We’re really happy with what happened on site. Thanks and congratulations to Dynalite,” he says.


Designed by Speirs and Major Associates (SaMA), the scheme for the opening ceremony features over 800 Dataflash strobe lights and six Fineline searchlights controlled by an ETC Congo Light Server and triggered by an ETC Unison Paradigm system featuring touchscreens and automated astronomical timeclock events (supplied by Oasis Enterprises Professional Projects Division). The ‘Celebration Lighting’ system was used during the grand opening celebration in January 2010 and is designed to run various patterns on the building nightly with special shows on holidays and festival days. Programmed almost entirely offline using Capture visualisation software – with the designers in Scotland and a programmer in Germany – this project took long-distance collaboration to the limit. “We essentially programmed this show via Skype,” says ETC Controls Product Manager and Congo programmer Sarah Clausen. “SaMA worked for weeks to create the model and get all the strobes inserted, focused and patched, while I worked to channel and group the strobes into usable chunks to create the effects we needed. Then they sent me a video mock up of the kinds of effects they wanted. I worked for ten days in our Germany office to build up the effects in Congo. The v5 Effects were essential to this project – some of SaMA’s ideas actually need 42 effect playbacks running simultaneously to create the right look. During the programming I had Capture, a Congo desk and a single Dataflash AF1000 strobe. Iain Ruxton at SaMA had a setup with Capture, a Congo Jr and another Dataflash. I could program something, send him the show file, he could load it and look at it with the team there. We could see the same thing running at the same time, discuss adjustments and then I could go on programming on my own. It worked very well. Once we were on site in Dubai we only had to adjust a few timings and then could get on with the business of creating the specific combinations of effects for the nightly shows.”

Says Iain Ruxton, Associate at SaMA: “We’ve envisaged working like this on dynamic architectural lighting projects ever since we first saw DMX visualiser packages more than a decade ago. Although it’s intended as performance technology, we were keen to scale it up to big buildings. Quite simply, we could not have achieved this by programming on site only.”




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