Lighting a Palace: Low energy lighting design of event space

03 February 2022

Alexandra Palace is affectionately known as 'Ally Pally' or 'The People’s Palace'. The venue has been in use as a palace for the people since the late 1800s.

John Bointon, Alexandra Palace from air 2009 (cropped)CC BY-SA 2.0

In more recent times, the palace hosts internationally recognised events such as The Red Bull Soap Box, theatre performances, the recent Earth Shot Awards and, within the West Hall in particular, the World Darts and Snooker championships.

Due to our continued involvement at the palace over the last six years, Ridge identified a number of areas where energy efficiency measures were urgently required that could tie into the main building infrastructure works.

The West Hall was lit using 400W halogen pendants for the main space and T8 and T12 fluorescent cove lighting, which provided a poorly lit environment, had little to no control, and had an electrical system that was becoming a business continuity risk.

Following successful SALIX-funded projects with other clients, Ridge undertook a life cycle assessment of the existing lighting and electrical infrastructure and produced a high-level payback calculation for a new lighting replacement scheme. Ridge recommended that the palace contact SALIX to ascertain whether they would be eligible for a SALIX loan to upgrade the lighting in both the West Hall and the adjacent ice rink.

Using our bespoke payback model and completion of the SALIX business case templates, we were able to secure £500,000 of loan funding to replace the existing lighting installations with a new LED lighting solution.  The alterations we designed replaced the old pendants from the West Hall and replaced them with DALI dimmable LED units. In addition, the ageing T8 and T12 fluorescent fittings to the cove were replaced with RGBA LED addressable fittings. The use of RGBA DMX controlled cove lighting allowed us to introduce colour to the space for the first time without the use of coloured gels. It has also allowed the palace to control dynamic scenes and effects as well as the intensity of light.

Building on our experience in the palace, a new DMX and DALI lighting control system was designed utilising state of the art Pharos control systems and Dynalite DALI interfaces to set scenes for different events and to provide colour control to the coves and tuneable white to the entrances.

The full lighting system and its controls was designed by our lighting design team and electrical engineers.  Our lighting designers utilised a 3D scan of the building to create Dialux models, supplemented with LUMION photorealistic renders to visualise the space. In tandem with the computer-generated design, we undertook on site demonstrations of light fitting types to select the correct fixture type, beam angle and fixing methodology. This was carried out in partnership with key stakeholders to ensure the palace was fully engaged in the design process.

The result is a space that can be used for almost any function. In televising the darts and snooker this year, the coves were lit in various corporate colours and supplemented by specialist lighting rigs by the event organisers. The grouping and flexibility of the installed lighting system is now being supplemented by external bypass systems to allow lighting desks to trigger scenes or to control the room in real time.

The proposed lighting scheme will payback in five years. Through our work with the lighting suppliers and commissioning engineers, we were able to maximise both energy saving settings and scene control to provide a truly unique environment.

The lighting scheme has been signed off by all parties at the palace and had to be designed in conjunction with the installation team. An example of which was that during the build we found an alternative wiring route that meant that we had to redesign the lighting control scheme to take advantage of shorter cable runs. Our team was on site weekly and undertook reviews not just of progress but of any issues or ideas that may have been put forward by the contractor or the installing electricians. As such, we were able to quickly respond to improvements put forward by the installation team and were able to maximise the time on site and the budget.

In addition to relighting the West Hall, Ridge also designed a new switch room, emergency lighting central battery system, and a new DALI Busbar system for the high level lighting.

We have also been retained to relight the ice rink, which is nearing completion, and to provide a new colour change lighting scheme within the adjacent café. All this lighting work is being funded by the SALIX loan.

We have worked closely with SALIX throughout the process and have discussed the scheme’s unique requirements to justify our predictions for energy saving.

The project has been a great success at the palace and the West Hall is already seeing the benefits of the new system, not just from an energy perspective but from a more versatile lit environment.

Our collaborative approach to design has been congratulated. As consultants we involved not just the contractor’s management team but the installers on site to drive efficiencies in the installation and improve the manner in which we control the system.

We have worked closely with the lighting suppliers and controls commissioning team at Architainment Lighting to chase through orders, review controls schematics as new equipment comes to market, and to ensure that light fittings are delivered as required.  Working alongside the installing contractor Pro-Rite we have undertaken mock-ups, pre commissioning set ups and modified our designs to suit the changing environment as the works have progressed.  Finally, working with the team at the palace to undertake scene setting, equipment selection and final commissioning has meant that all parties have been fully included on the journey.

The team at SALIX have been helpful in understanding any nuances in applying for funding and have helped us and the client team throughout the project lifespan.

When working in a building as complex as Alexandra Palace it is essential that we embrace the ethos of the building and its team and work as if it were our building.

The project’s success can be attributed to a number of factors:

  • Collaborative working, taking the client on the journey with us
  • Cost management and understanding that the budget cannot change
  • Not being afraid to alter our design
  • Communication with all stakeholders
  • Being available at all stages to undertake demonstrations
  • Provide support for commissioning and sign off
  • Fully understanding all elements of the design
  • Using photorealistic computer models to assist the client in visualising solutions
  • Working alongside SALIX to deliver the project

We would like to thank Architainment Lighting and ProRite for their tireless work on the project and of course the team at Alexandra Palace for the opportunity to work on this iconic building.

If you are interested in talking to us about your lighting design and engineering needs, please contact Andrew Selwood.
07920 154 487