Comment: The future is beginning to look brighter in the Middle East – Light Middle East 2014

01. Dec 2014

New building boom

Text: Joachim Ritter

In and around the United Arab Emirates, and in particular in Dubai, they are on the brink of a new building boom. If one is to believe what could be heard off-the-record at Light Middle East, in the coming years they are planning to build another 400 hotels in Dubai alone. The number is not a typing error! There are two reasons for this: the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and Expo 2020 in Dubai. Many of the large expanses of land available for building will be dedicated to Expo 2020, of course. But this is not about the kind of scale we are accustomed to from former world exhibitions. We are talking about dimensions for buildings that make sense on a Burj Khalifa scale. The future is definitely beginning to look brighter after the abrupt building freeze as a result of the economic crisis.

Not surprising, therefore, that Light Middle East made effort to give the fair an additional push this year, given that its image had suffered somewhat over the last few years. And it would appear they are off to a reasonably good start.

In this context, there are two issues that deserve a more explicit mention. The first one concerns the market and how satisfied clients and users are with the quality of lighting products. Martin Valentine, lighting designer und Coordinator for Public Lighting in Abu Dhabi, gave a talk about the forthcoming stipulations for the specification of products for application in the public realm. Manufacturers who do not adhere to these requirements in advance will have little chance of competing on the market in future. It is interesting to see that when it comes to quality the bar has been raised substantially – much higher than what the industry initially imposed. As a client, Abu Dhabi has made no secret as to what their expectations are to the industry. What the lighting industry has not managed to accomplish of their own accord has now been put upon them in the form of an initiative from clients. And there are many other clients in the region who are more than happy to go along with this.

On behalf of his employer, and with his know-how and experience as a professional lighting designer, Martin Valentine has rung in a new era in the Middle East. Many clients are sick and tired of always having to sort out replacement deliveries and claims for damages when specified LED products do not work under specific conditions, such as in extremely hot climates. And they are obviously now experienced and competent enough not to believe everything the manufacturers’ reps tell them, or even what designers claim to be the truth and nothing but the truth. Lighting designers who do not have sufficient know-how or skills to bear the responsibility for their realised concepts are going to have a tough time of it in future.

The second point is that the lighting industry in the Middle East is becoming more structured. The Middle East Lighting Association (MELA) is a federation of manufacturers who have formed a common front in order to be able to address the new stipulations in a professional manner. The association has been active for a year now and is now a member of the Global Lighting Organisation.

In addition to those two developments, it can be observed that the lighting professionals in the Middle East have now discovered that they do actually exist as a community. The 150 lighting designers and architects working in established firms in the Middle East who gathered at the recent PLDC 2015 warm-up and party, which was staged in Dubai in close collaboration with iGuzzini, document this to a tee. This, in effect, means that the region has taken a significant step towards gaining more recognition within the international context. As the initiators of PLDC and organisers of the associated warm-up events – in Dubai with our Diamond Partner iGuzzini – we have to admit that are proud to have provided the framework for this to happen. The group of lighting professionals from the Middle East who will be attending PLDC 2015 in Rome will be of a substantial size and therefore in a position to provide considerable input in the way of new experience in the field.

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