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One-on-one: James Huartson, Wembley Stadium sustainability manager

Stadia talks with Wembley’s sustainability manager about lighting provision both on and off the field, and how the venue is realizing significant cost and energy savings


What does your role at Wembley entail?
I’m responsible for managing the stadium’s environmental impacts including recycling, water consumption and, of course, energy consumption. I am tasked with exploring opportunities to reduce the stadium energy consumption without compromising the visitor experience.

When selecting lighting solutions for Wembley, what are the principal differences between on-pitch applications and those used elsewhere? 
The pitch lighting requires provision for floodlighting equipment to be mounted at a minimum height to comply with the FIFA/UEFA/Premier League lighting requirements. The use of purpose-made support structures on the lighting gantries within the stadium roof required detailed planning and was very costly.
The number, size and position of the floodlight support structures were also critical in ensuring the control of glare to players and the correct ratios of illuminance over the playing area. The positioning of control gear cubicles for floodlight control gear or drivers required additional space and weight on the floodlight gantries and this was important in the final roof design of the stadium.

The pitch lighting specifications require that compliant lighting on the vertical, horizontal and perpendicular planes to the TV camera position(s) over the pitch, and over specific areas of the grandstands, is provided. Therefore, efficient floodlight aiming was important to ensure the target lighting levels and uniformity were met. Lighting flicker is another factor that requires good quality lighting to provide suitable flicker-free lighting conditions for SSM cameras. The electrical distribution to the control gear cabinets was also designed to provide back-up lighting levels to ensure TV events could continue in the event of a local transformer temporary loss requiring the use of the stadium’s UPS system. Other functional lighting was provided within the stadium bowl for spectators, emergency lighting and event support.

For interior areas within the stadium, the lighting falls into two main categories – front of house and back of house. Front of house – restaurants, circulation spaces, corporate boxes – requires the lighting equipment and lighting effects to enhance the architecture of the building and provide clients with an unforgettable experience of their visit to Wembley. Back of house – offices, corridors, plant rooms, loading bays – is more functional in providing lighting levels compliant with the SLL Guides to ensure safe and efficient working conditions. In both areas, the use of ceilings (plasterboard and false), building concrete slabs and trunking allow the easy and economic installation of luminaires. In all cases the choice of luminaire available was far greater than the pitch lighting choices, thereby allowing the use of appropriate luminaires with easy maintenance and through-life costings, while providing the lighting effects and lighting levels required.

Can you talk us through the technical aspects of the Wembley arch?
The projected cost to replace the existing Arch lighting system was over £1m (US$1.55m) – but working closely with our partner, Thorn Lighting, we were able to design and manage the final costs to be in line with our budgeted costs. The final outcome was delivered on price and on time.

There are 228 RGBW DMX controlled floodlights – six per Arch ring across 38 Arch rings. The RGBW floodlight wattage is 280W and each floodlight comprises 50% white LED and 50% RGB. It was essential that the existing iconic white was replicated, plus the addition of pre-set lighting scenes to suit the occasion or client events at Wembley.

As well as providing stunning effects the Pharos DMX lighting control system also realized energy savings over the existing 250W metal halide system that was at ‘end of life’. The Arch lighting system is used for special occasions, clients’ events and other celebration displays. Wembley’s partner, EE, have their own lighting sequence and this is used in conjunction with other scenes to show visitors the brand partnership.

Is off-field lighting an area where it’s possible to realize major savings – either in terms of cost and/or energy?
There is in place a continual process of energy review for the whole stadium and lighting is just one area that is closely monitored. When an area is identified for upgrade the lighting will form either a purely functional or aesthetic/functional role. In both instances the install and running costs form the basis for the payback period of less than three years – aesthetics must also fit within this framework.

New light sources such as LED help to achieve these criteria but it is essential that full product analysis, lighting design analysis and a five-year guarantee with full after-sales support ensure that only first-class lighting systems are installed. As maintenance is a costly process we have to make sure we progressively reduce the maintenance burden as we upgrade the challenging variation of spaces throughout the stadium. Hence proven products help to reduce maintenance burden.

What kind of factors do you need to consider when fitting out non-pitch areas of a stadium like Wembley? Is there a large difference between selecting lighting for VIP and public areas?
The lighting for VIP areas – front of house areas, restaurants, corporate boxes, executive areas and so on – usually requires the input of a project design team involving the area user, interior designers, electrical designers and lighting controls personnel. The lighting is designed to accent and compliment the architectural appearance, finishes and aesthetic requirements of the space and hence will be more expensive to install than public areas. Apart from the budget for the works, the project timing is very important – the scheduling of the works between programmed events requires detailed planning. Where possible, standard luminaire products are preferred for ease of supply for maintenance and spares, plus delivery times are usually much quicker.

The same applies to public areas, but often the lighting will interface with plasterboard or false ceilings requiring just the replacement of existing tungsten halogen, metal halide luminaires with LED equivalents. Again, timing is important. At each point of redesign or replacement the lighting controls will be upgraded to DALI or DMX – if effect lighting is required. Wembley has a specialist lighting controls designer to ensure protocols and control interfaces are all within the Wembley lighting controls specification.

What are the key requirements for more utility-based sections of the stadium? Are these much simpler to find solutions for?
The more functional areas must have the correct lighting levels according to SLL Lighting Guides and Code, and the appropriate lighting system to suit the functions. As an example, the large underground service road, loading bays and OB areas beneath the stadium have integrated lighting systems where suspended 150W LED Lo-Bay luminaires with louvres provide low-glare lighting to the required levels.

The choice of luminaire took into account the various functions carried out in each area by including an integral lighting control system. This enabled different lighting outputs to be set, different PIR timings and photocell control to take advantage of daylight penetration into the spaces. The realized savings was 400,000 kWh compared to the replaced switched 250W HIT system.
Lighting controls form an important element of all-new lighting installations and, where appropriate, integral lighting controls can provide the maximum energy savings and lowest payback period. Although the lighting is simpler and functional, the whole installation is considered as part of the sustainability policy of Wembley.

Is the scope for potential savings and improvements greater than when installing or upgrading pitch lights?
If upgrading the pitch floodlighting, there is less potential – but still some. The base lighting design will be set when the stadium was first constructed and technology has progressed over this time. You would, however, upgrade using more efficient floodlights in terms of light output ratio, so the floodlights can actually deliver more light to the playing surface – reflector systems, for example, for metal halide floodlights have improved in this time.

So fewer floodlights are required to deliver the same results as 10 years ago. Similarly, the lamp manufacturer has improved the lumen output of the Wembley lamps over this period – any upgrade will take advantage of this. Lighting standards and broadcaster requirements, (SSM and HD, for example), have increased lighting levels compared to when the floodlights were originally installed, so energy use may actually increase with upgrading to current specifications.

A new installation has more potential for energy savings, however it is important to understand running hours will always be less than other areas of the stadium. LED lighting products for sports, however, are now approaching similar lumens per watt figures as metal halide, and this technology will continue to evolve and improve.

It does offer energy savings, and providing a good quality of LED is used it will help enhance the broadcast image. At the moment, the capital cost of LED sports floodlights is expensive, and has more impact on the supporting structure. It is likely more stadiums will use LED technology for their pitch lighting, as quality is improved, costs are reduced, and efficiency gains continue to be developed.

Any examples of cases where you’ve gone for a particular type of light for a particular reason?
Service road areas: improved lighting levels, controllable lighting for every luminaire to suit existing and future lighting requirements - [providing] reduced energy consumption, realizing savings of around £45,000 (US$69,700) per annum.

Outside broadcast supplementary lighting: additional function and safety lighting for gangways between OB trucks

The Arch: improved perception of Wembley as a full entertainments center for sports, music and the arts. The Arch forms part of the London skyline and can be clearly seen from central London and beyond. The moving lighting provides exciting backdrops to all events and particularly TV transmissions using the Arch as a backdrop. Clients can now take ownership of the Arch lighting system to provide whole lighting scenes for concerts and so on.

October 16, 2015

Pic credit: Wembley/EE



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