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Lights & automation for Biomedical Research Institute

Rubicon played a crucial role in the lighting and lighting automation of Stellenbosch University’s new, cutting-edge Biomedical Research Institute (BMRI) building. The BMRI is part of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Science and is based at the university’s Tygerberg campus.

The client’s requirements

Rubicon was contracted by Triocon Consulting Engineers to do the lighting and lighting automation for all three phases of this project. The first phase – covered in this case study - was for a brand-new building. In phases two and three, the existing BMRI building, which is being linked to the new building, needs to be upgraded.

Importantly, the university wanted a sustainable building, and it is currently undergoing a green star certification process with the Green Building Council of South Africa.

Because the BMRI is a 24-hour facility with various laboratories, dark rooms, and other research areas – there were extremely specific lighting requirements. Dark rooms, for example, needed to remain at low lighting levels, while labs needed to be very brightly lit. The system needed to be able to detect which areas were being used during the night, and which not, so that lights would automatically switch on and off accordingly.

The client required the lighting to return to its previous status when the generators started running during a power failure. They also wanted a detailed reporting system for faulty light fittings. 

The solution

Rubicon did the lighting calculations and designs for the BMRI building. The main products that we used for this project included digital addressable lighting interface (DALI) controls, Beckhoff hardware, and Intefox software.

The DALI components used for the project were 22 busses, 132 PIR slave sensors, 7,000 metres of cable, and 400 metres of network cable. On top of that, 1,400 lighting control gears were used and a whopping 3,228 light fittings.

According to Rubicon’s project lead, Arthur Fonseca, there are many benefits to using DALI controls. Most importantly, DALI allows a lot of flexibility and plays an important role in monitoring the functioning of the lights.

Slave sensors were used throughout the building and multiple lights were connected to each sensor. This means that one sensor can be used to control lights individually or to control different light circuits that are connected digitally through software. As a result, although there might be 60 lights on one stretch of cable, each light can still be dimmed individually.

Another example of how this is beneficial is that the lights in commons areas will stay on when the sensors detect activity in an office or other part of the building. The lights in the common areas will automatically switch off after a certain amount of time if no movement is detected throughout the building. It also means that even if the layout within the building changes – like two small rooms get turned into one big room – the lighting can be controlled appropriately without having to rewire anything.

Certain ‘scenes’ have been programmed for use in boardrooms, which might require a change in lighting if a presentation is being done on a screen, for example. The sensors also detect when the boardroom is no longer occupied and the system automatically resets itself.

A ‘daylight savings’ feature monitors the natural light that comes into the building. Based on this it will automatically dim or brighten lights to ensure that a room is at the required light level. The system also ensures that the lighting in rooms, like laboratories or dark rooms, which have to stay at a specific lux level, remains constant.

Because controlling the lighting in the building is so straightforward, it is easier to minimise consumption and as a result, save energy and money. 

Rubicon programmed the DALI system to ensure that during a power failure, the building’s lights return to the levels they were at when the power went off, as soon as the generator starts running. This was an important client requirement.

The DALI system also allows the entire lighting system and the status of each light fitting to be monitored. A report with a timestamp can be generated automatically or manually when a light fitting becomes faulty, as well as when it’s repaired. This allows building maintenance staff to see when a lamp needs to be replaced, even if it’s in a room that is seldom used.

To further assist with the maintenance of the system, Rubicon created a SCADA/general user interface (GUI) system. This contains the floor layouts of each level of the building. Each light fitting is represented on these diagrams. The system has an alarm that goes off when a light fitting is faulty. Users can see on the diagram exactly which fitting is faulty. This system can also be used to monitor the running hours of the lights if needed.

Rubicon chose to use industrial spec Beckhoff hardware like one main system controller, and seven sub-controllers, because of its robustness.

The future

Rubicon has already received lighting orders for phase two of the BMRI project and is looking forward to working on it.