Within the Concert Hall at one of the world’s most recognized and celebrated buildings, lighting engineers were faced with the considerable challenge of maintaining an aging system experiencing regular transformer failures and decreasing efficiency as they were coming to the end of their usable life. The traditional 250W halogen lamps were obsolete and increasingly difficult to find.

LED was a logical consideration to utilise new advancements in lighting technology, in addition to the benefits of long-term energy savings. After having completed several successful projects within the Opera House, Lumascape offered their expertise in LED lighting systems to ultimately develop a custom solution that would meet the needs of the Concert Hall. The project was managed in-house by the Sydney Opera House projects group.

Lumascape created a plan that met the specialized artistic, aesthetic and sustainability needs of the Opera House. Lumascape understood that a new lighting solution would only be successful if it adhered to the building’s strict architec- tural and performance heritage requirements. Aesthetically, the housings needed to remain intact, not changing the look or feel of the Concert Hall.

Smooth, flicker-free, ‘fade to black’ dimming was a critical feature of the luminaire and lighting controls design, ensuring the Concert Hall would evoke the same feelings audiences have come to expect from performances. Individual LEDs of red, blue, green, white and amber were mixed to achieve a CRI above 97, dimming from bright white to a warm orange glow to black with the same intensity and color as incandes- cent. The end result perfectly mimicked the traditional lighting aesthetic, evoking the nostalgic feeling of the original hall.

The addition of RGB capabilities and subsequent improvements have added a new dimension to Concert Hall performances, delighting performers and audiences alike. Now considered a ‘next generation’ venue, the different effects and control of individual color channels make the concert hall an attractive site for a wider variety of performances. Performers are also pleased to know they can record performances at 1080HD without the presence of banding lines caused by slower frequency dimming LEDs.

The upgrade to LED technology, which took nearly two years to develop and implement, has offered significant benefits beyond aesthetic values to maximize energy savings across the entire facility. Ultimately, three types of luminaires were developed; a lower level fitting (70W — replaced 250W) over the boxes, high-level house lights within the stalls, and crown lights (200W – replaced 1,000W) directly above the stage. Benefits of the upgrade include:

• 75% reduction in electricity consumption, with estimated savings of about $70,000 a year;
• Greatly reduced need for staff to work in confined ceiling spaces to replace lights (5 times a year before upgrade);
• Increased capacity to create ambient and specific lighting effects, without the cost of hanging additional lights; and
• Removal of about four tonnes of air-conditioning ducting, thanks to less heat being generated.

The project was recognised for it’s signifcant energy savings, and won an Award for Excellence in Sustainability in the Heritage Buildings Category at the 2014 New South Wales Green Globe Awards.

This article was featured in Lighting Art & Science for International Designers