Specialist lighting design might sound like a luxury service, but as technology advances and buildings get smarter, it is quickly becoming an essential element of integrated design.

We are passionate about lighting spaces in ways which enhance the architectural design and the occupant? experience, as well as designing with sustainability and energy efficiency at the forefront. Despite a misconception in the industry, these are not mutually exclusive, but it takes experience and understanding to develop a considered design approach.

We asked our Senior Lighting Designer, Darrin Schreier, to share some insight into Specialist Lighting design and how it benefits buildings and end-users. We also caught up with Associate, Brenden McGrath to get an appreciation for the value of Specialist Lighting Design in Sporting Projects.

What is Specialist Lighting Design? 

Darrin: Specialist Lighting Design is a design science that blends Architecture and Engineering. It looks at visual perception, sustainability, health, wellness, daylight and technology. It is both a creative and technical pursuit.

Specialist Lighting Design focuses on enhancing architecture, occupant wellbeing with consideration to the activity being performed and energy efficiency.

Brenden, anything to add which is specific to sports lighting? 

Sports-related lighting design is essential to ensuring play can continue beyond daylight hours. Sports lighting balances the lighting levels needed to clearly see potentially fast-moving tennis balls, footballs etc, with player comfort. Sports lighting also needs to consider aesthetics, ergonomics and energy efficiency.

As well as this, sports lighting needs to support high definition television broadcasting. The requirements of 4K and beyond, require extremely uniformly illuminated playing surface, with high-quality lighting that represents well on camera. An off the shelf LED does not meet the high colour rendering requirements required for broadcast lighting and luminaire selection is essential.

We know that lighting is an important element of any building, but what value can a specialist lighting designer add? 

Darrin: A specialist lighting designer will look beyond standards, energy codes and glossy lighting catalogues. They bring together both the technical, environmental and aesthetic requirements of a project, which are often in conflict with each other. A specialist lighting designer will find the find the best outcome for each project based on consideration of all these elements.

Brenden: In the case of sports lighting, it is essential to have a specialist designer with experience, as this type of lighting is very different from standard lighting. For example, the standard areas that are reviewed for general lighting are extended with sports lighting. In ball sports the playing surface, as well as the path of travel for the ball both need to achieve the correct lighting treatment. This is compounded further with broadcast level sports lighting, which has a lot of nuances that are not written down in the standards and guidelines; and are only appreciated with experience on a range of sporting projects and stakeholder engagement with broadcasters and user groups.

The control strategy for the systems is another aspect that needs careful consideration. At a club level, this may require remote controls and a way to distribute costs; whereas at a broadcast level, this likely requires fully addressable DMX control with dimming.

A specialist lighting designer will consider the above aspects and provide an optimised solution.

When developing a lighting design, what are the key factors that you look at? 

Darrin: When designing a space, first I look at the architectural features, what we want to see and then the functional tasks, what we need to see. Once those have been determined, we can consider secondary factors such as technology, sustainability, luminaire selections.


Brenden: A good quality sports lighting design will look at the core requirements from a player’s point of view, and then mesh these needs with the recommended minimum lighting levels.

At a core level, a minimum amount of light is needed on the horizontal surface, which needs to be delivered in a way that does not cause an unacceptable level of glare.

How important are the users of a space when creating a specialist lighting design? How much emphasis do you put on how they use the spaces you are designing for? 

Brenden: The users of the sports lighting are of utmost importance, as the lighting is pointless if it is not useable and high quality. Unacceptable glare can be very distracting to players and in the worst-case scenario may mean that play cannot continue. We assess all aspects, hand in hand with the functional lighting requirements and use our experience.  In addition, we ensure the placement of the sports lighting incorporates user requirements.

Historically, lighting has been a major energy consumer. What trends and products are you using to make lighting more sustainable? 

Brenden: As per other lighting areas, sports lighting can now be delivered using LED luminaires. When required, LED can now provide very high light output and there is no reason they cannot be used on all projects.

Consideration to lighting controls, especially at a club level, can also have sustainability benefits such as automatic deactivation and control. The inclusion of dimming controls allows for varying requirements to be achieved and to save energy when a lower level of lighting is acceptable.

Darrin, when and how did you realize your interest in lighting?  

After leaving school, I started working at a lighting shop in their stock room, a few days after I started a sample metal halide lamp arrived and I turned in on and was fascinated watching the filament warm-up and cycle through its various colours until it reached full brightness. I then started reading about lamps and design and decided that lighting design was a career path I wanted to pursue and ultimately completed a Masters in Lighting at QUT in Brisbane.

Brenden, you are an Electrical Engineer. What made you decided to specialise in sports lighting?  

Brenden: I have been fortunate to have been involved in many sports-related projects, from my first day as a graduate Engineer, when I started in a site office for the MCG North Stand. From this beginning, I have always gravitated to sports venue projects, including Margaret Court Arena, Rod Laver Arena LED upgrade and GMHBA stadium. From these projects, I have been able to build up my sports venue and sports lighting experience.

Can you give us a little insight into some of your recent projects? What is interesting about them?

Darrin: We are currently working on the JCU Technical Innovation Centre in Townville and the Springfield Community Reserve Arena for The Brisbane Lions Football Club.

The JCU Technical Innovation Centre has lots of unique spaces compared to typical university buildings that require a variety of different lighting design strategies.

The building itself will be a campus focal point and as such the façade and general appearance of the building is quite important, having worked through several options we now have a scheme we believe will enhance to the building.

At the Springfield Community Reserve Arena, we are providing the sports lighting, landscape, façade and front of house lighting. Colour change lighting has been proposed for a number of areas to allow team colours to be employed during events along with gobo projection of the Lions logo in strategic areas.

What development would you like to see in the lighting design field in the next five years? 

Darrin: I would like to see the end of 1200×300 troffers. LED has provided us with opportunities for different shapes and forms and are no longer restricted to full and half tile sizes in t-bar ceilings. Traditional troffer style luminaires are leftovers from the days of the fluorescent. 

There have been recent advancements in the lighting control space with a lot of new players providing not only control of the lighting but data gathering of light in the environment. This offers future opportunities to provide lighting design to spaces tuned to the occupant needs based on data gathered. The same way we use energy metering data to benchmark electrical demand, there is opportunity to use lighting data to benchmark and determine the lighting requirements for buildings and places.

What are the future trends in Sports Lighting?

Brenden: In the field of Sports Lighting, the focus for major venue lighting will mesh more with the fan experience, making the sports lightings more integrated with other venue effects. I would also see more colour effects lighting incorporated into the functional sports lighting scheme.

Describe a project from your career that stands out in your mind as rewarding, challenging or somehow memorable.

Darrin: In 2009 I assisted the Queensland Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects with their state awards evening. The theme was midnight in the garden, this was a one-night event. I provided the lighting design, advised the lighting riggers where I wanted the luminaires and then jumped on the work platform and aimed and focused all the spots and projectors. Finally, I reviewed all the dimming levels with the console operator. It looked amazing for one night and like a candle in the wind it was gone.

Brenden: One of my favourite projects was Margaret Court Arena, in my role as Lead Electrical Engineer.

While this venue was built over the top of the existing court, it was essentially an entire venue from scratch.

This meant we could consider the venue holistically and come up with the best engineering strategies. This project included broadcast level sports lighting design, which in this instance was particularly challenging, given the relatively low mounting high; but through the process, we ended up with a great venue and I was able to learn a lot. Another project that was good to work through was changing over Rod Laver Arena to LED lighting; we started from scratch with this and even installed samples in place, so we could compare 4 fittings, for best fit for purpose; as it was the first major LED sports lighting project in Australia at the time.

Who would you cite as some of your influences?

Darrin: This might be a bit of a cliché, but the late Richard Kelly, considered the godfather of the Specialist Lighting Design discipline. The design principals Kelly developed over his career are as relevant now as they were when the Seagram Building in New York was completed in 1958 and Phillip Johnsons Glass House was completed in 1949. No lighting modelling software, limited light sources and most luminaires had to be custom made. I regularly look to Kelly’s work when searching for inspiration

Darrin, you have been at Umow Lai (part of Integral Group) / Integral Group for 3 years now. Do you have a favourite project you have worked on, in that time?

My current favourite project is the Southbank Riverside Parklands Project currently in construction,

I really like working on landscape projects and while not a large project it is quite high profile and as such, we spent a lot of time working with the architect and detailing the installation and controls to ensure the design intent is clear and concise.

Brenden, you joined us in 2018, what has been your favourite project so far?

While at Umow Lai I have really enjoyed working on several AFL and AFLW training venues, including the Ikon Park Redevelopment for Carlton and a new training base for Hawthorn Football Club. Both are great clients and are interesting projects. In the case of Ikon Park, it will include new broadcast level lighting.

Umow Lai and Integral Group provide fully integrated lighting design services, working hand-in-hand with our electrical, mechanical, sustainability and building performance teams to craft the lighting for a wide range of architectural and urban spaces. Specific project details are available on the Integral website.

If you would like more information from Darrin or Brenden, please get in touch.