GDS supplies wireless controls and LED lighting to Portsmouth's Guildhall retrofit

ArcSystem SSL fixtures provide the color rendering needed for a broad range of uses in the iconic entertainment venue while also increasing energy efficiency and dimming smoothly from 0-100%

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The Portsmouth, UK City Council sought to upgrade the historic Guildhall venue with the goals of having higher light levels, better energy efficiency, and precise control of light levels via dimming. The council engaged Drama by Design to specify a new house lighting system that ultimately saw Hawthorn Theatrical supply the Global Design Solutions (GDS) fixtures and control system that were installed by ICE Electrical.

An ArcSystem Cell

The Guildhall hosts presentations ranging from orchestra to rock concerts to council meetings and Portsmouth hoped to open usage to even more daytime conferences and meetings via better lighting. The venue dates to 1890, although it was rebuilt after damage suffered in World War II and reopened in 1959.

The retrofit project included a number of obstacles. The council didn’t want the venue out of commission for a great length of time. And as is the case with many older venues, options for running new wiring for power and controls were limited.

Drama by Design sought a sustainable lighting system that also could provide the uniform illumination, high color rendering, and smooth dimming desired for the venue. Moreover, the designers preferred a system with wireless controls that would eliminate the need for new wiring and accelerate the installation process.

GDS ArcSystem

Ultimately the team chose the GDS ArcSystem. ArcSystem is built around a modular luminaire that GDS calls a Cell (photo nearby). The Cell can be recessed into housings installed in ceilings or installed in suspended housings. Indeed, the ArcSystem includes rectangular housings that hold as many as eight Cells. The Cells each integrate a third-generation Bridgelux LED array, along with the reflector and lens options for a variety of beam patterns.

The Portsmouth Guildhall

The Guildhall project encompassed 48 Pro 4 Cell products, 62 Pro 2 Cell products and 92 Decor 1 Cell products. Of the total, 26 of the fixtures can also be powered by an emergency power supply in the case of a mains power failure.

"ArcSystem has delivered a dramatic improvement in lighting levels and will reduce maintenance and running costs, so I'd imagine the management of Portsmouth Guildhall will consider their brief well and truly met," said Andy Stone, theatre consultant from Drama by Design. "The system is excellent. The products are great. They were very easy to install, with the result that we were ahead of the schedule we'd set ourselves."

One challenge for the design teams was the area under the balcony, where frequent presentation attendees had voiced affinity for the aesthetics of the legacy lighting. GDS was able to use the modular cells to create a custom replacement that maintained the desired legacy look.

The precise dimming control was viewed as a necessity to have low-level house lighting on while optimizing the visual experience during presentations such as operas. The dimming requirement means both specification of a luminaire that can dim smoothly and of a network system to carry the control commands.

GDS integrates DMX512 support in each of the ArcSystem Cells. In wired installations, you can connect the DMX cables directly using an RJ45 connector. For wireless operation, GDS supplies the ARC-D1 wireless-to-DMX converter that serves as bridge between the DGS ARC-TX1 wireless gateway and a group of Cells that are to be dimmed together. GDS uses a wireless mesh network to link one gateway to as many as 64 ARC-D1 devices.

The wireless system was the trickiest part of the installation. Stone said, "As with any project there were some teething problems, in this case associated with the wireless control, but these were down to the nature of the overall building rather than the kit and GDS were quick to help us overcome them." The installation required two ARC-TX1 gateways and six-channel control implemented by GDS control software.

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