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Vicoma - Virtual Reality Actually Delivers Lighting Benefits

A lighting plan may look nice on paper or screen, but ultimately what counts is what the lighting does in reality. Virtual reality can help to get a good idea of this in advance. Consultant Vicoma and lighting expert itsme proved it in a project for the Royal Netherlands Navy. "They knew within 7 minutes: ‘That’s how we want it’."

Vicoma is an independent consultancy and engineering firm with five offices, including one in Velsen-Noord (60 employees). Christian Klaver has been working there for two years now as Electrical & Instrumentation team leader. For a lighting project at the Royal Netherlands Navy in Den Helder, he brought in itsme to design the lighting plan. In doing so, he worked mainly with Ruud Adriaansen, team leader of the Lighting Design Center at itsme.

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Incredibly fast

The project involved new lighting for a dry dock. That is a hall where a ship can enter for maintenance, after which the dock is drained. That way, the part that is normally underwater can be blasted to clean it, and sprayed to repaint it. The old lighting was a sight for sore eyes, says Klaver. "There were old gas discharge lamps, the whole hall looked yellow and orange." Adriaansen adds: "In terms of lighting and shadowing it was an absolute disaster. "If you sailed a ship back out after maintenance and a part turned out not to have been sprayed properly after all, you would have a serious problem with planning and costs if you had to go back into the dock. We therefore had to do everything possible to provide the proper lighting." Of course, energy saving also played a part, Klaver continues. "However, that was more of an added bonus. What the Navy mainly wanted was good lighting so that spraying could be done properly."

"Everybody could pitch in"

An additional requirement was that the lighting should be easy to switch, in order to play with light levels flexibly. For example, spraying requires a different light level than assembly work. The maximum light level was exceptionally high and high uniformity was required, Adriaansen explains. "In terms of lighting requirements, this was an extensive project." What was also special was the way those requirements were put on the table, Klaver explains. "We went to Den Helder together with itsme and immediately invited all the users of the dry dock to start laying down the principles properly. This ranged from the company that sprays ships and the department responsible for bringing them in, to the crane operator and the safety department. Everybody was allowed to pitch in on the lighting requirements." Adriaansen describes the situation as unique. "To have all parties pitch in is something we don't often experience." Fortunately, there were no conflicting preferences, reports Klaver. "We were able to work it out miraculously quickly. People had their say and we wrote it down; there were no disagreements."

Everything in 3D

During the first survey, itsme took light measurements in order to compare the existing and the desired situation, Adriaansen explains. "Based on that, I created a design. One of the challenges was mounting luminaires on the ceiling, due to the height of the hall. Moreover, the assembly had to be done quickly, to avoid the dock being out of operation for too long. I then performed calculations as proof of sufficient lighting levels. This time I went the extra mile by working out the entire hall in 3D and putting in all the models of the luminaires in 3D. This resulted in a virtual reality model that ultimately played a pivotal role in the decisions on the lighting plan. We showed some people from the Navy that lighting plan in virtual reality and in less than seven minutes they agreed: ‘That’s how we want it’ I have never experienced a decision being made that fast."

"We also perform the final check, with the Lighting Acceptance Test"

At a number of points, the lighting was still found to be inadequate, Klaver adds. "The lighting plan was immediately adjusted accordingly." A particular challenge was that the luminaires to light the bottom of a ship would be underwater for as long as the dry dock was not drained. Those luminaires therefore had to withstand salt water, the pressure at 12 metres underwater and the force of incoming water as the dock filled up again. "What luminaire could we possibly install down there?" When it came to choosing the brand, the parties therefore took time to decide, recalls Adriaansen. "In the end, we found a supplier that had everything in its package, Norka. With an entire delegation from the Navy, Vicoma and itsme, we visited their factory in Germany to get an impression of the quality of the luminaires.
"Vicoma was then able to write the specifications that would allow the Navy to take it to the market for competitive bidding. This completes the lighting design, which means the work is almost done for itsme, says Adriaansen. "During the installation, a colleague will still check that everything is installed as we designed it. We also do the final check." This is done with the LAT, the Lighting Acceptance Test, explains Klaver. "Part of the specifications is that an LAT must be carried out, in the presence of the company that made the lighting plan, in other words itsme."


This LAT is the last phase of a very special project. "For me, it was the first lighting project of this size," says Klaver. Adriaansen calls it "Quite a unique situation". "Usually we are at the table with the end user, this time it was a consultant." Both parties are content about the cooperation. "Excellent," says Klaver. "We are in sync and know each other's strengths: itsme has expertise in making a lighting plan, we in writing specifications." Adriaansen agrees: "We understand each other and are able to complete each other’s sentences, which makes communication fast and transparent, resulting in clear agreements." Klaver: "Because we outsourced relatively much to itsme, we as Vicoma had it relatively easy. We leaned very much on the expertise of Ruud and his colleagues. As a spin-off, we have already made an offer for a full package together with itsme for a subsequent lighting project." Adriaansen: "I've been in the lighting business for 26 years now and my Top 5 most challenging projects definitely include this one. We regularly receive international relations and the first thing our director starts talking about is this example."


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