Companies are defined by the people who work for them: for over a century, Schréder has been at the forefront of lighting thanks to its employees worldwide. Throughout 2022 we’ll be focusing on the people who make Schréder what it is, including their career path, landmark projects and their thoughts on where lighting is headed next.
For decades, Schréder has been at the forefront of tunnel lighting design. From adapting the photometry knowledge we gained lighting motorways for road tunnels, to integrating the latest computer control systems, we’ve consistently been ahead of the curve - or right on the CIE one. We’ve lit tunnels through mountains, under canals, and around cities.
LED lighting, and state-of-the-art control systems that enhance it, is now suitable for every size and type of road tunnels, bringing real improvements in terms of energy use, emergency access, and driver experience. Motorway agencies, urban districts and planners worldwide are realising the value of investing in new tunnels, or upgrading existing ones to LED lighting.
We spoke to the Schréder Technical Assistance and Response (STAR) team about how they work with customers to bring safe, sustainable lighting to tunnels worldwide. Corentin Dantinne, Maxime Gillet and Simon Bernard became Technical Sales Support Engineers at Schréder after they studied civil engineering in Liège, and despite their youth, have a lot of experience in tunnel control systems and integrating them into supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems.
It all starts with the customer…
Maxime: We start by discussing every aspect of the project. The customer comes with a specification - what do they want? The most cost-effective option, a particular aesthetic, is there a requirement for particular materials, is energy efficiency the absolute priority… we can help them achieve their aims. Then we come to the discussion about controls. Do they want just a simple on/off? Dimming systems? Or the full Rolls-Royce?
Then comes the design…
Corentin: Most of my job is about lighting design. I have to ensure the lighting matches the CIE curve on lighting in tunnels, so there's no “black hole” effect when drivers go in and they exit safely with their eyes adjusted to daylight levels. I work in Ulysse, a lighting design programme we developed in-house.
I find the best technical solution for what the customer wants, where to put the light - ensure all the photometry knowledge we’ve gained over the years is put to good use, then Maxime and Simon design the control system.
Simon: I then build a registry for their control system - we use Advanced Tunnel Solution 4 (ATS 4), which we developed together with Phoenix Contact, to control Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) that directly link to the luminaires. One ATS 4 unit controls 240 luminaires, the customer has total remote control, and if we need to integrate it into a SCADA system, we do that. In addition, the ATS 4 DALI control system is also available for the DALI protocol, which is an interesting cost-effective option for very long tunnels.
Installation is quicker than ever…
Corentin: Because things are more flexible than they used to be, the customer can choose what cabling to use. They might want to keep existing cables, get new ones from us or even another manufacturer. But things have changed completely with the plug and play system… Instead of going to the site with huge rolls of cable, we have a plug and play system where everything is pre-cut in the factory. We used it in NorthConnex, one of the longest tunnels in Australia, and the customer was delighted.
Maxime: During the commissioning process, we check whether everything is working, can the ATS “see” all the luminaires. We also have a luminance camera: by taking one photograph, we can accurate mesure luminance levels across a site. We take pictures inside and outside, in a range of conditions, and if there’s an issue we can adjust until the customer is 100% satisfied and the lighting meets the required standards. It’s much faster than the way we did this before, taking measurements at various points with a light meter!
Simon: Going on-site is a huge part of our work. For a job focused on road tunnels, it’s surprisingly jet set! We usually spend about ten days on-site at a time setting up the systems, testing them, working during the night, and training the tunnel operators on how everything works. Schréder has built tunnels on every continent except Antarctica, and it’s fascinating to see how we've adapted tunnel lighting to conditions from deserts to coastlines.
And so is maintenance…
Maxime: Tunnel changes and maintenance have to happen when the tunnel is shut, which is obviously hugely disruptive. When we’re checking things on-site, before a project is completed, we normally start work at 11pm and finish when the tunnel reopens at 5 or 6 am. But with ATS 4 control systems, you already know where the issue is, so you can go in and fix problems quickly.
That means tunnels don't need to be closed all night, saving time for the maintenance teams, money for the tunnel operator and minimising disruption for tunnel users.
We involve the customer at every stage…
Simon: The commissioner often comes with us during the process, and we obviously check everything is running how they expect before getting sign off on the project. When it comes to using the control systems, we can do training afterwards, or throughout the process - whatever they prefer.
We can train as many staff as they want, in a format that suits them. There are so many options with control systems, it’s important they understand them all.
This job is about lighting, not just another tech role…
Maxime: What we do is very specific - it’s not interchangeable with being a programmer at a bank, or elsewhere. The systems side is all about automation, which reflects skills you’ll find in a number of industries. But the photometry skills we need to get this right are something you only need here - and they make the job really interesting.
Our favourite projects all tell a story…
Corentin: It has to be Huguenot Tunnel, in South Africa. It was so great to work with the customer, they were really interested in our approach. We won the project and started work during the pandemic, it was a tough time, so the project gave us something helpful to focus on.
Maxime: Tamoios is my favourite - I’m currently working on this incredible project in São Paulo state, Brazil. Tunnel T3/T4 will be the longest in Brazil, just over 5.5 km when it’s completed. It’s in the middle of the mountains, close to the beach. You see incredible views over the city working up there - it's a brand new tunnel, beautiful inside and the technical side is incredible.
Simon: Also Huguenot. It’s the first one completely lit with ATS 4, and we got more than 6,200 energy-efficient LED luminaires installed in 48 days… not bad!