The Evolution of a Lighting Career – May 2018 Newsletter

Recently ,I had a quiet moment in an extremely busy daily schedule to reflect on the changes that have occurred in the world of lighting since I had my first experience of lighting in late 1973.  That was when, through my late father’s business, we became the agents for the geographical area of the Eastern Cape, Border and Transkei.  But let me go back in time.  Before I even matriculated in 1966, my father encouraged me to become an attorney.  Well, after studying Latin from Standard 6 through to Matric, I had no desire to spend another minute have to learn and speak Latin.  At that time, law students were required to know Latin because our legal system is based on Roman Dutch law.  I was then sent to the Department of Labour to undergo an aptitude test.  You will never believe me when I tell you that the career guidance officer at the Department said that the results showed that I would be best suited to study some form of engineering. Now that too was not on my agenda because, although I did well in mathematics at school, I did not enjoy the subject.  So, I said that I would wait and see after completion of National Service. which would be in nine months at that time, hence the reason why I often refer to that time as “my pregnancy”!

After a relatively short time, the late Mr Peter Keen who was the MD of Thorn Lighting In South Africa at that time, decided to sponsor me to study Illumination Engineering at London South Bank University.  I graduated in July 1977 with a B Illumination Engineering degree.  There you go – back to the result of the aptitude test in 1965. Yes, Illumination Engineering.

Of course, those were the days when the only way to do lighting design was by using an architectural drawing board.

The architect or consulting electrical engineer would provide me with the necessary drawings.  I would then have to draw the space using a Pentel stylus and complete all calculations on a slide rule.  If you do not know what that looks like, see the pictures below.  It was way before the advent of calculators as we know them with the exception of the Facet mechanical abacus marketed by Garlick’s Office Machines.

Drawing paper was of course clear.  The above example shows the finished printed product of someone’s hours of hard fine detailed.

My trusty old slide rule.  All forms of calculations could be performed on it.

A Pentel drawing stylus.

If a mistake was made, the only way to erase it was by using a special sharp blade  to scratch the error out.  If it was too bad, the procedure was simply – go back to the start, do not collect R200 and go directly to panic mode because a delivery deadline was looming.

The lighting design drawings included hand drawn simulations.  Thank goodness that we now have the amazing RELUX lighting design software because let me assure you, I would never rival Picasso!

Well back to my reflections.  I was with Thorn EMI Lighting (South Africa (Pty) Ltd from 1973 to 1996 when I was recalled by the SADF and my late father sold the business.  The purchaser of the business continued to retain the Thorn agency until Thorn Lighting sold their interests in South Africa.  I served in the SADF as a Colonel through until October 1993.

During the time that I was with Thorn Lighting, all of the products were conventional lighting products which today we refer to as old technologies which have largely moved over in favour of  LED lighting techology and the various other technologies which can be used with LED luminaires
Since the advent of LED and my first personal exposure to it in 2007, I have been completely rejuvenated.  My passion in lighting, although it had never waned, was rekindled with an intensity that sometimes, even I cannot believe.

In 2011, I realised that we faced a terrible time in the years to come because we were not doing anything to educate electrical engineers or architects in the science a specialist field of lighting or illumination engineering.  I pondered over this predicament which Southern Africa faced.

I made the decision to make it my life’s mission from then on to do everything possible to educate the lighting community, electrical engineers and others in the built environment in the field of illumination engineering.  Of course as the late Mr Peter Keen, the MD of Thorn EMI Lighting in South Africa always said “different horses for different courses”.  It was for that reason that over time, I have developed no less that 18 online courses that the BHA School of Lighting now present, most of which are available online to students no matter where they are located in the world.  Some courses have been specifically been developed to tutor electrical engineers at their own offices.

Perhaps as readers or students you do not realise that I continuously enrol for online courses for new technologies and control systems, attend webinars and maintain personal contact with other leading lighting design practices in the world.  I am proudly affiliated and a member of The Institution of Lighting Professionals which gives me access to some amazing material and some amazing people.

I will continue to present students and professionals alike with the very latest teachings, content and techniques so that you can remain at the cutting edge of lighting.

It is a pleasure to welcome you to the BHA School of Lighting.

  • Lufefe Mlungu, Mbawe Consulting Engineers, Mthatha – BHASL001: Foundation Lighting Course
  • Sivuyile Gali, Province Lighting, Cape Town – BHASL018: Online RELUX Standard Course
  • Mohammed Sardiwalla, A4 Advisory and Consulting, Vereeniging – BHASL018: Online RELUX Standard Course
  • Simiso Mbusi, Mbawe Consulting Engineers, East London – BHASL018: Online RELUX Standard Course

Happy Birthday! Have an awesome day and be Blessed throughout the year ahead.

Daniel Banfield, Cape Town, 5 May
Gosiame Montle, Johannesburg, 9 May
Martin Zuhlsdorff, Pretoria, 12 May
Ziggy Karolus, Cape Town, 18 May
Zane Barkley, Midrand, 31 May

To all first year students who have successfully completed their first year examinations and gone through to 2nd year – We wish them an enriching and enjoyable 2nd year.

Congratulations and our best wishes for the future to the following graduates:

  • Clive Townsley, Gaborone, Botswana
  • Jan-Hendrik Verdoes, Windhoek, Namibia

Clive’s parting words:

“First I must congratulate you on a most well thought out and professionally run course. Naturally I did struggle at times, mainly due to a pressurized day job, but on the whole I really enjoyed the challenges and content. I learned a lot about myself and that it is never too late nor anyone too old to learn.

Personally you have been an excellent mentor and friend to me and wish I could sit across the desk from you to talk and learn about lighting all day.

I also wish you success in the future and I know more students will pass through better people and more knowledgeable than when they started.”

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Do you understand what is meant by scotopic richness of light?  Do you know how to include this in your lighting design when using RELUX? 

If not – you should seriously consider enrolling for one of our short courses now!

Do you know how to make use of the Internet of Things (IoT), Visible Light Communication (VLC), Power over Ethernet (PoE), human Centric Lighting (HCL) or Bluetooth Mesh?

If you’ve answered NO to any of these questions – now you can enrol for one of our short courses.

Visit to select the course and enrol.

Alternatively contact us at or call +27 (0)81 523 5374.

Do you want to be left out in the cold when it comes to the latest lighting developments? Can you afford to be left behind?

Master RELUX!  Elevate your RELUX proficiency level!

Would you like to produce a lighting design like this one using RELUX? You too could learn to render lighting designs like this.

Enrol now for BHASL018: Online RELUX Standard Course.

After you have completed this course you will be able to enrol for

BHASL011: Online RELUX Intermediate Course which will propel your RELUX skills to an entirely new level.

To enrol today visit our website at

Alternatively contact us at or call +27 (0)81 523 5374.

Lighting Matters – Monthly Column featured in EE Publishers’ Vector Magazine

If you have not read Phil’s monthly column yet here is the link to do so –

The 10 Major Challenges Facing Exterior Lighting Engineers in 2018

Street and exterior lighting engineers face myriad challenges this year, not least heightened concerns about light quality such as glare and possibly harmful blue light from LED luminaires.

Overseas street and exterior lighting was one of the first sectors to widely switch to LEDs, but in South Africa it has been the tail-ender which is still faced with many obstacles to overcome before full adoption.

And while the subsequent energy savings are widely appreciated, that has produced some fresh challenges that are set to keep engineers on their toes this year and beyond. I will now go through the top concerns facing the sector in 2018.


This is an issue that simply won’t go away. It’s widely acknowledged that there too many fixtures with poor optical control have been used.  There are a number of installations in South Africa where the first wave of LED street luminaires have been installed.  Very cool and cool colour temperatures – 5500K and 5000K in some places.  They have also proved to be deeply unpopular with motorists and residents both overseas and in South Africa.  I have travelled to various cities in South Africa, including my home city Cape Town, and have noticed many strange anomalies where LED street luminaires have been installed.  These include a lack of consistent installation.  Many of the luminaire heads are set at different angles and are pointed in different directions within the same street or highway.  In many cases the heads are tilted towards the driver creating bad glare.  This is aggravated by the fact that the CCT is too high in many cases.  It is particularly bad when it rains.

The End of the Era of Financial Incentives

The era of the huge Eskom Financial Assistance schemes and those of the CEF (Central Energy Fund) have ended. Local authorities in South Africa are now faced with possible huge hikes in the cost of energy and the urgent need to address areas where substantial savings could be achieved by changing to LED street luminaires.

Electric Vehicle Charging

The average overseas municipality now believe that their street lighting network is the perfect solution to the provision of charging points for the coming wave of electrical cars. But experts of of the strong opinion that it is not. There are a myriad of technical issues relating to this, not least the high-current draw when charging.  Here in South Africa we are still to experience the  growth in the use of electric cars so we have time to prepare properly.

The world is obsessed with free Wi-Fi connectivity and cities overseas vie with each other to boast the best coverage and fastest download speeds. Now brick-sized 5G cellular data connectivity is on the horizon and soon here too.  Lighting columns are really the perfect hosts. Up to 500,000 of these mini masts are set to be installed in London alone.  Local authorities around south Africa have called for proposals to change to LED street luminaires but also for smart city proposals which includes connectivity and more.

The Great Switch Off

The very unpopular switching off of street lights by cash-strapped overseas local authorities is still causing ripples and it continues to be blamed for accidents by the police and coroners. Dimming is the lighting control solution that manufacturers recommend, but funding remains a problem  Here in South Africa, the consideration of changing to LED to become more energy efficient with imminent tariff hikes on the horizon whilst weighing up the once off capital cost with the accompanying considerable reduction in maintenance cost will be the primary focus.

Blue Light Hazard

The strong blue component of many LED street lights, particularly those with high CCT, is raising fears that the well-being of residents’ will be compromised. The influential American Medical Association weighed in last June, warning that the colour temperature of LEDs shouldn’t exceed 3000K. After all, we need warmer low CCT to prepare for our night’s sleep. The heated colour temperature debate continues unabated.

Smart Cities

Local authorities around the world love the idea of their metropole or city becoming a ‘smart city’ and while the phrase sounds cool, no-one knows quite what it means, least of all the people who are supposed to implement it. But everyone does agree that lighting is involved. At the very least, expect some sensors in your street lights. In the next article in this newsletter, read about the amazing development in Norway where the lights return to full brightness ahead of the vehicle reaching that point in the road using radar.

Light Pollution

This just one of many scary pictures from Nasa that tell us what everyone has long suspected: that the arrival of low cost LED luminaires from China and elsewhere hasn’t cut light pollution as much as was originally – and naively – hoped. Instead, it has in many cases made it worse because in those cases high wattage luminaires with high CCT were used. Expect legislation to begin to target this problem in 2018.  It has largely been as a result of the LED wattage being too high and as a result of the local authorities being ignorant of the effect of the scotopic/mesopic richness of light which is especially applicable to LED use.

Lack of Strategy

I appreciate that it’s hard to plan for the next 30 years of urban illumination, which is why street and exterior lighting engineers recognise the need to develop a strategy. There are several well-known examples of successful LED street lighting, examples include but are not limited to the Bournemouth, United Kingdom and the Montreal, Canada models and a number of others.

Future Proofing

Everyone agrees that we need to do it, especially when the new wave of street luminaires will last generations. So how do you specify a fitting that, in the future, may have to provide a range of ancillary services such as CCTV, pollution sensors, traffic detectors and Wi-Fi without blowing the budget?  This is THE challenge going forward for lighting engineers and consulting electrical engineers.

Norway pioneers radar-controlled dynamic street lighting

Some time ago I came across this extremely interesting article when researching for additional stimulating content for my Diploma Course students.  Since I have been discussing street lighting as one of the challenges facing lighting engineers and consulting electrical engineers alike, I decided to included this article.  It is content from Lux Reiew edition dated 4 January 2018.

Radar units, mounted on each column, detect traffic along the route and its speed and the light output is increased to full brightness in the path of the vehicle.

Unlike street light dimming in most countries in the world, the dynamic system allows relatively rapid control of light levels in response to the movement of individual vehicles on the road.

Norway has experimented with radar control over the last decade but this installation at Highway 155 near Hole is significant for its length at 5.5 miles (9 kilometres) and the number of radar units installed (220).

The radar units, which are mounted on each pole, detect traffic along the route and its speed. The lights are then increased to full brightness in the path of the vehicle from the default illumination of 20 per cent of full output.

The Eagle Eye radar unit can be retrospectively fitted to existing street lighting columns or fitted during an upgrade. The control unit is fitted to the street light, cabling is connected, the back cover is fitted and the radar detection angle is adjusted in accordance with figures calculated for the specific site. 

It’s calculated that the energy saved is  2,100 kWh a week compared to the lights maintaining full brightness. Breakeven period is estimated to be under five years.

The technology has been developed by Comlight, a tech start-up based in Gralum, southern Norway. It dubs the system ‘motion sensing street lighting’. Each luminaire communicates wirelessly with the others. As soon as any new activity is detected by the closest street light, the light is lit and the detection is communicated to a set number of street lights. As a result, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians will experience normal illumination levels all along their route. In reality, however, there is a limited ‘wave’ of light that follows the road user’s movement and provides safety.

The  control system is configured specifically for each stretch of highway, and takes in account motorist visibility, corners, road topology and the distance between each street light.

The number of luminaires in each light wave can then be set manually in the software. The various settings can changed remotely whenever necessary. The changes are sent to a GPRS-equipped street light, which then automatically transmits the update to all the lights along the stretch of road or in the site.

Watch this system in operation at

The radar unit can be retrospectively fitted to existing street lighting columns or fitted during an upgrade. The control unit is fitted to the street light, cabling is connected, the back cover is fitted and the radar detection angle is adjusted in accordance with figures calculated for the specific site. Another alternative is for the Comlight technology to be integrated into the luminaire. The system is universal and is suitable for all ballast types including 1–10 V, DALI and StepDIM.

It can be adjusted to suit various heights or diameters of pole and varying distances between the lights.

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Credit – Feel Great in 8



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