The brief

UCL's PEARL (Person Environment Activity Research Laboratory) facility opened in Dagenham in summer 2021. It is one of the most advanced sensory laboratories in the world. Under the leadership of Professor Nick Tyler, the facility aims to understand how people interact with urban design, buildings and transport systems.

MARL was asked to assist with the specification of a lighting system to be installed at the facility. We were to deliver a report providing a comprehensive overview of LED lighting, plus an outline specification for a dynamic lighting system.

It builds on the expertise developed at the PAMELA facility on Tufnell Park, London, under the leadership of Professor Nick Tyler, Chadwick Professor of Civil Engineering at UCL and Director of the UCL Centre for Transport Studies.

The project

This project investigated the feasibility of using full spectrum LED lighting systems to replicate natural and artificial light sources for cutting-edge scientific research.

The report included MARL's own research and provided an outline specification for a dynamic lighting system capable of outstanding control of a full-colour spectrum output. In addition, the capacity for a wide range of simulated lighting conditions was explored, from moonlight to a sunny day. Our research allowed for full integration with both scientific measurement systems, sensors systems and theatrical and event lighting.  For example, in addition to lighting, a range of sensorial experiences being investigated at PEARL might include, sound, smell, smoke, touch, vibration, movement, temperature and humidity.

The report confirmed that, using dynamic control, lighting systems of this kind could offer stability, repeatability and reliability at a scale that has arguably been unparalleled at PEARL to date.

The report took six months to complete and involved a series of meetings with UCL and others in the project, including a backstage visit to the Royal Opera House.

Adrian Rawlinson, Client Manager said, “We have enjoyed working with UCL since 2010. It is exciting to collaborate with creative people whose contributions will lead to positive experiences for city dwellers and commuters as the 21st century progresses."

The result

To ensure an unbiased report, MARL did not supply the equipment for this project.

The final report helped UCL to select a state-of-the-art theatrical-based lighting system coupled with an adapted horticultural lighting fitting. The report also confirmed what was realistically achievable in 2021 and was consequently regarded as a success by UCL.

Being an academic institute, we asked Professor Tyler to offer a subjective mark for our report. We're pleased to say that we were graded A+.

Later, Professor Tyler commented: “I like working with MARL because they understand research and are not frightened of pushing boundaries.”

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