It’s just a few days until the start of Light + Building in Frankfurt/Main. Until then, more than 2,400 exhibitors need to be coordinated and a carefully orchestrated satellite program needs to be put in place. Sara Bertsche met Maria Hasselman, Director of Light + Building, and spoke with her about the organizational challenges posed by a trade-fair of this format, and about the latest trends in the market.
Sara Bertsche: What does Light + Building 2014 hold in store for professional visitors?
Maria Hasselman: This year, we will have more than 2,400 exhibitors showcasing their latest innovations in light and building technology. Meaning that the numbers are considerably up compared to just two years ago. To accommodate this trend, we have extended the overall space available for presentations. Take, for example, Hall 6.2, which now completes Hall 4.2 – this hall shows products in the technical lighting range. And we have created an extensive supporting program, which specifically spotlights selected key topics.
In the run-up to the fair, were you able to identify a particular key topic that intrigues many manufacturers?
Energy efficiency is the prime topic of interest these days because it is a key prerequisite that will ensure the success of the German energy reforms. Bearing in mind that commercial and residential buildings account for 40 percent of the total energy consumption, it is up to everyone involved, including lighting designers, architects and engineers, to get their head around those technologies that will help curb power consumption in the future. Another focal topic: decentralized energy supply systems, for which we’ve developed the “Smart Powered Building” show together with our partners. This special event is a live demonstration of how buildings function as energy producers, storage systems and users in the Smart Grid.
In your opinion, what are the challenges when it comes to installing smart grid systems?
There are many questions that still need to be addressed. Processing large data volumes will be a major challenge here, not to forget data protection and data security, which is a topic of controversy among the experts. After all, any smart building is a gigantic network of information input and output, with data revealing personal consumption patterns. That said, there are several methods in the pipeline that will open up attractive opportunities. The main thing now is to sound out meaningful and efficient applications for these innovations.
Will there be exciting innovations in the field of lighting technology this year?
Yes indeed! This year’s trends include digitizing light in the context of smart building automation as well as how light impacts on human performance and well-being. Also, LEDs and OLEDs open up radically new approaches for designers and architects.
Is the aspect of design fading into the background now that the spotlight is increasingly on the application of innovative technologies?
Not at all! On the contrary, these new technologies enable us to realize ideas that were not possible in the days of the light bulb. Just ten years ago we still had to combine two separate components: the light bulb as the light source, and the luminaire’s body. With light-emitting diodes these two elements have now been melded, meaning that light no longer has to be focused but can be diffused.
Looking back, how has the trade-fair changed over the years?
When we first established the exhibition more than ten years ago, the product range offered by the manufacturers was considerably smaller. Plus there was a clear distinction being made between technical and decorative lighting. Today’s products are far more complex as a result of advances made in technology, with networked systems and decorative designs often forming a single unit. Lighting design and building technology are increasingly associated with each other. Our task here is to provide orientation to specialist visitors – that they will find their ideal way around the fair despite great new variety that is now on offer. When planning the halls we set priorities in the spatial layout to ensure that each manufacturer is strategically well placed. Considering there are as many as 1,800 companies in the lighting section alone, and each of them looking for a perfect space for their stand, you will get an idea of the organizational challenges involved here.
Organizational skills set aside – what other functions will Messe Frankfurt be performing in connection with Light + Building?
We consider ourselves a platform that unites all the main market players and gives professionals the opportunity to mingle and exchange ideas. That’s the reason why we have established an advisory board and keep in regular contact with experts in the industry. In addition, we try to channel key topics and filter them through media partnerships in a move to supply not only tradesmen, engineers and electrical engineers, but also architects, designers and lighting designers with information that is relevant for them. For example, we are cooperating with several companies that offer special tours tailored to architects, planners and designers and provide information about the latest products and themes.
The tours are just one aspect of the extensive support program – what will you be offering besides?
Take “Design Plus powered by Light + Building”, for instance, a platform for young designers where they can present themselves and ideally get a foot in the market. It’s a format that offers students and graduates in Product and Industrial Design the opportunity to submit projects. A specialist jury will then assess the entries on the basis of the following criteria: design, green living and innovative technology – and of course choose the winners. Then, in a special hall entitled “Meeting Point: The Future” we will be hosting the “Workshop Street”, which has been tailored to the needs of young apprentices training in the electrical and IT trades. The workshops here will offer hands-on experience and give participants the opportunity to establish initial contacts. Which brings us back to our key incentive – bringing together the protagonists of the industry.