Energy, buildings, grids and light
by Thomas Wagner | Apr 6, 2012

As in all years ending on an even number, in 2012 lighting manufacturers will once again flock to Frankfurt to attend Light+Building, the world's largest trade fair for lighting and intelligent buildings, taking place from April 15 to 20. This year, at Frankfurt's Messe complex some 2,100 companies will be showcasing their latest product innovations to architects and interior designers, as well as craftsman and representatives from trade and industry.

But those expecting the focus to be exclusively on the technology and design of luminaires and lighting systems are certainly mistaken – Light+Building has transformed itself into a platform that in addition to the product groups of "decorative light" and "technical light" will also showcase cutting-edge products from the fields of electrical engineering and building automation. A diversity that is likewise reflected in the wide spectrum of exhibits, from luminaires for the home and innovations in LED and OLED technology, to photovoltaic systems and electric mobility, to the intelligent use of electricity, including "smart metering" (measuring energy consumption) and "smart grids" (intelligent networks). Particular focus has been placed on combining lighting systems and networked building automation systems in a bid to maximize the energy saving potential in buildings of the future. Accordingly, this year's motto is the sustainable use of energy, or simply: "energy efficiency", with a special emphasis on "digitalization of light and buildings" and "buildings as green power stations".

Digitalization of light and buildings

When it comes to the digitalization of light and buildings, the sector has made a great deal of progress in recent years. Cutting-edge technology has spawned numerous new products, not just in terms of design and comfort in buildings and rooms, but also as regards energy costs and safety in residential and commercial buildings.

Buildings as green power stations

Accounting for 40 percent of the total energy consumption, buildings play a central role in the bid to bring about a successful change in energy policy. On the basis of using intelligent power networks such as smart grids and utilizing renewable energy sources efficiently, the aim is to develop a form of energy supply that is environmentally friendly and sustainable. Here, LED and OLED are key technologies, as are photovoltaic systems, intelligent energy use and electric mobility.

Smart grid and E-House

Light+Building's conception as a trade fair combining different sectors and thus covering the entire electrical engineering spectrum can be seen in the numerous fringe events accompanying the manufacturer's presentations. One such example is the special show "Buildings as power stations in the smart grid" (outdoor area 11, between halls 8, 9 and 11), which picks up on issues relating to intelligent management. The intention here is to illustrate the future potential for a decentralized energy production model that makes use of renewable energy sources. At the heart of this endeavor is the networked building as a power station – producing, using and storing sustainable energy as part of an intelligent network, i.e. a smart grid. The show will illustrate how these different components interact within buildings.

Alongside this special show, the Central Association of the German Electrical and Information Technology Industry (ZVEH) will present the "E-House", which, over 100 square meters in hall 8.0, will provide a realistic impression of the possibilities afforded by intelligent buildings as regards energy efficiency, comfort and safety. The "E-House" was jointly developed with Dresden University of Technology and other companies such as Siemens, ABB, Schneider Electric, SolarWorld, Stiebel Eltron, and Viessman. Across seven rooms, the model house will illustrate networked building technology, LED lighting, concepts for technology-assisted living facilities for the elderly and the use of self-generated electricity provided by renewable sources, which can be used, for example, to recharge the batteries of an electric car. An informative lecture program rounds off the presentation.

Trend forum

Turning from technical innovations to the question of taste, which as we all know is highly subjective, the trade fair organizers are nonetheless intent on pushing the latest home design trends in lighting. For 2012 and 2013 the trend forum will present four essential styles: "Fluorescent Modern" encompasses "clear, no-frills designs" that present a range of intense colors and combine 1970s and '80s styles "with contemporary lighting creations so as to achieve striking and vibrant interiors". "Reduced forms, clear lines, strict sculptural shapes and a lot of black" are characteristic features of "Hot Elegance", with "extravagant designs and sophisticated materials" set to create an "elegant and extremely refined look with a contemporary twist". While "Soft Minimalist" (whatever that is supposed to mean) – once again – seeks to combine "functionalism and aesthetics", endowing rooms minimalist in their design with a sense of wellbeing. Last but not least, "Natural Community" places all things natural and artisan at the heart of a "vibrant lifestyle" that "celebrates a diverse form of coexistence". Those with a fancy for such lighting-cum-living conglomerations will find them in the transition section between hall 5.1 and hall 6.1.


It will be all the more interesting to see whether OLED technology, which has been propagated for quite some years now, will gain any more ground, and which areas of application will receive the most attention. Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs in short) are composed of a luminous thin-film component made of conductive organic materials, whose current density and luminance is lower than that of non-organic LEDs. Although they are particularly weel-suited for use in screens, (flexible) displays and as electronic paper, OLED technology also lends itself to large-scale ambient lighting. Progress made in this field will open up completely new possibilities for designers and architects when it comes to planning spaces and creating different atmospheres. For its OLEDs, in 2011 the Fraunhofer Institute received the German Future Award, Germany's most prestigious prize for cutting-edge technology. The researchers will be showcasing their innovative works in the gallery of Frankfurt's Palmengarten as part of the Luminale festival.


As in previous years, Luminale 2012 – The Biennial of Lighting Culture will once again be held concurrently with Light+Building. (The program is available for download at In the evening and during the night, streets and plazas, high-rises and churches, museums and galleries will be shown in a new light. A special city bus will connect the various exhibition points displaying lighting concepts by architects, designers and artists. The main hub of activity is Frankfurt, with lighting events also taking place throughout the entire Rhine-Main region between Aschaffenburg and Mainz, Offenbach and Darmstadt. "Ambient-light-sound" productions and a number of media façades are set to illustrate the sheer spectrum of possibilities within lighting design, including an illuminated ship docking at the Main embankment near the Städel museum, while artistic expression and industrial application merge in Luminale's light lab.