Case Study: Lumenpulse Illuminates Iconic BC Place Stadium in Vancouver

Nov 28, 2011 Built in 1983, BC Place is a multi-purpose stadium in the heart of Vancouver, British Columbia that has played host to a range of sports, musical, cultural, community and exhibition events featuring iconic figures ranging from Pope John Paul II, Madonna and Michael Jackson ... to Winter Olympic athletes, and the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League. After more than 25 years of operation as a beloved venue, however, the Vancouver landmark needed a new roof as its inflatable one required heavy maintenance for tears and leaks and used energy sapping fans to stay aloft which was neither cost-effective nor energy-efficient.

Renovations to washrooms, concourses, concessions, and suites were conducted prior to serving as the Olympic Stadium during the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, but as soon as the games left town, the old roof was deflated and the stadium closed for a major revitalization and reconfiguration.

Stadium owners, BC Pavilion Corporation (PavCo) saw this as a prime opportunity to not only transform the structure itself, but also to reinvent the stadium’s guest experience and its look and feel from the inside and out.

To achieve this, two major elements of the $563 million revitalization included a spectacular cable and mast -supported retractable roof –the largest of its kind in the world, and a façade (made of ETFE, a translucent polymer) that sits between the original structure and the new roof.  Together these elements allow fans to take in events under the open sky during good weather, see outside to the city beyond and in reverse allows people in neighbouring buildings and surrounds to see into the stadium to the HD centre hung scoreboard.

Both the roof and the façade designs would allow for more natural light to stream into the venue during the day, but it was a third major design element -- the use of LED lighting—that would be called upon to bring the new structural changes to life and help enhance and customize people’s interaction with the space day and night.

The Challenge - Use Lighting to Excite but not Overpower

“When we started with the design for the roof we realized that we needed to do something with the lighting,” said Laurenz Kosichek, Senior Associate with lead Architects, Stantec Architecture Ltd., “So we suggested we bring on a specialist lighting consultant.”

That lighting consultant was C.M. Kling, and together with Stantec Architecture Ltd. and PavCo, they set about defining the lighting goals for the project.

“At that point we were well into the design of the roof and other components. We knew we had masts, cables, the roof itself, and the façade using the wonderful ETFE material. The question was then “how do we make the stadium stand out as an iconic part of the cityscape?” said Kosichek.

A number of objectives were identified.  At the top of the list was making the stadium a key player in a city skyline that had lots of taller buildings surrounding it. “We quickly determined we had to light the whole stadium if it was going to be a focal point,” said David Ghatan, Senior Associate with C.M. Kling.

But it was also important to be a responsible neighbour, so it was decided that there would not be light shows 365-day-a-year – instead lighting effects would be reserved for use during events and then more subdued lighting used at other times.

This requirement spurred the team to think about what the stadium would look like in its different stages of use: what would it look like on an event day? On a non-event day? At the holidays? By defining what was needed in each environment it was possible to set some parameters on the lighting design.

For example, as the home to the BC Lions and now the Vancouver Whitecaps FC of Major League Soccer, the stadium needed to feel unique and “branded” color-wise around these teams inside and out. The lighting design and system needed to be sophisticated enough yet easily controlled to completely transform the building based on which team was in the house.

It was during offsite mock-ups that the design team also came to the realization that there will not always be a dark sky in which the lighting could be showcased as some games start at 7pm in the Vancouver summer, but the sun doesn’t set until after 9pm.

“We wanted to allow more natural light into the stadium during the day, but we also wanted to get a rendering effect on the facade as early as possible in the evening. That meant that we had to compete with the low, setting sun and the field-of-play lighting, which were both so bright we needed high output products.” explained David Ghatan.

This was another issue that also convinced the team to choose high output, fully controllable Lumenpulse™ LED fixtures.

The Solution- Lumenpulse LED Fixtures Hit All the High Notes with Power and Control

Taking all these needs into account C. M. Kling utilized the full RGB spectrum of Lumenpulse’s products to create light shows for both home sports teams and signature looks for the building itself. For example, fixed colors belonging to each team show on the roof, and like a scrim around the facade to allow the outside observer to see who is playing.

Other light shows feature gradual-moving abstracted, color changing content on the façade with fixed roof colors. These shows are played before and during the games and are specially paced so they will not distract the audience or players.

And, a series of dynamic fast paced light shows are triggered when a team scores, or to interact with the audience as they participate in activities like “The Wave.”

These effects are reserved for special events, which keeps the light shows fresh, and when combined with carefully directed light and custom snoots for the Lumenbeam™ products, the lighting design respects the stadium’s neighbours. Main lights are programmed to go off at 11pm unless there is an event still going on. When events are not in progress low, “quiet” lights are illuminated.

To make these light shows work the lighting is focused in three key areas: the façade, the roof, and the support structures of masts and cables.

Lumenpulse Lumenfacade™ RGB fixtures were chosen to illuminate the façade. Working initially with a mock-up, the design team was able to determine the ideal beam spread and output required to best light the 1700 ETFE panels, stacked four rows high that forms the façade. The Lumenfacade RGB fixtures use 30˚x60˚ optics positioned 10cm from the back of the ETFE to light each panel. Each fixture has 12 DMX channels that control every foot of fixtures.

The lighting designers were also able to throw light both inside and outside the stadium around the façade using the same Lumenfacade RGB fixtures.

They accomplished this by mounting the fixtures on the steel beams, or wind girts, that divide and hold in place each row of ETFE panels. The Lumenfacade luminaires project light up to the beam above, which reflects the light back down to create an ethereal scrim. Light is picked up strongly by the ETFE material and presents color changing and chasing effects that are visible inside and outside the stadium.

Coming in at 38,000 square meters the roof presented its own set of unique challenges, the biggest of which was illuminating the whole of the roof uniformly. To solve this problem, the lighting designer decided to break down a complex problem into its essential parts – working out how to illuminate one of the 36 wedge-shaped segments of the roof, and then repeating the solution 35 times. They also decided to approach the roof as a series of concentric rings of light, splitting the design into thirds.

The first third elevation of the roof, the most visible from the pedestrian plaza and the surrounding street level is most brightly illuminated with Lumenpulse Lumenbeam RGB fixtures that are mounted on the ring beam around the stadium.

The next two thirds are each illuminated from the 36 signature masts that surround the perimeter of the stadium and support the roof.  Each fixture is aimed to bathe each of the 36 roof “pie slices” or wedge-shaped segments in a myriad of colors based on the desired look – uniform illumination being achieved by varying the optics and intensity in each fixture. Every fixture also has complete RGB LED control allowing for infinite programming flexibility, and the customized brackets simplified installation so contractors could just mount them and didn’t need to adjust anything – just set and target. Further, modified snoots were developed so that people in neighbouring apartments were protected from looking directly into the fixtures and light.

To finish off the stunning lighting design, fixtures sit on the cables that traverse the roof offering a star-like effect.

All of the BC Place Lumenpulse façade and roof lighting is controlled by a Pharos controller, which enables a wide range of both static and dynamic programming, with over 26,000 channels to address.

The Value Proposition: Stadium is Now Top of its Game with Lumenpulse LED Lighting ... Invigorating the Fans, The Facility and The Cityscape

The new LED lighting was commissioned in September 2011 instantly leading to a dynamic new look on the Vancouver skyline and enabling BC Place to create a truly unique event experience.

“Feedback has been extremely positive. It’s a unique structure that has brought the area to life after such a long period of construction,” said Ghatan “It is very elegant and creates what could be described as an ethereal light.”

And BC Place’s new “lease on light” is just getting started, most immediately readying to hold the 99th CFL Grey Cup coming up November 27th.

“We’re very happy with the results and this is really just the beginning. The different permeations of what we can do with the LEDs have yet to be fully realized and we’re looking forward to seeing shows that take additional advantage of the technology. For example the lighting could be choreographed to mirror music at events.  It really is a dynamic lighting design that will offer options for years to come,” said Kosichek.

Through creative, original use of LED lighting, BC Place has been able to change the look and feel of the stadium, enhance the events within, allow people outside to get a sense of the fun and action, and once again shine as an icon in the Vancouver skyline.

Lumenpulse Products Specified
1,616 x Lumenfacade™ RGB (4’, 30˚x60˚ optic)
76 x Lumenfacade™ RGB (3’, 30˚x60˚ optic)
24 x Lumenfacade™ RGB (2’, 30˚x60˚ optic)
12 x Lumenfacade™ RGB (1’, 30˚x60˚ optic)
92 x Lumenfacade™ (4’, 3000K, 30˚x60˚ optic)
4 x Lumenfacade™ (3’, 3000K, 30˚x60˚ optic)
26 x Lumenfacade™ (2’, 3000K, 30˚x60˚ optic)
16 x Lumenfacade™ (1’, 3000K, 30˚x60˚ optic)
293 x Lumenbeam™ Large RGB (Flood 40˚ optic, 72 with custom snoot)
144 x Lumenbeam™ Large (4000K, very narrow 6˚ optic, with custom snoot)
72 x Lumenbeam™ LBX RGB (with custom optics)

C.M. Kling + Associates, Alexandria, VA (lighting designer)
Stantec Architecture Ltd., Vancouver, BC (lead architect)
Genivar, Vancouver, BC (electrical engineers)
CD/M2 LIGHTWORKS Corp, Vancouver, BC (equipment supply and project management]
EOS Lightmedia, Vancouver, BC (light show programming)
Western Pacific Enterprises, Coquitlam, BC (lighting installation)
Photography by Ed White and BC Place
Videography by Brian Ceci


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