Flexible Lighting for Evolving Cities: the Thinking behind FLEXIA

Jean Luc Lambert - Schréder Urban Deco Business Segment Manager
Jean-Luc Lambert
Schreder's Urban Deco Business Segment Manager

FLEXIA, Schreder’s latest innovation was due to be launched at Light+Building 2020 in Frankfurt, but unfortunately the trade fair, like many others worldwide, was cancelled. Here, Jean-Luc Lambert, Schreder's Urban Deco Business Segment Manager, explains the development of FLEXIA, the next move in lighting smart cities.

What was your starting point?
For the past few years, cities and governments have been busy replacing lighting on major roads, exchanging old HID lights for LEDs to save energy and improve visibility. That process is well advanced, and many cities are now ready for a makeover, said Jean-Luc Lambert.  “They are now looking to replace the more decorative street lights for city centre, parks, residential areas.” Schréder regularly develops bespoke luminaires for clients, so they decided to create a modular system in order to “give each city the opportunity to create and enhance their own unique identity.”
Cities worldwide are constantly evolving and need their lighting to do a lot as standard. Systems must ensure safety, with the same high photometric performance as IZYLUM, Schreder’s road lighting system. They need to protect dark skies and wildlife. Planners and architects think about future generations, as well as current citizens, so lighting must be part of the circular economy, with all components replaceable and recyclable. 
And lighting can play a vital role in integrating the latest technology into cities. “We want to create smart, connected cities where people love to live,” Jean-Luc says. “Our luminaries are Zhaga-D4i certified and NEMA compliant, so are smart-ready for a wide range of IoT systems.”

What makes FLEXIA different?
In the past, “we always developed either post-top or side-entry luminaires - never a model that suited both,” noted Jean-Luc. “We wanted this new luminaire to be aesthetic, to really enhance landscapes and be a beautiful piece of urban furniture not only by day but also by night,” wherever cities want to place them.

FLEXIA is designed to suit all the different configurations that a city needs

It’s available in side-entry, post-top, suspended and catenary versions, equipped with a flat glass or a deep protector so the same luminaire can be fitted in twisting medieval passages and brand-new waterfront promenades.

“It’s a truly modular platform. In this respect, it is unique - no other luminaire provides this flexibility and possibility of customisation.” 

Talk us through the design process...
Michaël Verleyen, owner of the design agency IOL, worked with Schréder back when he was a student at St Luc, the art and design school in Liège, and had been keen to work with the company again. “He came to us with the idea of a chess piece,” said Jean-Luc. “From there, we extrapolated so the luminaire is based around a crown.” The distinctive centrepiece, with a little ball at the top, is there for function as well as form: it contains the NEMA or Zhaga nodes that make it part of a connected IoT system. Verleyen also designed the Sofia bracket so that the nodes are seamlessly integrated into the structure. 

Just as the queen is the most versatile piece on the chess board, FLEXIA became the most modular luminaire Schréder ever designed.

The crown of the FLEXIA can be customised to highlight a city's identity

By October 2019, “we just knew that we had a really good tool in our hands,” said Jean-Luc, so the team went back to St. Luc, where it all started, to ask the current students for their ideas. Smart city natives, the next generation of designers came up with innovative touches like the ring around the luminaire’s crown that can be adapted to reflect the different areas in a city.

What challenges were you confronted with during the design phase?
Major change is never easy. Once the decision had been made to create a modular system, the team had to work out how to integrate all the different possible features and functions in one single platform. “How could we reduce the number of components, while having exactly the same components in each version, and also assuring an aesthetic design?” pondered Jean-Luc. 
While the engineers worked out how to make the crown customisable, with coloured rings of light, patterns, and different lantern casings to accent the luminaire wherever it is fitted, designers worked on modular parts that could be combined to create unique appeal - anywhere in the world. With cultural differences and lighting's role in creating a sense of place, this was a vital part of Schréder’s mission to help cities emphasise their character.

Where can we see the finished product?
“I’m really proud of the result and so disappointed that we didn’t get to reveal it to all our customers at Light+Building this year,” said Jean-Luc. “There are just so many possibilities and it was the ideal opportunity to showcase not only the platform but all the different technologies.” 
Still, as work calls have migrated to video calls, webinars replace events and we meet remotely, the FLEXIA was launched online. We will also be launching our new virtual- and augmented-reality digital experiences soon so that customers can really explore what they could do with this state-of-the-art platform. 
“Despite COVID-19, we’ve received the first orders for the system, and I can’t wait to see the first installations,” concluded Jean-Luc.

About the writer

Since he joined the company as a mechanical engineer in 1988, Jean-Luc has developed a wide range of urban lighting luminaires, always striving to improve design and efficiency. 
He has travelled the world, bringing a hands-on mentality to deliver the perfect solution for customers worldwide. There’s not a lot he doesn’t know about lighting! 

Connect with Jean-Luc on LinkedIn