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Technical environment

Technical environment

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Sherborne Abbey, Somerset, Great Britain

Sherborne Abbey

Shining a Light on Thirteen Centuries of History

Sherborne Abbey, also known as the Abbey Church of St. Mary the Virgin, is a Church of England church in Sherborne, located in the beautiful English county of Dorset. The history of the Abbey, dates back to the year 705. Throughout its history, it has been a Saxon cathedral (705–1075), a Benedictine abbey church (998–1539), and since 1539, a parish church.

Today Sherborne Abbey, holds a variety of meanings for the community. To some it is the most spectacular historical building in Dorset, with its incredible fan vaulted ceiling, the earliest great fan-vaulting in England, referenced by Simon Jenkins in his book, England’s Thousand Best Churches, ‘I would pit Sherborne’s roof against any contemporary work of the Italian Renaissance.’ For others, it is a place of song, renowned for its choir, its music and its bells, with the heaviest peal of eight bells in the world. Music fills the abbey and the nearby picturesque countryside, bringing joy and hope to its people. And for those historians among us, the Abbey is a place of thirteen centuries of history, ever since St Aldhelm, new bishop of the West Saxons, chose to build his cathedral there. Two Saxon kings are buried there and for over 800 years the chanting of Benedictine monks filled the air. Thomas Wyatt, Tudor courtier and poet, was buried there and Sir Walter Raleigh worshipped there. The Abbey is the spiritual home for a large and vibrant Christian community, but first and foremost it is a place of prayer and worship and a space which brings the community together. ERCO were specified to bring 21st century illumination to thirteen centuries of history.

Brighter Illumination with half the energy

Twelve years ago, the Abbey undertook a refurbishment using Halogen luminaires, with LED not being as reliable or affordable at the time. With the recent move to LED illumination across the built environment, the Abbey, as part of their wider refurbishment project, sought to replace the halogen with LED technology, for a more energy-efficient scheme. The goal was to reduce their carbon footprint and become more sustainable whilst staying true to their heritage. Spectrum Electrical Group were appointed to manage the lighting project working closely with the Abbey and B2 Architects. ERCO Lighting have a strong history of delivering world class contemplation projects, which alongside their LED technology and future-proof solutions, contributed to the decision to specify them to provide the tools to re-illuminate this historic building for the community. With the intricacy of the architecture, replacing luminaire for luminaire, mitigated any structural challenges, associated with historic buildings such as installing cables through stone walls. The brief was to refurbish the existing lighting scheme and replace the halogen fittings with LED solutions.

‘’Here at the Abbey, we are astounded by the results of the ERCO solutions. Worshippers, have walked in who have been coming here for 20 years, and have now commented on details of the architecture, they hadn’t noticed before. The history of the Abbey has been brought to life’’, Chris Hamon, one of the Vergers’ of Sherborne Abbey. This sustainable and future-proof approach, provided more light per unit and has beautifully enhanced the entire lighting effect for this place of contemplation. Overall the new solutions, have doubled the illuminance within the Abbey, improved uniformity and reduced the energy consumption by 60%.

Sherborne Abbey

ERCO’s Lightgap luminaires have been installed within the window reveals to provide inconspicuous grazing, delicately bringing a warmth to the stone features. Using ERCO’s Parscan spotlight, to illuminate features such as the Nave, Lady Chapel and the Altar, a sense of depth and dimension has been achieved, carrying ones gaze through the intricate and historic architecture. The solutions provide ambience, with a warm white 3000K throughout the space, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere for worshippers. This echoes that of museum and gallery lighting, illuminating key features and drawing the community to the space. The luminaires offer not only, form, but function, re-illuminating previous dark areas, with minimal natural light, worshippers can now enjoy visual comfort whilst singing from their hymn books.

Flexible technology

Sherborne Abbey is at the very heart of the community. Throughout the year, the church hosts a variety events from art and meditation sessions, choir practice and the concerts. Alongside refurbishing the scheme with LED technology, a digital control solution had to be integrated. This responsive design approach is crucial to human centric lighting solutions to cultivate activity, create atmosphere and enhance architecture. An ideology ERCO upholds throughout its projects.

Using the Dali control system, the lighting scheme harmoniously responds to the requirements of the Abbey, allowing for end-user control to set scenes for different events and daily worship. Chris Hamon, recalls the previous lighting solutions, ‘‘We had zero flexibility on some of the luminaires, only on or off, whilst others were dimmable. This new integration provides us with full control and autonomy of the lighting. It has noticeably increased engagement with worshippers and supports our goal to bring the community together.’’

Sherborne Abbey
Sherborne Abbey

ERCO’s Parscan and Stella luminaires, are dimmable to 0.1% with no flicker and can be increased to full illuminance without glare. Using the highest quality LED chips, the lumen maintenance has been significantly reduced, whilst providing optimum illuminance levels. The whole relighting project has fulfilled the brief from energy reduction, to practicality. Part of the refurbishment, sought to integrate emergency lighting, with Parscan 6W, providing safe and directional solutions, this was also provided by ERCO.

Sherborne Abbey
Sherborne Abbey

Circular economy

As part of the collective vision of the project, no light nor luminaire has been wasted. Upholding the values of the client and the ERCO Greenology© ethos, the previous halogen luminaires have been rehabilitated. Working with the team at Light Project, the old projectors were collected and will be re-used. Some of the previous theatrical spotlights were donated to Rose Bruford Drama School. Steve Thompson, Sales Director, ERCO Lighting UK & Ireland, ‘‘At ERCO, we have a responsible approach to design and this is echoed through the wider project at Sherborne Abbey. It was a pleasure to work with the team at Light Project, to find solutions to re-use and recycle the old luminaires.’’

Sherborne Abbey

Illuminating the community

Spectrum Electrical Group, B2 Architects and ERCO have achieved 21st Century illumination within this historic Abbey. From intricate architecture carved into the stone walls, to bringing light to the choir and enhancing the mesmerising fan-vaulted roof. The Abbey has a new, sustainable lighting solution, oriented to activity, atmosphere and architecture. With integrated responsive technology the Abbey achieves flexibility moving from daily service to evening events, creating an engaging space for the community and worshippers. Through the refurbishment Sherborne Abbey has remained true to its heritage, to create a place of prayer, worship and peace. A space for the community, whatever your faith or belief.

Sherborne Abbey

Luminaires used

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