First Light Transmitting Concrete

New Possibilities for Light Design in Facades and Claddings realised with the Light Transmitting Concrete

In contrast to glass and other transparent materials, concrete does obviously not apply to be a material suited for translucent constructions. In the year 1935, in France, the first experiments with light transmitting elements and concrete lead the way to nowadays modern material Light Transmitting Concrete. It took over 80 years to develop, but today, the German company LUCEM is able to produce in large scale concrete panels with optical fibers inside.

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The material, which now is available for worldwide use, combines the compactness of concrete and the ease of light. During daytime, it seems to be an elegant natural stone cladding which, beginning with twilight, surprises with light coming out of the material.

In this way, an elegant, non-technically looking facade becomes a media plattform for interactive light display. Completely new and huge opportunities for Architects and Architecture arise with this new technology as demonstrated on a lately completed building in Germany: the worldwide first Media Facade made with LUCEM Light Transmitting Concrete.

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At BAU 2013, the leading exhibition for Architecture, Materials and Systems, January 2013 in Munich, LUCEM presented the Making-of of the Facade: with a documentation of the building period as well as with a 6 m high Facade segment with a full colorchanging technology equipped.

The worldwide first Media Facade with LUCEM Light Transmitting Concrete has been planned and installed in 2012 and has been inaugurated on December 6th, 2012 with a opening ceremony. The Facade has a Light Transmitting Concrete Area of 120 sqm, consisting of 136 panels. The panels carry a content of 3 % optical fibers inside, which finally transmit the light through the panels.

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Each LUCEM panel is accompnied with a LED Light panel being in the same size of 150 cm x 50 cm. These LED Light panels are made with Red-Green-Blue-Chips, allowing to control more then 16 Mio. colors each. As all panels can be controled independently, the entire Facade becomes a Screen or Display.

The building owner wanted to have a Facade, which could express the Innovation of this building, by showing from time to time new light scenarios on the surface. During daytime, the Facade looks like a natural stone facade in an elegant Anthracite color, and starting with twilight, the building seems to glow – as a plain glowign area, or with moving lights.

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After years of development, the German company LUCEM achieved a level, which allows a serial production of large amount of Light Transmitting Concrete – being automated, simplified and expedited. And the costs have been reduced: the price per square meter is now roughly equivalent to that of stone. At the same time, LUCEM developed a special light source, flat LED-based building industry-adapted elements, which have been used at the Facade project with Colorchanging LEDs. This light solution allows a very energy-efficient and price-reduced solution compared to other Media-Facades. The LUCEM Media-Facade is from price point of view comparable to glass-facades. The LED-technology is completely invisible behind the LUCEM panels.

In the LUCEM Facade project at RWTH Aachen University, panels in the size of 150 cm x 50 cm have been used, forming a facade area of 30 m width x 4 m hight. Each LUCEM panel can be lit with one of 16 Mio. colors becoming brighter with the reduction of daylight. With the colorchanging technology the LUCEM panels begin to shine, when ambient light is lower then 300 lux, which is approx. 1 hour before sunset.

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The LED-panels are controled with an internet-based DMX technology. Each panel contains 3channels, one red, one green, one blue. These channel can be controlled in 255 steps from 0 to maximum light. In total 408 channels are controlled simultaneously to make the facade become a display. With a special software, the light show can be controlled via Internet and with a Mobile Phone. Single colors can be displayed as well as interactive elements like the  ‘TETRIS’ game. Also Text and Logo can be displayed.

With this worldwide first LUCEM Media Facade, the building of RWTH Aachen University sets a new milestone in the innovative Design an Realisation of ventilated Facades.

CREDITS

Client: RWTH Aachen / Bau- und Liegenschaftsbetrieb NRW
Architect: Carpus & Partner, Aachen
Building Year: 2012
Material: LUCEM LINE
Format: 150 cm x 50 cm
Quantity: 120 qm
Light System: LUCEM-LED-RGB-Lightpanel with DMX-Control

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