Acer Arena - Sydney

Sydney's Acer Arena was the first stadium in the world to use photo-luminous path-finding systems. ecoglo Ltd, which makes the ecoglo® range of photo-luminous products, reports on how this new approach to path-finding improves safety and increase incentives for patrons to use stadium facilities during events. This article appeared in the September 1999 issue of Panstadia magazine.

A photo-luminous way-finding system that helps the flow of patrons around arenas and stadia uses a revolutionary technology that until now has lit up children's toys.

Called ecoglo®, this environmentally friendly system of way-finding eliminates the need for expensive electrical lighting of aisles, rows and exits.

The patented ecoglo® process seals a specially developed photoluminescent substance onto aluminium, for use as stair nosing and aisle and seat numbering. ecoglo® improves the quality of lighting in subdued and black out conditions at a fraction of the cost of electrical light, the traditional energy source used for way-finding.

Inexpensive and easy

The low cost and easy installation of ecoglo® allows stadium managers to take a flexible approach to way-finding, depending on the nature of the event.

ecoglo Ltd's interest in way-finding stemmed from discussions with members of the stadium industry, particularly fire engineers, indicating that traditional way-finding is regarded as an expensive and maintenance-heavy area of stadium management.

To install electrically powered way-finding, concrete must be drilled for internal wiring, and expensive aisle lighting and stair protection developed to ensure safety from electrical risk and health and safety hazards.

As the gradient of the seating increases, so does the cost to facility managers, because it means that more than one light is required to illuminate the steps between each row of seats.
There are also significant ongoing maintenance costs along with observable wear and tear.

The comfort zone

The prospect of losing their way forces patrons out of their comfort zone once the lights dim, and strengthens their incentive to stay seated.

With a lack of clear directions for returning to their seats, they are less likely to leave their seat for a refreshment break, reducing potential facility income during an event.

ecoglo® heralds a major step forward in the science of way-finding for stadiums and arenas. ecoglo® is a passive illumination system enabling patrons to enter and leave an event safely after the lights go out.

These powerful photo-luminous stair nosings and aisle and seat numbering systems meet the world's most stringent fire and safety regulations. Sealed inside industrial strength safety systems, ecoglo® can bear the wear and tear of the most boisterous patrons.

Olympic performance

ecoglo®'s first major way-finding task was to glow for the Sydney Acer Arena.

Located in Sydney's Olympic Park, the indoor arena was built by major Australian construction company Abigroup. Abigroup utilises leading edge economic and environmental solutions to issues such as lighting, air conditioning and security.

This 20,000-seat arena housed the Sydney 2000 Olympic basketball and gymnastics competitions. The state-of-the-art Superdome was developed in the context of a move towards performance-based criteria in the Australian building code - reflecting an international trend predominant in Europe and North America.

This code no longer strictly prescribes rules for aspects of stadium design such as way-finding, but enables fire engineers and architects to recommend solutions that are most suited to the purpose and objectives of the venue.

This more flexible building code allowed Abigroup the scope to investigate environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional stadium way-finding.

Electric lighting was not an attractive option. The Acer Arena uses an American approach to stadium seating, with no crossovers and many aisles, potentially requiring a huge number of aisle lights. The size of the Superdome - featuring four levels of patron seating in a building with an area of close to 20,000 square meters - meant electrical lighting would have to be wired over huge distances at substantial cost.

Abigroup and the Millennium Group, which operates the stadium, would also have to conduct regular checks to make sure each light was working, and replace faulty lights.

The ecoglo® alternative

For Richard Polkinghorne, senior design manager for Abigroup, photo-luminous aisle lighting and numbering was very attractive.

With the help of fire engineers Marianne Foley and Hamish McLennan, of consulting firm Holmes Fire and Safety, Abigroup investigated alternatives to electrically lit way-finding.
Other options explored included spot lighting, which was rejected because it would distract both audience and performers during events.

Foley and McLennan recommended that a photo-luminous solution would best meet Abigroup's needs because it does not require electricity or expensive maintenance.

The decision to support a photo-luminous system was not taken lightly. The Acer Arena is the first stadium to house a photo-luminous system for way-finding anywhere in the world. As a new option in such an important area of stadium design and management, the details of photo-luminous way-finding involved extensive discussions between Foley, the Olympic Coordination Authority overseeing the project, the New South Wales Fire Brigade and a Certification Consultant.

Stringent criteria

Their considerations led to criteria that would satisfy:

* Strict fire safety and performance guidelines These were set at an output from the photo-luminous material of 10 millicandelas per square meter measured 140 minutes after exposure to light. The charging light source is set at 120 lux (dull office light) and exposure lasts 30 minutes. (120 lux is equivalent to approximately 11 foot candles.)

* Environmental standards Eco-rating principles were developed taking into account the desirability of principles such as zero greenhouse effect, use of solar energy, recycling, use of biodegradable materials and durable materials.

ecoglo Ltd worked to meet the Holmes Fire and Safety specifications in developing the ecoglo® photo-luminous system.

This process enabled ecoglo® to tailor a system of stair nosing and aisle numbering that more than halved the cost that would have been faced if an electrically-sourced system had been installed.

Cost reductions were also seen in a low maintenance program that required only cleaning.
Easy to install, the ecoglo® stair nosings and disks glue to almost any surface and last the lifetime of the stadium. Polkinghorne cites the lower expense and ecological soundness of the photo-luminous solution as key features that convinced Abigroup to install the new system.


The collaborative and tailored nature of the work ecoglo undertook with Abigroup led to the installation of ecoglo® in Grahame Park Stadium (now called Bluetongue Stadium), a 30,000-seat rugby league ground north of Sydney.

The potential of ecoglo® for the stadium industry is enormous, particularly in the development of way-finding alternatives for emergencies.

ecoglo® Ltd is working with fire safety engineers and architects to develop the potential of other way-finding solutions such as exit signs and direction signage in stadiums and other public assembly venues.

The flexibility of ecoglo® means there is also potential to serve the conference and trade show sectors. ecoglo® applies well to an exhibition environment because it is so easy to install. For instance, a warehouse to be converted to an exhibition space, can be easily retrofitted, reducing the need for expensive and complicated wiring.

The development of ecoglo® means that patrons will be stepping out during games with much more confidence. It also means stadium managers and event organisers are secure in the knowledge that they have achieved greater safety at lower cost.

Stadium designers can now use photoluminescence to create better performing, more cost-effective way-finding that is superior to the traditional electrical systems.

Although it will not be able to shed light on the final score at a stadium, ecoglo® lights the path for way-finding innovation.