Willem Dammers (TRILUX)

‘Light as a service is definitely the future’

By: Jessica Merkens

Willem Dammers is Managing Director at TRILUX Benelux. How can lighting contribute to the energy transition? A conversation about circular production, smart systems and leasing light.

Where did your own fascination with light start?

“Well, that’s kind of funny. Before working at TRILUX, I was in the roof tile business. When I would walk down the street, I would always look up at the roof tiles. When I started working at TRILUX twenty years ago, I didn’t have much feeling with lighting. But when I do something, I do it one hundred percent. I put energy and passion into it and I got caught the lighting bug. I still look up when I walk down the street, but now I look up at the lighting. TRILUX is a family company that’s been in business for 110 years. When I started here, the family just started to retire from the daily operations side. It was a beautiful moment. There was a need for more information and structure. I have a background in business economics and was able to contribute to the transition with my previous experiences.”

Willem Dammers @ Light Campus Amersfoort

You’re the Managing Director of TRILUX Benelux since 2018. What is the most important lesson you learned?

“If you want to describe our culture, I think we’re very innovative and like to think along with our client. Sometimes you think so far ahead that you take on too much responsibility as a company. You’ve got to have an organisation that’s able to do all that and can focus on it. Sometimes we just want to work too quickly and then we have to take a step back, set up the organisation, hire the right people. And then it’s time for the next step.”

What has been the biggest change in the lighting business in the past ten years?

“Light has become digital. It gave us the opportunity to do a lot more with light. The infrastructure that we make with our lighting can be used to add sensors and beacons. Beacons are GPS coordinates in your building that can communicate with a tablet or a smartphone via Bluetooth. You can use this to measure the use of your building: temperature, CO2, the actual presence of users. It helps to make optimal use of the building.”


We made every fixture visible in the cloud

For example, the presence of people in a room and whether the light should be on or off?


Is there one specific project that you remember fondly?

“The very first project in which we really pioneered and thought of something new together with the client, was the distribution centre of Rhenus in collaboration with DOKVAST. It’s a logistical hall in Son en Breugel. We designed a light management system that did not exist yet in this particular form. We developed it on-site. It did cause us some stress. But it was great to work in such a hands-on way. To see how a project is progressing, how installers and project managers work and what’s important for them. You learn a lot in that way.”

A light management system: what is it exactly?

“We want to think of the most energy-efficient solution whilst ensuring functionality. By using LED lighting, you can already save a lot of energy. But taking that extra step means that you turn the lights on when somebody is present in the room and turn them off when they leave. And also, how much light comes in from outside? Natural light is free. We mix it with just enough artificial lighting to have your company function properly. A light management system includes all of that. At DOKVAST, we also thought of lighting in the hall that turns on in front of you and turns off behind you. It moves when you move. It’s gorgeous and has never been done before. Because lighting has become digital, every fixture has its own IP address. We made every fixture visible in the cloud, so maintenance can be done efficiently. We can send a signal to tech support like this: ‘attention. This fixture is approaching the end of its lifespan and needs to be changed’. The building has gotten the BREEAM sustainability label.”

Dokvast B.V. New Logic VIII Tilburg


The most stunning light comes from outside. You want to use it as much as possible.

That’s a good Segway to the next subject: sustainability. What role can light play in this?

“An important role of course. All buildings in the Netherlands have to convert to energy label C. And one of the easiest ways to reach a better label, is to replace fluorescent lighting with LED. By doing this this, you already save seventy percent. The second step is to make your system smart, so that it only uses light when you need it. And third is to add as little artificial lighting to the light you get from outside. I call it ‘daylight harvesting’. The most stunning light comes from outside. You want to use it as much as possible. You have to handle energy resources sustainably. That is key in our organisation. We did a beautiful project in Utrecht, the Knoop barracks. The developer wanted to build a pavilion next to it and asked if we could think about a concept where we wouldn’t provide the light, but the functionality of light. Then after fifteen years we’d have to take back the fixture. This became The Green House. We learned a lot from this project.”


Raw materials are scarce and are running out. That’s the most pressing issue in construction.

Is this the future: service models? What are its benefits?

“You’re making the journey from product to service. What our client needs is light. Why can’t we guarantee that the light in a building is burning for the next ten years? If there are technological advances in those ten years, you can apply those. The technique needs to follow its users, not lead them. If you do so as a company, you remain owner of your products. We can take back the fixtures at the end of their functional life and use them as raw material for new products. This gives a leg up on the competition of importers that have to get parts from China. In this way, you can develop products and apply materials that are easy to recycle.”

When you talk about the recycling of raw materials, are you talking about Rare Earth Elements too?

“Not only that. I’m talking about plastics and metals too. The prices for metals like copper are rising. We buy more and more. We would rather take back our products at the end of their functional life, so we can make beautiful new products out of them.”

Willem Dammers

That’s not only sustainable, it also has an economic benefit.

“That’s right. You can see that the market is heading that way. In 2050 a large part of our products need to be circular. Earlier on you asked me what I have learnt. I realised you first have start on a small scale to build a basis for the next step. In Arnhem, we took back the old fixtures of two parking garages. We are now researching how we can reuse those raw materials in new products. Like the cap of a fixture. The granules of those caps go to the factory, where we make it into new products. How cool is it, if those parking garages are lit by fixtures that have been produced by the raw materials of previous projects?”

That’s hopeful...

“Definitely. But there is so much to do. You need to ask yourself: what is sustainable? Is circularity: ‘I’ll take back the fixtures and throw them in the trash’? Or is circularity: ‘I’ll take back the products and use them in a new solution’? Raw materials are scarce and are running out. That’s the most pressing issue at the moment.”

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