Posts Tagged ‘building services’

Fire sprinklers in the movies

23/08/2012

After debunking the myths surrounding ventilation ducts in Hollywood, we take a quick look at the frequent faux pas that are made with fire sprinklers.

TVTropes.org observes:

When someone needs to create chaos in a building or just get everyone to leave, they trip the sprinkler system. Just apply a lighter flame, or perhaps a bullet, to one fire sprinkler, and all of the sprinklers on that floor — or even in the entire building – will suddenly kick off. Everyone gets drenched, and there’s a mass exodus from the building.

The only problem with this is that sprinklers do not work that way. Practically all sprinkler systems are of the “wet pipe” type, where the pipe to all of the sprinklers is full of water under pressure, and the only thing stopping it coming out is a heat-sensitive valve in the sprinkler head. Heat it up enough, and the valve pops — out comes the water…read more

Day 25: Fire Sprinkler
Fire safety systems – UK suppliers – ESI.info

Apparently this trope is so prevalent in the media that people now expect sprinklers to go off all at once. This must be a source of real frustration to building services engineers and sprinkler suppliers – has anyone experienced businesses being reluctant to install sprinkler systems because they think even the smallest fire will cause enormous water damage?

Building on Fire! image: Bjorn J on flickr

This idea is corroborated by lo-fi movie mistakes website Zyra.net, which issues this plea to scriptwriters:

It may be a bit inconvenient when trying to write a plot, but really, you’ve managed OK without airships being a dreadful fire risk (they’re full of non-inflammable helium), and if a car goes off the edge of a cliff, it’s acceptable for it to burst into flames after it hits the ground rather than in anticipation just after leaving the cliff edge. So, for a quality story writer, it should be reasonably easy to factor in the truth about automatic fire extinguishing sprinklers!

Day 23: Exit
Emergency exit signage suppliers – ESI.info

Building Services engineering products – ESI.info

Ventilation ducts in Hollywood

17/07/2012

While brainstorming a blog post on ventilation ducts, one of the first images that popped into my head was Bruce Willis. The action hero is one of many who has used a duct to break in, escape or otherwise evade his enemies. But like a doctor watching an episode of E.R, the building services engineer will wince when this corny cinema cliché flashes across the screen.

TVTropes.org does a great job of exploding this and other myths from the movie world.

When heroes find themselves trapped in a room with all doors and windows locked, the quickest exit is always through the ventilation duct. Air vents also work excellently in reverse for breaking in and infiltrating a facility, as well. Covers require little or no effort to remove, openings are always within reach, they’re always able to support the weight of a person even though they were only designed to carry air, they are wide enough in diameter to allow an adult to pass through, there are no internal obstacles like bracing or blowers (except for the occasional menacing giant fan blocking the branching corridors), they are free of normal sheet metal’s dangerously sharp edges, they are totally soundproof, and there’s never a lack of light or chance of getting lost unless the plot calls for it.
And the escapee always emerges without having picked up so much as a speck of dust.

The lo-fi website zyra.tv also covers this misconception, along with other common mistakes from the movies and misconceptions from general life.

Remember:
* All ventilation shafts and ducts are easily accessible.
* Ducts are the right size for people to crawl along.
* The air flow system will not be turned on while you are crawling through the tunnels.
* All ventilation systems lead somewhere, usually somewhere useful.
* All ventilation shafts are well lit.
* All ventilation shafts are CLEAN.

However, if you are serious about ventilation, heating and air conditioning, have a look at product comparison and other resources on ESI.info Building Services.

Rainfall levels and siphonic roof drains

22/06/2012

BLÜCHER® was founded in 1965 and has since grown into one of Europe’s leading stainless steel drainage specialists. In this guest post, Frank Netherwood (Technical Manager from BLUCHER UK Ltd) explains the siphonic drainage principle and how it’s used in BLÜCHER products.

Frank Netherwood: Whilst a gravity system is simple to understand, the siphonic system is a little more complex … (more…)

The great PV break-through

15/03/2012

Ross McGuinness is Area Sales Manager for Kingspan Insulate and Generate. In this guest post, he celebrates the unprecedented take-up of solar PV, but warns it’s too early to break out the Champagne just yet…

The massive expansion of solar PV capacity in the UK has passed another milestone recently. Just a couple of weeks ago, SPV broke through the symbolic barrier of 1,000MW of installed capacity.

Sunset reflected in a solar panel, by ToGa Wanderings on Flickr

This growth has been rapid: in April 2010 there was a mere 26MW installed nationally. 23 months down the line and the industry has topped 1GW, which is a stunning result. The driver behind this seismic shift towards green, renewable energy is without a doubt the government-backed Feed-in Tariff (FiT).

This is all very positive news, and with the announcement from the Department of Energy and Climate Change some weeks ago stating their wish to have 22GW installed by 2020, you could be forgiven for thinking that everything is rosy in the SPV garden.

This announcement of several weeks ago has set out something of a roadmap for PV, but key questions need to be addressed before the industry will come out and support the new policy.

The government has destroyed any trust it may have had with the sector and it will take quite some time to repair what has become a fractious relationship. Continued court actions and appeals mean that, in the short term at least, a cloud hangs over SPV in the UK right now.

Looking at what is proposed by government, many industry insiders believe that it will be challenging to convince consumers to invest in SPV at the new rates. One of the main drivers of SPV has been the willingness of investment firms to “fund” SPV, hence the plethora of “free” installs whereby the end user got the benefit of free or discounted electricity and the funder got the Feed-in Tariff.

The new FiT rates will make it unlikely that similar funding models would be viable from an investor perspective. Funders look for an IRR of a minimum return of 7%; anything less and they simply go elsewhere for their fix. The government is on record as stating that they envisage returns of ca. 5% and will strive to ensure they do not go any higher by linking the price of PV modules to the FiT rate.

On the face of it this is a good proposal and should go some way to preventing the “Boom and Bust” that has beleaguered the industry. The mechanism has the potential to provide a sustainable and controlled future for the FiT.

In the long term, this is a positive for the industry, but short term – bearing in mind the skepticism and mistrust about the government’s attitude, and also bearing in mind the further cuts announced for July – you can understand why many are not cracking out the champagne just yet.

Solar panels in a low-tech setting: Breckenridge, Colorado

The belief is that Westminster is out of touch with where the industry is at, but most crucially and disappointingly, they fail to see where the industry can go. The Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change tweeted a couple of weeks ago that the Germans had just announced big cuts to their FiT scheme, implying that he was actually correct in pursuing the cuts here – blissfully ignoring the fact that Germany has had a Feed-in Tariff for the past decade, has a total installed capacity close on 25GW and operates on a completely different scale to the UK.

Under the new rates, the German government is proposing to pay €0.135/kWh for ground-mounted solar farms with a capacity of 10MW or less, and for rooftop installations that are 1–10MW in size. Germany is lightyears ahead of what is currently viable in this country.

There are, however, some reasons to be optimistic. The Chinese government last week directed the leading polysilicon and solar cell manufacturers to increase production, which should see prices continue to fall. That’s good news for consumers and probably bad news for non-Chinese manufacturers. China really does seem to be attempting to establish itself as the SPV equivalent of the Middle East. Continued downward pressure on price of SPV definitely looks set to continue in the short-to-medium term.

The great PV breakthrough should achieve one thing, however: SPV will at least now receive the recognition it deserves as a viable and high-quality alternative to fossil fuels. The SPV industry deserves recognition in Government energy strategy.

There is simply no reason why, if there is willingness on behalf of the powers that be, that by 2020 the UK cannot have the 22GW of solar capacity that government says it wishes to have.

Ross McGuinness, Area Sales Manager, Kingspan Insulate and Generate

Twitter: @rossmcguinness   Email: ross.mcguinness@kingspan.com

Spotlight on solar air heating

15/03/2012

Andrew Brewster leads the Renewables Design Team for the CA Group – a specialist building envelope manufacturer and installer. In this guest post, he puts one of the lesser-known solar technologies under the spotlight:

Solar air heating is a proven technology that has been developed specifically for heating large spaces. With high-profile advocates including The Royal Mail, Marks & Spencer and Jaguar Land Rover, the technology is increasingly expected to become part of the sustainability strategy of those companies leading the charge for environmental responsibility.

Harnessing sunrays to heat large spaces

What is solar air heating?
Solar air heating works by harnessing the sun’s energy via a Transpired Solar Collector (TSC), or SolarWall®. The SolarWall® technology pre-heats fresh, outside air, which is then actively drawn into the building’s heating system, contributing considerably to a reduction in the need for fossil fuels.

The technology is 100% renewable and has the effect of dramatically reducing a building’s overall heating requirement, providing significant savings in energy consumption and carbon emissions.

SolarWall® in action
CA Group recently installed the world’s largest SolarWall® on a single building for Marks & Spencer, at the retail giant’s 80,000m² East Midlands Distribution Centre (EMDC) in Castle Donington. The 4,500m² Transpired Solar Collector is expected to reduce the building’s heating requirement by somewhere in the region of 30%, by generating more than 1,135,000kWh and saving over 256t of CO2 per annum.

The SolarWall® can be seen in action at the Jaguar Land Rover training academy in this video:

The benefits
The revolutionary solar air heating system has the lowest capital cost and the highest known efficiency of any active solar technology in the world (up to 80%), generating in excess of 500 Watts of thermal energy per square meter on a clear day [Dr. Chuck Keutcher, U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)].

It also offers the quickest return on investment, with an estimated payback period of three years on new build and eight years on retrofit applications. So as well as being an excellent option from an environmental perspective, it is also one that makes good commercial sense.

Global recognition
SolarWall® has been available for almost 30 years and is used in over 35 countries globally. A number of companies have tried to emulate the system but, due to a lack of understanding and third-party testing, they have been unable to replicate SolarWall®’s level of system performance.

In the UK, as part of its ongoing development and accreditation, the technology has received the independent endorsement of five leading authorities: Oxford Brookes University, the Welsh Assembly, Cardiff University, BSRIA and BRE.

CA Group has seen a significant uptake in the technology because of the very tangible results it delivers. As awareness of the technology’s capabilities increase, the Group anticipates that solar air heating will become part of the sustainability strategy of more and more companies looking for cost-effective ways of making the biggest impact on their CO2 emissions.

CA Group’s interactive Renewables Guide offers further information on solar air heating and other renewable options geared towards the generation of power and heat for commercial, industrial and distribution centres.

More than two ways to skin a building: smart facades

01/04/2010

tanakawho on Flickr

How does an architect approach the design of a brand new building? What are the primary considerations – function, form, structure, materials, setting, sustainability?

Each designer will have their own priorities, but to the public – outsiders, neighbours and visitors – a building’s cladding forms a large part of our first impression. The cladding is the building’s face, and we often take it at face value.

Increasingly, though, new technologies are allowing a building’s skin to have functions beyond weatherproofing and decoration.

Smart skin: translucent insulation

Impression of a SmartSkin zero-energy building

Dutch architects and engineers Jon Kristinsson and Andy Dobbelsteen have released details on a new smart skin system for zero-energy buildings, conceived by Dr Noor van Andel and Mr Peter T Oei. Tests on prototypes have shown promising results.

‘Smart skin’ is a new concept: a thin translucent skin for buildings instead of walls. Groundwater is used to buffer the temperature difference between night and day and even between summer and winter. Most often, technicians think that energy losses can only be reduced by using thick insulation, or at least high-performance insulation. ‘Smart skin’ is a typical Dutch idea from a wet country with an averagely mild climate and high groundwater level. ‘Smart skin’ is not a well-insulated wall, but uses the thermal mass of groundwater for heating or cooling.

A PDF outlining the project can be downloaded here.

Smart skin: building-integrated wireless access

In another project, Ji Hoon Jeona, Woonbong Hwang, Hyun-Chul Park and Wee-Sang Park have researched the buckling loads of smart-skin composite panels, in this case for use with wireless LAN systems. Here, thin-strip antennas are incorporated into laminate cladding for building-integrated wi-fi access.

Smart skin: biomimicry

MRA's Kepos eco-hotel

An Ecofriend blog post brings details of MRA‘s Kepos eco-hotel. Designed by John Naranjo, the hotel absorbs solar and wind energy through an open skin. The double-skin building facade is meant to replicate a forest canopy:

The technical and sustainable attributes that are being reinforced by the biomimicry concept include learning from the life-supporting aspects of our living environment, obtaining energy, recycling and reclaiming resources and materials. The main component that will be applied to the building’s exterior canopy will be a special layer developed by SMIT called GROW. This canopy incorporates a combination of photovoltaic and piezoelectric technologies in one system that will absorb both solar and wind energy in one open skin.

Smart skin: carbon absorption

In a previous post, we have glanced at how living algae facades can be used to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. We have also (in our very first, tentative and terribly short blog post) looked at the emergence of living walls.

Smart skin: this is just the beginning

Through nanotechnology, biomimicry, photovoltaic energy generation, dynamic facade technology, membrane development and a growing emphasis on ‘intelligent’ building materials, building facades will increasingly have to work harder, becoming more than just a pretty face.

Cladding images, specification details and case studies can be found on ESI.info:

Industrialised, Integrated and Intelligent Construction: I3CON

16/03/2010

Industrialised, Integrated and Intelligent Construction (I3CON) is an industry-led, collaborative research project part-sponsored by the EU, involving 14 member states. The goal of the project is to develop innovations that will help deliver ultra high-performance buildings.

Pierre Bédat on Flickr

I3CON, which opened in 2006 and completes in September 2010, has involved large and small organisations, academic institutions and commercial firms from across Europe. With a total project cost exceeding 17 million euro, the hope is that the project will provide competitive advantages for designers, contractors and manufacturers.

The project aims to contribute to the creation of a sustainable European construction industry, by

delivering technologies for a smart building services system using distributed control systems with embedded sensors, wireless connections, ambient user interfaces and autonomous controllers.

The I3CON Handbook – a comprehensive document detailing performance measurement metrics, architectural concepts, services, processes, systems, modelling, demonstration and training – can be downloaded for free.

The project is certainly not lacking in ambition:

a new approach for industrialised production of building components with integrated services and intelligence will be created. These building components will be multifunctional, efficient, sustainable, reusable, interoperable and user friendly. The underlying new business model will shift current working practices from custom-designed and craft-made delivery to industrial production. … Ultra high-performance buildings will be delivered 50% faster and 25% cheaper, with lifecycle cost reductions >40% and savings in repair and maintenance in excess of 70%, together with enhanced comfort and security.

UK’s own BSRIA is involved in the project, and is hosting a ‘Community of interest‘ event on the 28th April at their HQ in Berkshire.

April Sanders on Flickr

Meanwhile, recognising the ever-increasing role of sustainability in building services engineering, CIBSE offers a Sustainability Toolkit via their online bookshop. They describe their Guide L: Sustainability as “one of the most important and far-reaching guides ever to be released by the Institution”.