Nik Chambers at building services consultancy, Greenways, discusses the mechanical and electrical design for the new £15.7m visitor complex at the National Memorial Arboretum in the May issue of ABC+D Magazine…
Set in 150 acres of woodland with more than 300 dedicated memorials, the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire has been a very special place for remembering and respecting those who have served and sacrificed for their country since it first opened in 2001.
Part of The Royal British Legion, it now attracts 300,000 visitors each year – around 240,000 more than the original visitor centre was designed to accommodate.
As a result, a new visitor complex has been designed to provide additional catering and function facilities and enhanced educational and exhibition spaces while creating a building that complements its natural surroundings.
Designed by Glen Howells Architects, the new building will be delivered by main contractor, Stepnell. The design incorporates parts of the existing visitor centre, while expanding its scope and scale with a major new build scheme.
The finished project will provide a 2,670m2 visitor complex, complemented by a new, paved Memorial Square.
The project will include two, interactive exhibition spaces and an acoustic drum where visitors will enjoy immersive film shows. It will also provide a large restaurant and catering kitchen, The Rose Room function room, a café, classrooms, staff offices and a spacious main reception.
The aesthetic principles guiding the design of the new building are rooted in its woodland location and the building services design had to respect those goals while providing high levels of comfort and environmental performance.
They have been developed collaboratively between Greenways, mechanical and electrical contractor, Daly Engineering, and the architectural team, following a concept by Yes Engineering.
One of the most significant mechanical and electrical design challenges in terms of complementing the building’s aesthetics was the ventilation system, which had to be integrated across the existing and new sections of the building and meet the needs of the exhibition, catering and high traffic circulation areas.
The window-based natural ventilation initially proposed for the restaurant proved complicated due to the number of window actuators that would have been required and the issues of managing heat load and wind direction. Instead, the building services design partners developed a bespoke turret-based natural ventilation system for the restaurant and the Rose Room.
This low maintenance solution will ensure even ventilation, regardless of heat load and wind direction. It has also delivered aesthetic advantages by enabling the architect to incorporate full height bay windows in the restaurant without the visual interruption of opening mechanisms or any aesthetic challenges with the visual line of the roof.
For the exhibition areas, the acoustic drum and the back of house accommodation, a mechanical ventilation system is being installed but, once again, this had to be designed without impacting on the aesthetic design of the building. As a result, air handling units and ventilation plant are recessed within the roof and obscured by the raised façade.
While the lighting in the exhibition areas will be designed and installed by a specialist, all control infrastructure and distribution for the lighting had to form part of the building services design.
Throughout the restaurant, Rose Room and public areas the LED lighting scheme has been designed to complement both the building’s aesthetics and its environmental aims. Secto Magnum fittings, handcrafted in Finland, have been specified for the Restaurant and the Rose Room, with a wooden structure that reflects the visitor centre’s woodland setting.
Feature lighting and scene setting has been incorporated into the lighting design for the courtyard and the acoustic drum and all lighting systems are connected to daylight sensing for added energy efficiency.
The building management system (BMS) will provide overall control of the mechanical ventilation systems and provide monitoring to the natural ventilation system and comfort cooling. The heating, which will combine underfloor heating in the restaurant, Rose Room and exhibition areas, with radiators in the back of house accommodation and trench heaters adjacent to the restaurant windows, will also be integrated into the BMS and controlled by temperature sensors.
The control systems are all part of an energy management strategy for the building, in line with its natural location, which also includes the use of solar thermal energy as the main heat source for the domestic hot water supply.
Throughout the year, the Arboretum plays host to a range of notable events and activities, ranging this year from a visit by Her Majesty The Queen in May to the family-focused Armed Forces Day in June. The new Remembrance Centre will be open to the public in Autumn 2016, with visitor numbers expected to rise to 500,000 within the next five years.