Air control aids vital biomedical research

Steve Skillett, Specialist Sales Manager at Waterloo Air Products, talks about the importance of air distribution and control for top biomedical research in the Francis Crick Institute.

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iomedical research continues to play a fundamental part in the health and wellbeing of our society. As research methods and technologies advance, the labs where this work is done have also developed to achieve the most suitable environments for the precise tests being conducted. Air flow and air temperature are two key variables which must be controlled for each test to be effective.

The challenge for research organisations looking to upgrade their facilities or find a new home, is to ensure the biology underlying each individual disease or illness is researched in its optimum setting. On a lab-by-lab basis, the right air distribution products need to be used to create the correct air flow and find the balance between velocity and temperature to have the right effect on the research carried out.

Vital research

The Francis Crick Institute in Central London is one of the world’s leading centres for biomedical research. The institute occupies an impressive three acres of land, with eight storeys above ground and four more floors beneath the ground. These underground floors house high-specification biological research laboratories and require a considerable amount of HVAC equipment to control the internal environments. In the labs throughout the building, scientists will look to understand how diseases develop with the aim of developing new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses including cancers, heart disease, infections, strokes and alzheimer’s disease.

With our vast amount of knowledge in air distribution and our previous work on large projects requiring complicated air flow, we understood how best to meet the challenges the institute faced. This is why we were chosen to supply more than 10,000 air distribution products. Our extensive range of grilles and diffusers was able to achieve the various levels of airtightness to prevent contamination and ensure comfortable working environments for all personnel.

In total, we used 15 different types of products throughout the building. Over 4000 non-standard Laminar Flow diffusers were supplied each with numerous and different configurations, lengths and spigot sizes, ensuring we met the complicated criteria.

User comfort

A displacement ventilation system was also supplied to create a zone of cool, fresh air for people’s comfort. By introducing low-velocity, cool air at a low level, any heat generated in the room, either by a person, lighting or equipment, is forced to rise and is extracted at ceiling level. All contaminants produced in the lab are carried away by the calculated air flow, protecting the integrity of the research.

The large volumes of products, combined with the logistics of managing the many changes to meet evolving requirements and delivery deadlines, required a collaborative approach. We worked closely with Crown House Technologies (CHt) to make sure the correct air distribution systems were specified and available on site as required.

There are significant benefits to using a collaborative approach. In the case of the Crick, there were many special requirements that needed frequent alterations and adaptations. The design continually evolved, so as one of Waterloo’s specialist sales managers, I relocated to the Crown House site offices during the course of the project to offer expertise on a daily basis and to meet the continually changing requirements.

Strict criteria

We knew there were strict criteria for the varying levels of temperature and humidity for the different working environments. Our careful design and planning played a big role in meeting these needs and ensured noise criteria, pressure drops and air distribution was in line with the technical specification.

This is one of the largest orders of air distribution products we have supplied for a single project. We understood the level of planning and expertise needed for such an important and prestigious facility. The Francis Crick Institute accommodates more than 1250 researchers and support staff.

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