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Maintaining the pulse

Alexandria Library

Deep in the Alexandria Library lie the heart and lungs of the massive building. The lowest basement is a warren of shady rooms crammed with the plant that keeps the building alive.

Holes had to be left in the below ground floors so that the four 20 tonne chillers which keep the library supplied with cool, fresh air could be lowered down to fourth basement level. A multitude of humming switch boxes make sure the building's electrical systems keep running.

'It is the sheer size that is impressive, ' says AC-BB M&E engineering manager Robyn Thomas. Thomas has been seconded to the joint venture from Balfour Beatty's M&E sister company, Balfour Kilpatrick. He is no stranger to large air conditioning projects having spent many years working in United Arab Emirates.

'The services problem has been trying to fit it all in. Some of the security systems are impressive. The library is a government building so it is very security conscious. For example there are computer controlled bollards in the driveway, ' he says.

One of the M&E design requirements was that library users should not see anything of the services. The air conditioning ductwork runs up a 700mm gap behind the internal wall cladding and inside channels cast into the roof beams. The electrical power cables are pressed into galvanised steel sheets cast beneath the floor screeding.

'If you drill a 100mm diameter hole anywhere on the floor you will always pick up four channels, ' says Thomas.

Environmental issues have been put at the top of the agenda.

'We have avoided using CFCs to meet the ozonefriendly requirements of the Montreal Protocol, ' explains Hamza Associates' M&E manager Nasr Fawzi.

'Carbon monoxide build-up in the underground car parks is removed by fans that automatically start sucking out carbon monoxide as soon as levels reach 75pp.'

The whole assembly is automated and controlled by a sophisticated computerised building control system designed by Hamza Associates. 'The brain controls everything, ' says Fawzi.

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