Friday, 17 August 2012

Levolux helps climate change at Eden

Built in the 60m deep crater of a china clay pit, near St Austell, Cornwall, the giant conservatories of the Eden Project capture solar energy and help recreate three of the world’s climate zones (“Biomes”) in an area the size of thirty football pitches. In order to maintain the climatic conditions natural ventilation was a vital element of the design concept and so, Levolux was set the challenge of creating a highly bespoke Glass Louvre system.

The Eden Project is both an international visitor destination and a new scientific institute; a forum to promote the understanding and responsible management of the vital relationship between plants, people and resources. The biomes are designed as a series of geodesic domes made up of giant, individually specified hexagons and pentagons which consist of lightweight galvanised steel tubular frames, triple glazed with highly transparent ETFE (ethyl tetra fluoro ethylene) foil. 

The whole structure is based on a complex 3D computer model and each side of each hexagon and pentagon panels are machined to a unique specification, to fit its position in the sphere. Working closely with a German glass manufacturer, Levolux devised a system of 20mm laminated glass ventilation louvres within mullions that fit the geometry of the design and take the place of the foil within the panels around the base of the conservatories. 

With the panels inclined and measuring up to 9m x 9m, wind loading was one of the many considerations and Levolux produced a full scale mock up of the system. Working with colleagues in Germany, aluminium mullions were developed that are not only elegant, unobtrusive and aesthetically in keeping with the main framework, but are capable of providing the necessary rigidity.
Some 500mm wide, each of the glass louvre blades operates on stainless steel pivots, but the need to provide an adequate seal when the louvres were closed called for the development of a two-part polymer moulding. Another prime concern was the need for large air handing ducts to pass through the panels. The louvres themselves are motorised and controlled by the building management system.

Michael Pawlyn, project architect, Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners commented: “There was quite a lot of collaborative work and Levolux really entered into the spirit of it. They were keen to produce a very high quality product and it proved a rewarding experience and we are very pleased with the end result. Levolux developed the system with a fair amount of ingenuity and it has subsequently performed well - I would approach them again.”

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