Friday, 8 March 2013

Levolux makes a breakthrough in Kew

A new extension to the Jodrell Laboratory at Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, required a solar shading solution to protect the world-famous collection of plant and fungi specimens housed inside. Architects Wilkinson Eyre specified Western Red Cedar Timber Fins from market leader Levolux to achieve optimum indoor temperatures at the scientific research facility.

Dating back to 1877, the Jodrell Laboratory is a world-renowned centre for laboratory-based research into plant anatomy and cytogenetics. An important strand of the work carried out by scientists is into the use of plant resources for the benefit of humans, such as fighting illnesses like cancer, malaria and diabetes.

As one of the country’s key research facilities, Kew’s Jodrell Laboratory required more space as studies into plant and fungal diversity expanded. The Wolfson Wing extension was designed to provide additional laboratories, a mycology herbarium, extended desk space for visiting scientists, improved library facilities, and improved viewing access of the laboratory for the general public.

A brick building with timber cladding, the new extension increases the size of the existing laboratory from 3,000m2 to 5,200m2 over three floors. In order to improve the building’s environmental efficiency and protect it from solar heat gain, Wilkinson Eyre specified a vertically stacked Timber Fin solar shading system from Levolux.

Engineered from Western Red Cedar, renowned for its all-weather resilience and aesthetic properties, 300mm wide Timber Fins were installed across the Wolfson Wing’s exterior window bays to prevent the sun hitting the glass. Natural light is still filtered into the building and good outward visibility retained, whilst energy costs associated with air conditioning are greatly reduced.

A vertical stack of straight and curved fins were applied to each of the 14 bays of the structure. The curved timber louvres were cut at a compound angle, enabling them to follow continuously around the curved line of the building. This delivers clean, continuous lines, as the angled plane of the curved Fins ties in seamlessly with the straight Fins.
Within each bay, the Timber Fins were split vertically into two groups: one containing five fins, the other six. Levolux also installed its Walk-on Brise Soleil above and between the projecting Fins. These provide additional shading and enable easy access for window cleaning and routine maintenance.

Carefully controlled internal temperatures are now easier to maintain, thanks to the addition of Levolux’s Timber Fins. They complement the building’s passive ventilation system, ensuring that working conditions within the laboratories and herbarium are fit for purpose.

Wilkinson Eyre Associate Geoff Turner praised Levolux’s contribution, commenting: “The most distinctive feature of the new wing at Kew is the horizontal cedar cladding. It enables the windows on these elevations to draw natural light and fresh air into the laboratories and open plan office areas, opening them up to the gardens beyond. Externally, the whole of the south and west facades are shaded by inclined timber brise-soleil louvres, creating a light timber filigree.”

The solar shading solution is also enabling Kew to offer visitors superior internal viewing access by eliminating sun glare from interpretive signage and glass-fronted laboratory facilities, as well as helping the building to sit within its natural wooded surroundings.

In opening up its behind-the-scenes activities, the Royal Botanic Gardens will make science more accessible to the public and further establish its reputation as a centre for research and conservation.

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