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WATERLOO CASE STUDY: University of Birmingham School of Engineering

Engineering innovators of the future will be studying in comfort and style at the University of Birmingham’s brand new £46.5m School of Engineering building, thanks to Waterloo’s innovative air distribution products.


Waterloo’s Thermally Actuated and Fixed Blade Swirl Diffusers, Louvre Faced Diffusers and Airline and Eggcrate Grilles were used extensively throughout the building. These quality products were selected for their ability to meet the challenges of heating and cooling a double-height atrium and provide precise colour matching to the building design.

This inspiring 12,000 sqm, five-floor space, delivered by national contractor Willmott Dixon, has been designed to bring together students, academics and industry partners from many engineering disciplines in one multi-functionary facility. The state-of-the-art building offers a variety of contemporary and flexible design and research spaces to bring together engineering disciplines, spark innovation and strengthen teaching and research partnerships. These include a dedicated student support hub, a new 179-capacity design centre, a 50-seat electronics and electrical focused projects space, 34 flexi-bays for staff and student interactions, three 50-seat seminar rooms and 160 drop-in study spaces.

Working with mechanical engineering contractor NG Bailey, Waterloo was asked to propose a package of high-quality air distribution products for use throughout the building. The system had already been designed to Stage 4 by ARUP and then finalised and adopted by NG Bailey, with the final aesthetics approved by Associated Architects. Waterloo’s task was to identify the products that would satisfy the system requirements whilst also matching the wide range of specified colours and finishes.

“This is never a straightforward task, but it’s one at which we excel,” said Waterloo Area Manager Mark Horsley. “There is a great deal of detail involved in specifying the correct products for a design on paper if it is to be workable in practice. Because we offer such a wide range of products, we can always find solutions that will deliver optimum performance in operation.”

One of the main challenges of this project was the aesthetics. The design of the system meant that many of the products would be on show and would therefore need to be colour-matched precisely to blend seamlessly with the surrounding finishes. Waterloo was able to match a wide range of RAL paint finishes to ensure that the right product could be used without compromising on appearance.

Waterloo answered the challenge of heating and cooling the impressive double-height atrium by installing Thermally Actuated Swirl Diffusers (SDACH) at high level (up to 20m). These variable swirl diffusers automatically sense the temperature of the air supply and adjust the blade angle accordingly without the need for a power supply. This constant adjustment works for both vertical and horizontal throw and ensures excellent induction and best comfort in the occupied zone.

Optimum comfort conditions were achieved for all the office, study and workshop areas by using Fixed Blade Swirl Diffusers (SDFC). These attractive and aerodynamic ceiling or duct-mounted diffusers were ideally suited to the high heating and cooling differentials of the building’s range of occupied spaces. Used throughout the project in both ceiling and sidewall applications were Louvre Faced Diffusers (DF41), Eggcrate Grilles (GC5) and Airline Linear Grilles (ALG) which are available in the wide range of special options and finishes that made them so well-suited to this project.

Matt Mayo, NG Bailey’s Mechanical Project Engineer for the School of Engineering, said: “For a development where there is a lot of complexity in the design, it is vital that the specialist partners we work with are able to provide a high level of service every step of the way. We approached Waterloo for this project because we knew they would be able to supply high quality, high performance products. They matched this with the degree of attention to detail and collaboration that we need to deliver a first-class result to our client.”

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