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A Nobel project

A unique cold room project for Plymouth University, backed by  a high-profile professor, provided a real challenge for J&E Hall - register for free to view

As projects go, the designing and building of a dual-compartment cold room at Plymouth University to support cutting-edge research into climate change was one of the more unusual ones for J&E Hall. Tackled by the company’s team of design and build specialists, the needs of the university meant that an innovative approach was called for with this particular cold room, which included specialist lighting, ventilation and close temperature control.

What also made this project that bit special was  that it features the work of Professor Camille Parmesan, a Nobel Prize winner and world-renowned conservation biologist. Professor Parmesan is carrying out research into the effects of climate change on plant and insect life.

J & E Hall, which specialises in the design and installation of industrial cooling systems, chilled storage and industrial process refrigeration plant, was chosen to carry out the work in a laboratory at the university, after tendering through Sell2Plymouth.co.uk, a partnership between Plymouth’s public sector buyers and private industry.

Seasonal variations

In charge of the project was Simon Pillinger, J & E Hall’s sales and application engineer for the South West. He said: “This was a job with a difference, working on behalf of the university and, indirectly, a Nobel Prize winner. It was a project needing a high level of cooling, lighting and electrical expertise. Professor Parmesan has been carrying similar work on climate change in America. We had been asked to follow a specification for a similar laboratory in Austin, Texas, but had little information about what was needed to complete the job.

“Rather than cool the compartments, we decided to take the heat out of them. Our task was to maintain a temperature of between 4 deg C to 12 deg C in one chamber and 15 deg C to 25 deg C in the other. Together with the temperature reduction, to maintain the right conditions for the plants the system had to imitate the 24-hour cycle and seasonal variations. It was a challenging job.”

The cold room is built of 80 mm powder-coated white steel and is 2.25 m-wide, 3.2m-long and 2.3m-high. It is supplied and built by Stancold of Bristol. Three-tier shelving has been installed on to three walls of each compartment. Over two-tiers of each level of shelving, Growlux high-frequency specialist lighting tubes have been fitted. There are eight lighting tubes per tray and 10 trays per chamber.

Mr Pillinger said: “The design of the lighting trays and their arrangement came from J & E Hall. It was necessary to disperse the heat produced by the lighting without causing a draft over the plants below. This left us between a rock and a hard place. So we came up with the idea of perforated-plate fan plenums to disperse the heat from the lighting tubes, wall mounted below the level of each variable height lighting tray.”

A bespoke control panel has been installed to help simulate the progression of sunlight and temperature control. The project required similar electrical expertise to match the knowledge on the cooling and lighting side.

Matching specifications

An Eco-dual dual discharge evaporator has been fitted to each compartment, to ensure the correct temperature is maintained, supported by two condensing units in the basement plant-room. The complex control panels were built by Gomer Solutions of Cardiff, while the system was installed and commissioned by All Seasons Comfort Cooling of Bristol.

Professor Parmesan’s work forms part of a prestigious research project for the university, as technical manager Peter Russell explains: “We are delighted that Professor Parmesan can conduct some of her research here in Plymouth as well as continuing her work in Texas. She has a fine reputation for her research on the effects that climate change has on plants and insects.”

“J & E Hall’s work in designing and building the cold room will make a significant contribution to supporting this. We needed this extra temperature-controlled space to allow Professor Parmesan to work with us, and we are very pleased with the project.”

Mr Pillinger concluded: “We worked closely with the client and their research specialists to design the cold room, and the outcome has matched their specifications exactly. In all, it took four weeks to install, and is yet another example of how J & E Hall’s technical team can find solutions to the most difficult of cooling problems.”

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