A unique approach to public engagement Neuron Pod
The £1.8m Neuron Pod is a new extension to the existing Centre of the Cell at the Blizard Institute of Queen Mary University of London, located in East London’s Whitechapel.
The pod, which may look a bit like a hedgehog, has been designed to resemble a nerve cell and will provide 86m2 of multi-functional space to be used for seminars, exhibitions, performances and interactive workshops which are aimed to inspire a younger generation to pursue a career in science.
The structure of the pod is to be pre-fabricated from weathering steel and assembled on site to speed up construction. Its design has been based on the existing 3-dimensional forms of cells and molecules already present within the Blizard Institute, with acrylic ‘hairs’ to be fitted with fibre-optic LEDs to illuminate the pod at night, completing its neuron cell image.
Our team were appointed by Queen Mary University of London to carry out building services engineering work, collaborating alongside aLL Design architects on this unique and inspiring development. We worked on the thermal envelope which will be applied with at least 150mm spray foam insulation to minimise the energy consumption required for the heating and cooling of such a complex structure. This foam insulation will also become part of the finished coating that will be applied to the pod’s walls.
Heating, cooling and ventilation will be provided by an air source heat pump and heat recovery ventilation unit, providing free cooling and renewable energy heating to the pod for the majority of the year. Ventilation to the occupied space will be via high induction floor grilles to maximise the available floor area, keeping the walls and ceiling clear so that the form of the building can be appreciated.
The interior will include detachable linear LED lights to allow for maximum flexibility in lighting scenes to suit the multi-function room and minimise energy use, in addition to being in line with the project budget.
The HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems can be accessed from the ‘underbelly’ of the structure to minimise any disruption to the space above. The system is designed with a duty-duty ventilation which will provide the pod with extra resilience and to allow it to operate continuously during maintenance. This technology will also provide a link back to the main University Building Management System via Trend Control BEMS (Building Energy Management).
As the pod is provided with a high performance thermal envelope and efficient HVAC systems, it is able to achieve an Energy Performance Certificate Rating of “A” and a score of 24 at the current design stage. The performance exceeds the client’s requirement for an EPC Rating of “B” and a score of 40.
Clive Morris, Technical Director, commented; “We are proud to be involved in this project which will greatly enhance our client’s ability to inspire the next generation of scientists and healthcare professionals, in addition to creating a global centre of excellence in public engagement.”
The project is scheduled for completion mid-2018.