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25 years of loving construction: County Hall, London

A picture showing County Hall, London, as it looks today, with the London Eye in the background. We were involved in work there around 2000. Picture copyright Google Maps

County Hall, London, as it looks today, with the London Eye in the background. We were involved in work there around 2000. Picture: copyright 2017 Google Maps

In the run-up to SCS Group’s 25th anniversary in December, we are publishing a series of case studies looking back at our work over the years. In the first in the series, we look back at County Hall, London, an impressive development which we were involved in around the year 2000.

A graphic to illustrate that SCS Group is looking back at its work over 25 years in construction

SCS Group is looking back at its work over 25 years in construction

COUNTY Hall, London, was a memorable job for us.

It was an exciting development which took place around the year 2000 and saw us working on a prestigious, well-known building in the heart of the city.

Almost opposite the Houses of Parliament, County Hall was for many years the home of London’s government, in the form of the London County Council and latterly the Greater London Council (GLC) and Inner London Education Authority (ILEA).

Projects Director Christopher Jones was a Projects Engineer back then, a new recruit to what was then Smoke Control Services Ltd, and working out of our then base at Bedwas House Industrial Estate, Caerphilly.

A picture of Christopher Jones, Projects Director, who remembers attending a smoke test at the London Eye booking area

Christopher Jones, Projects Director, remembers attending a smoke test at the London Eye booking area

He remembers: “I’d been working for Smoke Control Services for just a week when Allan Meek, our Managing Director, phoned me. He said I needed to get the company van with all the smoke test equipment and then pick him up the next day at 4.30am. I then had to drive us up to County Hall for a smoke test in the BA London Eye’s booking area.

“I’d never been to that site before and it was the first smoke test I’d done at Smoke Control Services. It was a full hot smoke test and was carried out on completion of the project. The test was witnessed by the building control and fire authorities.”

He added: “It all went to plan and everything worked and I really enjoyed seeing it all.”

The BA London Eye’s booking area was just one part of our work at that site, as we were fortunate enough to be involved in a number of projects on the development which demonstrated the range of services offered by the company. It is notable that our involvement in the later projects arose from recommendations based on our ability to innovate to find solutions under testing circumstances on previous assignments.

The site saw dramatic change at that time and was extensively developed for leisure and hotel use.

Some of the projects are briefly discussed below with details of our involvement:

The British Airways London Eye
Client: MACE/Alandale Construction
Project value: £20,000

We provided a smoke control system to the booking area to enable safe evacuation of the public. We used a mechanical extract system comprising high temperature fans with fire-rated distribution ductwork, the system was designed and installed by us. An automatic drop smoke curtain was installed to contain the smoke within the extract zone. Installation took place at night to prevent disruption to trading.

Dali Universe
Client: The Chinman Partnership
Project value: £13,500

The Dali Universe was an innovative 3,000-square metre exhibition at County Hall, dedicated to the works of Salvador Dali. We were employed as the Fire Consultant and designed a smoke control system to meet the stringent requirements of this Section 20 building. The design was based on the worst-case scenario, a fire at basement level with a rising plume of smoke entering the ground floor area. The solution was to install a series of automatic drop smoke curtains in the basement to limit and direct the smoke from any one of the rooms in which a fire might occur. A mechanical extract system was then installed at ground level to cope with both a fire in the basement and also at ground floor level. Hot smoke tests proved the effectiveness of the complete system.

It's 17 years since the County Hall development and we're still proud of our work. This picture shows a wall mural featuring County Hall with descriptions of the projects we worked on in our reception at our Cardiff HQ

It’s 17 years since the County Hall development and we’re still proud of our work – you can see a wall mural featuring County Hall with descriptions of the projects we worked on in our reception at our Cardiff HQ

Fish @ County Hall
Client: Four Seasons Air Conditioning
Project value: £64,650

We provided a smoke control system to enable firefighting access in an emergency.

The design was to satisfy Local Authority and Section 20 requirements. We designed a mechanical extract system to maintain a smoke-free clear layer of 1.75m above the floor level.

The system comprised high temperature extract fans and controls with fire-rated distribution ductwork above the false ceiling of the restaurant. The complete system was installed and commissioned by us.

McDonald’s
Client: McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd
Project value: £1,850

McDonald’s wanted to enlarge its kitchen area to handle the increased trade from the number of attractions that now exist in and around County Hall. This required a re-appraisal of the current forms of smoke control for means of escape and firefighting. As consultants we were called in at an early stage to assess and review the existing provision and make recommendations to Lambeth Building Control.

The solution entailed increasing the natural cross flow ventilation for the ground floor area including the kitchen and a mechanical system using high temperature fans and motors combined with the use of fire-rated ducting and smoke damper control for the back-up area.

Ned’s Noodle Box
Client: Ned’s Noodle Box
Project value: £10,900

The brief was to design and install a smoke control system to allow safe evacuation and firefighting access to this restaurant occupying part of the County Hall site.

We designed a natural smoke ventilation system to maintain the free area required for cross flow ventilation. The system comprised natural ventilators and fire-rated ductwork located above the false ceiling. Inlet louvres were integrated into the existing façade.

Namco Station
Client: Proun Architects
Project value: £1,500.00

A dazzling, brilliant, interactive experience on a massive scale – 35,000 square feet of pulsating fun and games, developed and operated by the global Japanese entertainment corporation Namco.

The development of a new cellar and store area ran into difficulties because of the lack of smoke ventilation. We were called in to give design advice and propose a solution acceptable to the Local Authority.

We designed a mechanical extract system for both containment and firefighting purposes using high temperature fans and motors together with fire-rated ducting.

All Bar One
Client: Bass Taverns
Project value: £2,050

For this popular bar and restaurant – located within the County Hall complex – we designed a smoke control system to the ground floor bar areas and the basement ‘back of house’ facilities compliant with Section 20 of the GLC London Building Acts.

We designed a mechanical extract system comprising high temperature fans with fire-rated distribution ductwork and also carried out full hot smoke tests to verify the design.

Bar Med County Hall
Client: Bourne Mechanical Services
Project value: £5,000

Our brief was to design a smoke control system and to prove the installation by hot smoke tests to the ground floor bar areas and the basement facilities compliant with Section 20 of the GLC London Building Acts.

A mechanical extract system comprising high temperature fans with fire-rated distribution ductwork was designed and specified by SCS Group. A full hot smoke test was carried out on completion and witnessed by the building control and fire authorities.

Other projects

Other works carried out include the Football Hall of Fame, British Airways London Eye offices and The London Aquarium.