The National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, London
The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is one of the UK’s leading science and research facilities. It is a centre of excellence in developing and applying the most accurate standards in science and technology available.
NPL employs over 500 scientists, based in south-west London. The laboratory is a 36 000 m2 purpose-built measurement building with 388 of the world’s most extensive and sophisticated measurement science laboratories.
For more than a century NPL has developed and maintained the nation’s primary measurement standards.
These standards underpin the National Measurement System infrastructure of traceability throughout the UK and the world, ensuring accuracy and consistency of measurement. NPL ensures that its cutting-edge measurement science and technology have a positive impact in the real world. This delivers world-leading measurement solutions that are critical to commercial research and development supporting business success across the UK and the globe.
Accurate measurement improves productivity and quality. It underpins consumer confidence and trade and is vital to innovation.
Looking back at the achievements of NPL is a journey through the major technological advances that have shaped not only our lives but also perhaps the course of history.
NPL was responsible for a wide range of technology and scientific advances — including, ship design, aerodynamics, radar, computing, electronic networking, communications, computing and global positioning.
Leading National Physical Laboratory scientists of their day include: Sir Robert Watson-Watt, inventor of Radar; Louis Essen, who built the first Caesium clock; Donald Davies who worked on packet switched data significantly supporting the development of the Internet; and Alan Turing, who helped NPL take a leading role in computer technology.
An essential part of the National Physical Laboratory’s role has always been its support of industry and technology development. Its present areas of research are too numerous and wide ranging to mention in detail. However, one example of research very relevant to the building-services industry is building-performance evaluation (BPE). This is designed to highlight the measurement challenges within the building-performance evaluation process, promote best practice and understand the requirements and needs of the BPE supply chain.
The plan form of NPL is three parallel rectangular blocks linked with four inter-connecting bridges. The central block is for reception, administration, support offices, workshops, an auditorium and restaurant facilities. The two outer wings contain the laboratories located down the centre of the spine with non-light sensitive research facilities and write-up rooms along the perimeter wall. There are also 11 satellite buildings including the Grade II listed building Bushy House.
The building and laboratory services are provided by six pods adjacent to the two outer laboratory wings; these contain the high- and low-voltage electrical distribution, boilers and chillers. The air-handling units (AHU) are located within the roof plant rooms of the building. Control panels are distributed throughout the plant rooms and AHU areas.
In 2010 it was increasingly clear that the original building management system (BMS) was unviable in terms of reliability and spare parts.
The scope of the replacement BMS was to include a wider integration of the building services while also entering into a programme of energy conservation using advanced control technology and refurbishment of capital plant and equipment.
Public Services provider Amey, responsible for the delivery and support of National Physical Laboratory facilities, was also responsible for the specification and management of the design, installation and commissioning of the new building management system.
Paul Nieuwenhuis on-site controls and energy Manager for Amey explained: ‘The National Physical Laboratory is operated on behalf of the National Measurement Office by NPL Management Limited. Working closely with National Measurement Office estates manager Iain McDowall and NPL’s scientific community is a prerequisite for us to fully understand our customers’ often unique requirements for systems performance and strict delivery programme.
‘The refurbishment and expansion of the NPL building controls system is not only technically demanding, but it has to be delivered without the interrupting ongoing experimental or scientific research.
‘The programme of works required the management of a number of independent system installers who could work to the high standard demanded by our customer under a very tightly prescribed time schedule. We absolutely cannot afford the slightest interruption of any laboratory-based activity; failure of an experiment or research programme is not an option. All activities necessary within the laboratories have to be planned and co-ordinated with the occupants.
‘Many laboratories require temperature control at ±0.5 K and humidity control at ±5% over prolonged periods. Numerous experiments run for several years, and any drift in temperature or humidity can ruin the experiment. Accreditation is required in many instances, and historical environmental data has to be provided for the duration of the experiment or calibration period.’
The new building management system being installed in National Physical Laboratory is based on the CentraLine Hawk integration controller. The wide range of equipment and systems involved with an establishment of this size and operational performance demands a high level of integration and interoperability.
Briefly, the integration profile encompasses air-handling units and chillers (Modbus), boilers (RS-485), fan-coil units (Lon) and peer-to-peer controllers (BACnet).
Integration of the lighting is based on DALI protocol, co-ordinated with a separate energy conservation project to convert all luminaires to LED.
TCP/IP protocol is used to monitor laboratory equipment with the ability to send messages and alarms to the relevant scientific staff’s mobile smart devices. Critical alarms are delivered to the BMS team and call-out engineers via SMS.
The expansion programme of the building management system includes laboratory and office lighting, CCTV, access control, gas detection and a fire-alarm system.
Paul Nieuwenhuis continued, ‘NPL has been a most exciting and exacting project. We chose the CentraLine Hawk as the basis of the new BMS for its excellent control attributes, versatility and ability to resolve integration issues with numerous disparate items of plant and scientific equipment. This not only allows the monitoring of environmental conditions but also monitoring the actual operation of research instrumentation. Scientists are able to view and download historic environmental data from their laboratories on any PC or smart device.
‘The associated energy-conservation programme has also been most successful. The strategic replacement of chillers, boilers and the installation of 140 inverters between 2.2 and 55 kW, supported by the development of exacting control strategy, resulted in an overall energy saving of some 24%.
‘The building management system installed in NPL is a critical element, not only in the successful and efficient operation of the building’s facilities but it also has a direct relationship with the ongoing experimental and research programmes.’
Roy Brumpton, senior account manager for CentraLine by Honeywell, summarised: ‘Working with Amey and the CentraLine Partners involved with the installation of an enterprise building management system for National Physical Laboratory has been most rewarding. Undoubtedly the research into measurement science by the NPL will continue to contribute to the ongoing development of the Building Control Industry.’