The centerpiece to Europe’s biggest ever zoo development is replicating a tropical environment- with help from bespoke engineering from Blackpool.

Included in Chester Zoo’s new £40m Islands project- the UK’s biggest ever, at 60,000m2– is the Monsoon Forest. The 31,050m³ house is the largest indoor zoo exhibit in the UK, and home to a tropical rainforest and animals including Sulawesi crested macaques, Sunda gharial crocodiles and several exotic bird species. In line with the zoo’s aim of enabling visitors, vegetation and animals to be immersed in habitats as close as possible to nature, one of the main contractors Laing O’Rourke through its subsidiary Crown House Technologies commissioned British air movement specialist Gilberts of Blackpool to devise a solution to ventilate the exhibit interior.

Gilberts engineered a system whereby 400mm dia aluminium jet nozzle diffusers have been mounted in galvanised plenum boxes in turn connected to underfloor BMS ductwork. Each nozzle can be independently angled, to gently stir the air upwards towards the roof, which is itself high enough to allow a free-flight aviary.

The company designed and tested the system, then bespoke engineered it in-house at its 85,000ft2 manufacturing facility.

“We have an established, proven reputation for designing and developing bespoke solutions,” says Gilberts’ Technical Director Roy Jones. “Islands was a bit different to our normal commission: we needed to balance some means of creating adequate artificial air movement in a huge area, in a way that mimicked a tropical rainforest, to suit the range of species living there, by forcing air towards ‘cool zones’ up in the trees, , and would withstand their investigation!

‘Our unique, in-house R&D and test facilities meant we were quickly and efficiently able to develop a solution, and verify its performance computationally and in reality.”

Added Phil Ashton, Crown House Technologies Project Manager, “Islands has been a very complex project, integrating 25 buildings on a 1.5km jungle path. Every element of the build- even the ventilation- needed to be as close as possible to the reality. We knew from experience that Gilberts has the knowledge and capability to engineer a bespoke solution efficiently and economically.”

Family-owned Gilberts is Britain’s leading air movement specialist. The company is unique in manufacturing every component in house- even as far as designing and engineering its own tools and dies in our own tool making facility. It is also one of the UK’s largest manufacturers of grilles and louvres, and a growing force in the design and supply of natural ventilation solutions for the commercial sector.


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BDC 314 : Mar 2024