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Penny Hydraulics help transform McEwan Hall | Edinburgh University’s £33 million refurbishment

Penny Hydraulics help transform McEwan Hall | Edinburgh University’s £33 million refurbishment


Expert innovators Penny Hydraulics Ltd have been involved in the highly publicised refurbishment of McEwan Hall, the historic graduation venue at Edinburgh University, which is currently in its final stages of development. Named after the founder of Edinburgh brewing firm William McEwan, the nineteenth century former civic hall dominates Bristo Square. In its auditorium alone, McEwan Hall can seat up to 1,000 people making it one of Edinburgh’s largest conference and event venues.

Key features of the extensive works, which will cost in the region of £33 million include an extension of the halls basement and a new and contemporary glass entrance set in Bristo Square. No details have been spared, as intricate carvings, revamped benches and public steps, the restoration of the plaza’s distinctive lanterns and external landscaping all form part of the project which has been designed by LDN and Buro Happold with Interserve Construction & Land Engineering acting as the projects main contractors.

The Hall dates back to 1897 and the aim of the work is to transform the traditional layout to create multi-purpose and flexible spaces throughout the building. The building, which was traditionally used as a venue for graduation, examinations and concerts was deemed to be underused by the university and with adaptations, the thinking was that the venue could be of wider benefit to the public. The planning and work being done sensitively is a key consideration for the project. Historic Scotland have played an integral role in the development planning to ensure that the features of the Hall that make it a building of special historical interest, are maintained.

In addition to transforming the interior layout, the refurbishment plans were developed because of a catalogue of maintenance and repair issues, including damaged exterior stonework, damp penetration and cracked ceilings. All of these enhancements, and in particular the additional space created, will lead to year-round use of the McEwan Hall by the university community and the public for a wide range of events.

Arguably the most striking feature of the McEwan Hall is its large dome. On the inside of the dome is a huge biblical inscription and part of the renovation works included the design, manufacture and installation of a new statement chandelier to hang as a centre-piece. Market leading lighting design & manufacturing company Mike Stoane Lighting, were awarded the contract to design and manufacture the chandelier. Having worked with Penny Hydraulics on previous high profile projects including lighting installation in the development of the new Lloyd's Register Group building in London, the company contacted Penny Hydraulics to design, manufacture and install a winch system to suspend and mechanically lift and lower the domes chandelier for cleaning and routine maintenance.

The winching system, to lift and lower the bespoke luminaire is one of Penny Hydraulics popular, twin rope winch systems and has a maximum working capacity of 800kgs to accommodate the large chandelier. The chandelier connects directly to the winch ropes via an interfacing plate. Penny Hydraulics General Manager, Ed Penny explains the benefit of the systems “Each rope is able to sustain the weight of the fitting which provides two means of support to the chandelier, this is essential for safety reasons.”

The system comprises of cable reels, pulleys and the lighting winch itself. Ed continues, “A spring operated cable reel was used to provide power to the chandelier. The reel releases cable as the fitting is lowered and then automatically retracts the cable when raised back up to high level. The system is operated by a motorised winch and pulleys are supplied to carry the wire rope along the desired rope runs. One man sited at the winch position can easily and quickly lower the chandelier for cleaning and maintenance without the need for ladders or scaffolding.”

The lighting winch system complies with best practice guidelines by eliminating the need to work from height and ensuring that the suspended load has two means of support. The system, which was installed in the final quarter of 2016, is tested and certificated to Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), ensuring it is fit for purpose and safe to operate and the chandelier itself is due to be installed in the first quarter of 2017. Ed comments on the project “This is a prestigious and large-scale development which we are proud to be part of. The system will ensure that the chandelier can be quickly and easily be lowered for maintenance whenever required, without any need for costly access equipment and with minimal disruption at the venue. This will be essential given that one of the main drivers for the refurbishment project, was making the building suitable for more frequent use.”

Penny Hydraulics lighting winch division offer manual, electric, remote controlled, interior and exterior winching systems for items such as lighting, menu-boards, artwork and speakers. A complete design package means that the company works closely with architects and structural engineers through the commissioning, manufacture, installation and maintenance stages of a project.

Penny Hydraulics own purpose-built premises houses a manufacturing and assembly plant where all the functions of a fully integrated company are carried out with design, manufacturing, installation, aftersales support and nationwide service operation. With over 38 years’ experience, the company are the leading authority in this field and install and maintain lifting and lowering systems for chandeliers and other lighting installations in museums, hotels, courts, theatres, stadiums, breweries, railways, retail premises, stately and private homes. Further prestigious locations include Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey, The Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Courts of Justice and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

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