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Toshiba towers above the rest in City of Culture's 'cool' new residence
One of the 'coolest' new addresses on the Liverpool waterside, the 40 storey Beetham West Tower apartment block, is being kept cool by 17 R410A VRF SHRM heat recovery systems from Toshiba Air Conditioning, supplied by Toshiba Distributor for the North West CDL. Unusually, this large quantity of plant has not had to be sited on the roof - enabling that to be occupied by penthouses. The VRF 'outdoor' units are located 'indoors'.

The Tower has been completed to co-incide with Liverpool's stint as European Capital of Culture. The installation demonstrates some of the useful problem - solving characteristics of Toshiba's flagship heating and cooling product range.

The scale of the work undertaken with VRF equipment just seems to get bigger and bigger. Here, 34 floors of apartments are being air conditioned by Toshiba systems. In the main, there are four 2-bed (duplex) apartments per floor. The remaining six floors house offices and a restaurant, the Skybar, which is also air conditioned by Toshiba. At 450 feet the tower is the tallest building in Liverpool.

Many of the apartments face south and all have floor to ceiling glass walls in living rooms and bedrooms. Air conditioning was essential and using heat pumps has produced savings from the fact that no other heating system is required. Hot water is available from floor by floor boilers and electric towel rails are installed in the bathrooms.

The developer and the consulting engineers saw that there was a clear opportunity to benefit from the energy saving advantages of heat recovery, that Toshiba VRF air conditioning can also provide, as not all of the building would need equal amounts of cooling or heating at the same time. The building has an orientation that emphasizes this.

The Toshiba systems have cooling capacities of 33.5 kW and heating capacities up to 35.5 kW. Each apartment has a sensor that has been very carefully sited to ensure the mean temperature is picked up - in this way they act like a typical residential thermostat. In the apartments air distribution is via ceiling grilles from ducted indoor units. Electricity is individually metered to each apartment enabling separate billing for the use of the ac system.

But the bills are expected to be satisfyingly small. The Toshiba units were selected for their low energy use and their reliability, which means low maintenance bills and longevity. The design of Toshiba VRF systems differs from others in the market in several ways. Of particular importance is the use of twin rotary DC inverter controlled compressors. Most other systems rely on a second fixed speed compressor leading to greater energy wastage. Twin inverter control means that variable seasonal loads are coped with much more easily. Each compressor can operate down to 450 rpm - the lowest in the market - so part load operation uses minimal energy but still closely maintains the required temperature. These 12 HP machines utilize only a 20 Amp three phase supply as opposed to a more traditional 32 Amp supply. The use of a twin rotary compressor design also reduces vibration and ensures negligible sound transmission and very quiet operation, especially significant in the Tower at night.

As noted, unusually, the Toshiba outdoor units have actually been sited indoors, in plant rooms on alternate floors, discharging into the plant rooms themselves with fan-assisted ventilation. In the ceiling of each plant room a two-stage fan is installed enabling extract to the storage plant room above. The fans have been sized to take account of the full operational air volume of the condenser.

The indoor location for the units was particularly attractive to the developer due to the aggressive external riverside atmosphere with its saline winds. The forced ventilation provided a further bonus as the local bin stores throughout the building also get ventilated at no additional cost.

The intricate ventilation system design was the result of effective collaboration between the Toshiba projects' team and consulting engineers Buro Happold. The mechanical and electrical contractors were A&B Engineering. The specialist air conditioning contractor was Protemp and the main contractor was Carillion Construction.

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