Landmark  Buildings

Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, 1903



                          Victor Coates Steam Engine

       Davidson's supply ventilation 'Sirocco' propellor fan

The design of the environmental services was carried out by Henry Lea, but is believed to have been influenced by Wm Key. The local engineer Samuel Cleland Davidson played a part. His Sirocco Works were at the time producing some of the world’s most advanced centrifugal fans, and they were responsible for designing, installing and maintaining much of the central plant.

The building and its ventilating systems were conceived as an integrated design,the main duct being a brick tunnel with a concrete floor,over 500 ft long and 9 ft wide, 20 ft deep at the input end tapering upwards to only 6 ft deep at the downstream end. A sprinkler system, used to moisten the filters through which the fresh air passed, was regulated on the basis of regular readings of wet and dry-bulb temperatures. This conscious control of humidity gives the Royal Victoria Hospital a place among pioneer air conditioning systems.

The plant rooms, including the working steam engines and the supply fans, are still operable and together with the  underground duct are scheduled to be preserved. The fate of the Wards is uncertain and they may be demolished. 

Plenum ventilation duct viewed from the air entry end

                           Double bank of coconut fibre curtain screens to                                                            Typical boost heater battery coil set in CI  base
                     provide washing, humidification and cooling of                                                             header block at the entrance to a secondary duct
                     incoming fresh air.                                                                                   supplying a Ward Block.

     Pentonville Prison, London 1840


Pentonville,  a model prison in its day,  was the work of a remarkable Victorian engineer, Major Joshua Jebb,  who selected  the site (1840),  produced the design for the prison and its building services to accommodate 560 inmates,and then supervised the construction and commissioning. Four cell blocks, 3 storeys high, radiated from a central hall behind the chapel. Each cell was 13 x 7 feet, rising to a height of 9 feet.Jebb was firmly convinced that the quality of the ventilation of a cell had a direct influence on the health of a prisoner and that the warming of cells  was  necessary,  a  view  not  shared  by others in the prison service. The main objects of his  design  were to extract a stated quantity of foul  air  from  each cell (14.2 l/s); to supply an equal quantity of  fresh air without draughts;  to warm the air to 11/15 degC; and to ensure that the air channels and flues should not be a means of communication between prisoners.


Jebb  consulted  Hadens of  Trowbridge  and  with them developed an apparatus for warming the air. A system of flues was designed to allow outside air, warmed or not as necessary, to be introduced into each cell at high level. A low  level  grille was  ducted  to the foul air extract in the roof. A small fire was maintained at the base of the main foul air shaft to promote ventilation in summer.  Haden’s heating boiler had an extended heating surface –cast iron plates in zig-zag lines in a brickwork setting. Gas-producing  apparatus  fed  lights  in each cell, which was  also equipped with a wash hand basin and a strong glazed earthenware WC pan.

Jebb  was  well  ahead of  his  time.  He was concerned about  indoor  air  quality,  fuel  consumption,  energy conservation,  public health engineering,  commissioning and running costs. And he managed to design, build and hand  over  the  completed  prison  within  an  18-month period.

AUGUST  2002