Technical Editor, Bruce Meechan reports from one of London’s best vantage points to get a perspective on the future for tall buildings in the capital.
The members of the construction press who gathered in the Altitude 360 suite at Millbank on June 9th had no idea that two weeks later the prestigious venue would be hosting a party to celebrate Brexit, but there was absolutely no doubt on the day that Anglo-Swiss manufacturer, George Fischer was committed to the UK market come what may.
In particular the plumbing and building services specialist chose the lofty lair, which commands views up and down the River Thames to emphasize the number of tall buildings planned to join the likes of The Shard, The Walkie-Talkie, Tower 42 and all the other iconic skyscrapers which punctuate the London skyline.
Adopting the title “George Fischer – Big in the City” the manufacturer made it clear to journalists and key customers that the number of significant multi-storey properties going through the planning process - not just in the South-east but across other major cities such as Manchester and Liverpool – make the commercial argument for providing new solutions for the technical challenges which lie ahead.
The reason that developers – including the major housebuilders – are seeking to build up is simple. Real estate or land prices in the desirable urban areas of the UK have rocketed in value, with little chance of major adjustments* due to the referendum, so tall buildings maximize the return on the investment. Give it another decade and the area from Chelsea to Docklands will rival Manhattan for verticality.
In response, George Fischer’s very down to earth research and development department has been working hard on developing new pipework systems to facilitate the installation of kitchens, bathrooms, washrooms, eateries and even lofty launderettes in these elevated communities where the population will live, work and play.
Following introductions by television presenter, Chris Clarkson, the company’s chief executive, Richard Trevaskis, offered an overview of the Big in the City concept and George Fischer’s ambitions for growth, enhanced product quality, and even higher levels of project support.
Centre stage, however, was the manufacturer’s new prefabrication service for pipe systems; intended to simplify the installation of chilled water and other essential arteries within the new generation of skyscrapers.
Detailed insight came from Sales and Marketing Director Darren Myers who followed Richard onto the stage to explain the key benefits to Instaflex: the manufacturer’s polybutylene pipe system which offers a very wide service temperature band, and is suitable for multiple applications from heating to boosted chilled water and compressed air.
He explained how the company’s heat welding and electro-fusion processes can be employed for factory prefabrication and then final assembly on site. This has the potential to improve speed and accuracy while reducing cost for the client. Importantly, it also offers an answer to the continuing skills shortage.
Also showcased were George Fischer’s Aquasystem and ecoFIT options as well as a completely new range of slim-line heat interface units or HIUs. Readers of HA will know that communal heating systems are enjoying something of a renaissance with social housing providers, but once you go above three or four floors, the idea of giving residents individual boilers – even with low plume or communal flues – becomes far less feasible.
Therefore George Fischer’s decision to include a choice of slim-line and versatile HIUs in its vision of living high above the streets of our cities showed appropriate empathy with the challenges building services engineers will have to meet.
Following on from the multiple presentations and video clips to explain the various product innovations, those attending were invited to watch full scale demonstrations of the pipe welding techniques. Better than any verbal explanation, these clearly illustrated not just the speed and simplicity of the jointing operations, but also their absence of mess, fumes or risk to operatives which will prove so attractive to specifiers seeking to facilitate safe working in difficult to access or confined spaces.