GroDome handover to the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, part of the Natural Environment Research Council is the UK's Centre of Excellence for integrated research in terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere.
As part of its 2008-2013 Science Strategy CEH commissioned Unigro to design and construct a state-of-the-art plant growth facility at its HQ in Wallingford, Oxfordshire. This facility is to complement its interdisciplinary expertise and this week the GroDome was officially handed over to the science community.
The twinspan GroDome measuring 38 x 18 metres comprises of two main areas. Eight chambers with controlled environments each providing 30 square metres of research area and a further 440 square metres for open plan research area. The facility is also equipped with a header building housing a generous potting area, mechanical plant room, field store +4°C and field store -20°C.
The facility has two separate cooling mechanisms, the chambers are cooled using a chilled water circuit, and have been designed to maintain a set-point temperature between 15 and 30°C. The open plan area is cooled via air exchange and has been designed to maintain a maximum temperature of not more that 5°C above the ambient temperature. A Building Management System [BMS] monitors and controls the operating procedures as well as the control strategy for the cooling and heating functions. This BMS also provides remote warnings of any malfunctions or breakdowns to authorised personnel.
The chilled water cooling system has been designed to maximise efficiency, minimise running costs and maintain reliability. This is achieved by incorporating into the system an under floor coolth tank which provides the capacity to limit compressor cooling requirements and also provides up to 36-hours reserve cooling in the event of limited mechanical breakdown.
The air-handling system maintains the positive air pressure in the open plan area to preserve the air pressure in the chambers. All air intake and extract is via G4 filters.