The May Fair Ć¢ā‚¬ā€œ Re-birth of an Icon

The May Fair – Re-birth of an icon

Set in exclusive Mayfair in the heart of London, the May Fair Hotel has been playing host to the rich and famous since its historic opening by His Majesty King George V in 1927. 

Since the mid-war years of the thirties, the May Fair has been the by-word for elegance and style. William Lyons suitably reflected this in September 1935, when the venue was chosen as the launch platform for the SS Jaguar saloon, the first car to carry the now famous name ‘Jaguar’. 

Acquired in 2003 by the Radisson Edwardian Group, this prestigious
5 - star hotel has undergone a comprehensive, £75million plus,
refurbishment and extension.

Described as “The re-birth of an icon, one of the landmarks that has distinguished London for generations”, the May Fair’s redesign includes a luxurious 200 seat private cinema/theatre, the Crystal Room (with the largest Baccarat Chandelier in Europe) is just one of three highly impressive function rooms, the stylish May Fair bar, already established as a local favourite, the superb Amber restaurant and the stunning May Fair Spa. In addition the hotel has over 400 bedrooms including no fewer than 10 signature suites and a magnificent 2-bedroom penthouse.

Refurbishing and extending the May Fair was technically a highly
demanding undertaking, not least for Space Airconditioning plc, the
Guildford-based Daikin Distributor, nominated to supply new Daikin air conditioning for the entire project.

Space Air’s relationship with the Radisson Edwardian Group spans over 20 years and for some 15 years the company has been an essential player in the hotel group’s strategic development programme. For this project, as has become the norm, Space Air was closely involved with an established design and installation team, comprising architects, M&E consultants, builders, interior designers, equipment installers and specialist equipment suppliers as well as the clients. At the very earliest stages of the design, it was a requirement that there would be full air conditioning – heating, cooling and ventilation to all public areas, all bedrooms and corridors, all occupied staff areas, all affiliated premises including shops, cafes and the Palm Beach Casino – and to all lavatories!

Although Space Air, as a Daikin distributor, does not provide an installation service, their comprehensive input into the complex system design and their policy to commission such systems prior to hand-over, involved selecting a Project Manager to oversee the installation who now describes the background to the refurbishment and takes us through various stages of the project:- 

Early Considerations

Originally it was thought that the hotel would was to close for the refurbishment, however the owners opted to keep the hotel part operational, making all possible provision for the convenience and comfort of its clients.

The air conditioning systems were to be of modular concept to enable phased installation. Completed areas would be immediately re-occupied and it would not be possible to have ongoing works in these areas.

Existing building refurbishments of this complexity and stature would inevitably involve progress revisions and unforeseen challenges therefore the air conditioning systems selected would need to be flexible in application.

From the outset, low noise levels were considered a priority to ensure the ambiance expected in a 5 star hotel environment.

Energy efficiency was also vital, not only from an operational viewpoint
but also because electrical power supplies are at a premium in this part
of the West End.

Finally the air conditioning installations were required to be fully compliant with current regulation.

Work commences 

Redundant services were removed and/or redirected where required to ensure that the hotel could continue to operate. 

Phase 1 Involved refurbishing the main bar, the spa/gym and
50% of the reception area. 

Phase 2 Refurbish the restaurant and remaining 50% of the reception.

Phase 3 Works to 1st floor accommodation, business centre
and upper reception.

One of the early difficulties met was the siting of a fixed crane to facilitate the lifting requirements for the entire project, as regular road closures in this busy area were not possible. The only practical sites were on the NW and NE corners of the building, but these involved the crane’s counterweight over-flying adjacent offices. This was not permitted for insurance reasons. The only solution was to site the crane in the central core, however this entailed the, previously unplanned, total demolition of the existing basement and sub-basement function rooms!  

The first design challenge for Space Air was to ensure that the cooling, heating and ventilation requirements of the larger public areas could be satisfied without any need to access ceiling voids for routine maintenance purposes. To facilitate this Space Air designed bespoke composite air handling units, combining large (FXMQ) Daikin Ducted fan coil units and Daikin’s VAM heat recovery ventilation modules. 

These roof-mounted, fully weatherproofed units were prefabricated at Space Air’s Guildford factory. The units ensured that the mix of fresh air and return air did not exceed 1ºC over set-point and the I-Manager would hold off operation of the VAM section until the room set-point was reached and maintain the 7-8°K room/ambient differential.

Provision was made to enable ‘handed’ connection of ductwork to supply and return as required. In total, twenty one of these special units were manufactured, serving all major public areas and function suites. 

It was also a requirement to minimise future maintenance disturbance in the guest rooms and to reduce the number of ceiling access points to avoid spoiling the aesthetics, therefore as much of the air conditioning equipment was located outside the rooms – the obvious exceptions being the fan coil unit, its controller and sensor.

The VRV systems’ individual refrigerant volume controllers or BSVQ boxes were all neatly fed from headers and aligned with their own power supplies and identification at dedicated corridor locations in each zone The positioning of these areas was critical to ensure that maximum recommended refrigerant pipe lengths were within design parameters.

The majority of the VRV Condensing units are positioned on the roof and surrounded by acoustic louvre screening. 

Part of the original A/C plant was an old air-cooled chiller serving the Palm Beach Casino, this was scheduled to be replaced by a new Daikin 500kW EWAP, screw compressor, air cooled chiller. Once again, client disruption needed to be minimised and the chiller changeover took place in a four-hour operation, while the casino was closed.

 Although one of the quietest chillers of its type, this installation needed to comply with stringent noise restrictions set by Westminster City Council and cause no disturbance to those occupying the penthouse suite a few metres away. Accordingly the chiller was housed in an acoustic enclosure specially designed by Conebeare, the resultant sound reduction is an astounding 18dbA and several visitors have observed that the only indication the chiller is operating, even at very close quarters, is the run light on the controller.

During the early phases, refurbishment of guest rooms at first floor level was to be undertaken.  All went well until soil pipes from the toilets were to be connected to the main SVP for the rooms.  As is the norm in these installations, the soil and vent pipes are strategically placed so that rooms directly above each other can be connected to one riser.  In attempting to connect the first floor rooms, the construction team discovered that the cast iron pipe work was, due to age and use, very brittle, and it collapsed.  The major consequence was that all of the guest rooms above, which were connected to the riser were suddenly out of action. If this were to be repeated the hotel would have to close, so an urgent re-think was required.   It was decided to rezone and re-phase all works, including the air conditioning. The final solution was to increase the number of zones from 4 to 7 and work vertically rather than floor by floor.

Inevitably, many difficulties were experienced throughout the project; noise, workmen and dust were all issues, which the hotel management dealt with as best they could. However the greatest ongoing difficulties were the constantly changing requirements as the project evolved.  The refurbishment of any existing building will bring many structural idiosyncrasies to light which are only apparent after extensive strip out works, slight level changes, beam sizes and construction methods to mention a few. 

Additional cooling was required to areas not previously considered e.g. IT communication areas for room access systems, automatic mini-bars and ice vending machines. The local authority would not permit any penetration of the building fabric to street elevations, as such all fresh air and pipework had to be routed through the internal facades.

The entire hotel is controlled by the Daikin I-Manager, which had to endure somewhat primitive conditions in a dusty corner of the sub-basement, until it could be re-located to the Facilities Manager’s offices. The experience did at least demonstrate the robustness of the system. 

The finishing touches

The first area to be completely finished was the, now popular, May Fair bar. Here the supply air enters the space via linear slot and decorative spiral grilles, which coordinate well with the semi-circular bar. The return air linear grilles are discreetly positioned above the perimeter seating, mounted vertically in the feature ceiling. This area was to be used as the hotel guests breakfast area until the main restaurant was completed.

The Amber Restaurant presented a unique problem as an interior design revision included exposing the kitchen. Return air grilles, already installed, were close to a wall, which would now be removed to expose the kitchen. It was determined that warm air from the kitchen area could be drawn into the return air creating a control problem. This was overcome by using a glass panel suspended from the new servery. An extract hood, with inverter-controlled fan, was installed to provide a slight negative air pressure within the kitchen this ensured no cooking smells filtered into the restaurant. 

An EUWAB24KZ (55kW) Daikin air-cooled chiller, serving a cooling coil in the fresh air intake, cooled the entire hotel kitchen supply air system.

The newly constructed and impressive 200 seat private theatre also posed some difficulties as an extensive stage lighting arrangement blocked the planned route for air conditioning ductwork. This was satisfactorily resolved and the theatre has already proved to be a comfortable venue for a number of UK Premier film screenings. The projection rooms are air-conditioned using Daikin 4 way blow ceiling cassettes. 

Daikin 600 x 600 ceiling cassettes are also employed in all the opulent public access toilet areas.

Guest Rooms

The standard guest rooms are air-conditioned using concealed ceiling units, conventionally mounted into bulkheads. However, some signature suites presented a different challenge as floor level changes and existing beams within the suites prevented the use of ducted units in the lounge areas. In these cases, ceiling cassette units were employed. For the lower level bedrooms, again concealed ceiling units were used. 

The ceiling height in the penthouse suite was lower than originally designed due to a planning restriction on the overall height of the hotel; this required a more innovative solution. Daikin Chassis type VRV floor mounted fan coil units were concealed in an partition wall, separating the large lounge and dining areas from other facilities and the interior designer selected purpose made linear grilles to create a feature. The fresh air was supplied by two roof mounted Daikin VKMG units, weatherproofed by Space Air. These heat recovery ventilation units with integral cooling coils were required, as the penthouse may also be used as an occasional meeting room for up to 30 people.

The Function Rooms

The first floor features a conference area and business centre comprising 13 meeting rooms and 2 reception spaces, capable of accommodating between 6 and 120 people. Here, because of restricted slab heights and existing beams, ceiling cassette units were used in conjunction with VAM heat recovery ventilation units.

The basement ‘Crystal room’, one of the major function rooms, features the largest Baccarat chandelier in Europe, (7 metres across), this forms the style of lighting for all function areas. Whilst impressive, this one chandelier represented an extra 9kW load and its size and fixing requirements meant that planned services had to be re-routed around it. 

The Atrium was a completely new first floor structure with a curved glass roof. This space represented a large air conditioning load with no obvious locations for fan coil units. The solution here was to install Space Air purpose built roof mounted air handling units, as used in other public areas, supplying conditioned air via twenty eight nozzles. 

Two further function rooms were constructed, including the spectacular mirror walled, Danziger room which seats 200 people.

Finally the May Fair Spa, described as ‘decadent luxury brought stunningly up to date’, features a swimming pool, gymnasium and 8 treatment rooms. The reception area incorporates a spectacular relief mural with cascading water. In the majority of these areas, ceiling cassettes were used for ease of maintenance.   

The whole site is controlled by Daikin’s state-of-the-art integrated building control system (Intelligent-Manager), providing comprehensive remote system control and monitoring facilities which maximises operational efficiency and enables rapid response to any fault alarms or necessary adjustments. It provides a platform for a planned maintenance system and total monitoring of the electrical consumption of the entire air conditioning and ventilation installation.

The Daikin VRV system proved ideal because of its modular concept, it enabled the project to proceed in phases whilst large areas of the hotel remained in operation. VRV is the most flexible, energy-efficient and cost-effective system available on the market today and is particularly suited to large hotel applications. In this particular project, regular site attendance by experienced Daikin system design/applications and commissioning engineers from Space Air assisted in achieving rapid and effective solutions to various difficulties presented during the refurbishment programme. 

The Radisson Edwardian Group is reported to be delighted with Space Air’s service and technical support, which assisted the programme to remain on track, minimising disruption and helping to ensure the May Fair’s position as one of London’s finest hotels.

Daikin Europe management selected The May Fair as the host venue for two multi-nationality conferences for hotel designers, developers, and operators. The conference programme included presentations by Daikin Europe’s consulting sales team, Space Air and Iype Abraham, Radisson Edwardian’s Commercial Development Director, the conference concluded with a guided tour of the hotel.

All of this represented 157 deliveries to site, 88 days commissioning and staff training and 77.1 tonnes or 468m3 of equipment, for one of the largest and most prestigious projects of its type in the UK.

Equipment statistics  

In all Space Air was responsible for supplying:

62 REYQ-M VRV systems (69 outdoor units), 

2 RXSYQ-M VRV systems, 

1 x 500kW and 1 x 55kW air-cooled chillers  – in total equivalent to 3.4 MW of cooling capacity. 

669 Fan coil units – 8 different designs were incorporated into the project.

81 VAM Heat Recovery Ventilation units – equivalent to a total of 28.46m3/s of
fresh air were installed. 

A further 2017 ancillary components and one I-Manager control system
completed the equipment list.

All of this represented 157 deliveries to site, 88 days commissioning and staff
training and 77.1 tonnes or 468m3 of equipment, for one of the largest and most
prestigious projects of its type in the UK

The project – before

The existing hotel site comprised sub-basement and basement function suites, basement service and back-of-house facilities, a ground floor reception, theatre, bar and restaurant, guest accommodation over seven floors, plus separately leased, casino, shops and cafés.

Most of the existing air conditioning plant in the basement areas and in the central core of the building, was reaching the end of its working life and in a poor state of repair. Much of this was to be removed and Daikin VRV systems integrated into available spaces at low level to ensure continuity of services.

The project - after

The original building configuration was a seven storey ‘U’ shape, this would be extended by an extra floor and the open side of the building would be the location for a new eight storey wing providing an additional 100 bedrooms. A ninth floor would be added to the front elevation of the hotel to create a fabulous penthouse suite – the second largest and one of the most luxurious and expensive in London.

The initial plan was to refurbish each floor in four zones, including the new wing, allocating one Daikin 3-pipe VRV condensing unit per zone on each floor. As far as possible, one floor or zone was to be left empty between site work and paying guests to minimise disruption and disturbance. As the air conditioning to each zone was completed it would be connected to Daikin’s I-Manager control system, commissioned and hotel staff trained in its operation by Space Air technicians, prior to handing over for occupation.

It was originally envisaged that all the condensing units would be lifted into position at the same time, however in the final event, this was not possible.

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