Title: Product profile, How to hide an eyesore
Pages: 56 - 57
Text: Product profile
How to hide an eyesore
The South Western Electricity Board has recently been engaged on a project for improving its 11 kV distribution stations. This article describes the station designed for the board by South Wales Switchgear Ltd. A second station, designed by Foster Transformers Ltd. was described in DESIGN 202/66.
Electric substations have long been one of the more unsightly features in the landscape, placed behind wooden or wire fences, sometimes topped by barbed wire, and sitting in long grass surrounded by bits of rubbish which can only be tidied up during the occasional visits of maintenance men. So it was not surprising that, when Lord Snowdon visited South Wales Switchgear Ltd during his industrial tour of Wales in 1963, he suggested to the company that it might employ an industrial designer to work on the problem of making its substations more agreeable to the eye.
It is to the great credit of the company that the suggestion was followed up, and an application was made to the ColD's Record of
Designers which led to the appointment of Misha Black of Design Research Unit, who was given the job of designing a completely new substation enclosure. His brief had six main requirements: first, the enclosure should be light enough for it to be manhandled into position without using a crane; second, it should be proof against rot, corrosion and the entry of vermin, and require minimum maintenance; third, a complete enclosure was necessary to damp down transformer noise as far as possible, and yet allow the transformer coolers to be adequately ventilated; fourth, because of the need for a competitive price, component design should be geared to batch production; fifth, it should allow electricity area boards to
Until now, most electricity substations have been unsightly, like the one above, surrounded by wire and weeds. The South Wales Switchgear's redesigned substation housing, right, prevents the equipment disfiguring its surroundings. The monolithic appearance of the new housing has been relieved by the corrugated treatment given to the walls.
use their own locks; and sixth, its external appearance should satisfy conditions of amenity. The brief also specified the optimum dimensions of the enclosure, which were determined after the arrangements of the transformer, and the high voltage ring main unit and industrial voltage distribution board had been carefully reassessed.
Choosing the materials The first step in the design of the enclosure was to assess all the materials available which offered strength with low weight ratios and acoustic insulation properties. They also had to be economic from the point of view of material and production costs. The assessment led to the choice of moulded glass fibre reinforced polyester resin units, and at the same time it was decided that the enclosure should be broken down into sections to make it easier and more economic to manufacture, handle and transport. The ability to remove sections of the enclosure would also simplify cable jointing operations.
Once this basic conception had been agreed upon, the detailed design followed. The roof moulding has been given a glass fibre reinforced polyester sandwich construction, filled with polymethane foam. The moulding also incorporates an aluminium outlet ventilator which can be detached from inside the substation to allow access from outside for servicing purposes. The walls and doors are of single skin glass fibre reinforced polyester, and have been given a vertical corrugated treatment to add to their lateral stiffness and also break up the monolithic appearance of what is, after all, a large rectangular box. Extra strength has also been provided by fixing the wall sections on to welded aluminium frames,
from which the doors are hung on concealed hinges. Finally, cooling air grilles are incorporated at the bottom of the side mouldings (originally as removable units but now as a part of the moulding itself), and the method of fixing the enclosure to the transformer foundation has been modified to keep site working to a minimum.
By making the enclosure of the substation complete in itself, the designer has now overcome the problem of screening and maintenance. Similarly, the simple, architectural shape of the enclosure is intended to fit into varied sites and settings, and although it will usually be in the standard dark grey for urban locations (BS 3036), other colours may be used if and where required. Furthermore, because the colour which is used to dye the resin impregnates the glass fibre, it cannot be chipped away like a coat of paint, and so will remain constant even if the enclosure is damaged. The enclosure has been completed by a redesigned company logotype which is wholly in keeping with the rest of the design.
Two of the new substations have recently been installed by the South Western Electricity Board in the Bristol area, and they have been shown to planning officers of the local authorities, and to engineers of electricity boards throughout Britain. Their reaction has been wholly favourable. The SWEB alone has 3,250 substations, and expects to double the number within the next few years. Thus it can be seen that the design of substations is extremely important if environments are not to be spoiled by equipment of this kind. South Wales Switchgear Ltd has shown what can be done to provide equipment in which amenity considerations are given the importance they deserve.
One of the requirements of the new housing was that it should be light enough to be man-handled on site without the use of a crane. This illustration also shows the aluminium frames inside the housing. The roof can be easily removed to allow access for a major overhaul.
The redesigned company logotype is a neat and unobtrusive bit of detailing, entirely in keeping with the overall design of the housing.