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Postal Museum and Mail Rail

Published on 20 February 2018 at 14:00

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One of the more challenging projects to arrive in AIS offices over the last few years has been the recently completed £26m The Postal Museum and Mail Rail project based in Clerkenwell.

Initially appointed by M3Consulting back in 2015 AIS have provided building regulation support to the design team comprising Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (architectural design), Max Fordham (services and fire strategy) and CH2M (structural engineering).

Building work was carried out by Blue Sky Building and during the construction period, AIS provided a risk based site inspection service to assist in completing a building regulation compliant project.

Calthorpe House, a former London print works sited opposite the Mount Pleasant sorting office site, has been extended with a major archive facility and a new single storey entrance area housing a café and visitor facilities for the public. A canopied courtyard space pleasantly enclosed by high perimeter walls, including a living wall across one boundary, provides a spill out area for visitors and staff alike.

The existing building now houses a museum area on the ground floor together with learning, conservation and office spaces on the upper two floors. The design brief raised several compliance challenges including an open means of escape staircase and exit route through the main entrance/café/shop area, potentially high occupancy when used as an event space and provision of access for all from street into and around the building due to existing level complications and structural constraints.

Across the road from Calthorpe House lies the enormous Mount Pleasant sorting office with its Mail Rail interface. Mail Rail was the underground mail system linking Paddington to east London which closed in 2003. Existing workshops and subterranean maintenance and depot areas within and under Mount Pleasant have been converted into a visitor experience where a train ride on a loop of the postal railway can be enjoyed.

Turning this facility into a visitor attraction has been a significant challenge for the client, design team and the regulatory compliance team. The safety of employees and visitors in the event of fire is obviously paramount. The fire safety strategy for the project was developed in close cooperation with the approving bodies and saw the development of a carefully designed smoke control systems for the 13m deep mail rail platform areas and tunnels using CFD software to check a range of scenarios. A dry riser network was installed to limit hose lengths required in the tunnels and firefighting access to the platforms was provided by a new lift installation with associated stair provision built within an existing cast-iron inclined shaft.

After a lengthy period of commissioning for the services installations, including those associated with life safety and firefighting operations, the project has now been completed and has been providing a genuinely different visitor experience for the public.