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BILCO Serves Up Spectacular Transport Museum Solution

Smoke vent and total access solutions provider Bilco UK ( has provided essential equipment to safeguard staff and visitors at the new Riverside Museum in Glasgow – Scotland’s spectacular wave-shaped museum of transport and travel.

As part of the £74 million development, Bilco supplied smoke vents, an access hatch and associated equipment for the roofing areas of the impressive waterfront landmark.

An aluminium single-leaf thermally-enhanced roof access hatch (ME-50T) was modified by Bilco to fit the 46 degree sloping roof. The hatch and two aluminium single-leaf smoke vents were covered by standard seam zinc cladding to blend in with all roofing areas on the building. All facades and roofs are sealed and clad in titanium zinc.

The complex building geometry and architectural demands presented a major challenge in terms of planning and installing equipment like the access hatch and smoke vents.

The hatch allows access to the roof for cleaning and maintenance activities. Overlapping covers and a spring-operated system make it easy to operate at all times.

The hatch has a heavy gauge construction and positive latching mechanism which ensure it is secure while closed. It also has a rugged hold-open arm which automatically locks the cover in a locked and stable open position when access is gained to and from the roof.

Fully-insulated and gasketed for weather-tightness, the smoke vents were supplied with associated equipment including control panels and smoke detectors. Should a fire break out the two REM vents open automatically to 90 degrees. This helps to disperse heat, smoke and noxious gases and reduces the risk of them being blown back into the building. This increases the prospects of firemen bringing a blaze under control quickly.

Built on the site of the former A & J Inglis Shipyard at the point where the River Clyde and River Kelvin meet, the transport museum is an unconventional, iconic feature of Glasgow Harbour.

With three interwoven galleries clad in 24,000 zinc tiles, the museum is one of the most striking works of modern architecture in the UK. In design and layout, it resembles an irregularly-folded napkin.

James Fisher, Bilco UK/Europe general manager, said: “This high-profile project is a textbook example of Bilco’s ability to meet demanding and sometimes unusual requirements with appropriate solutions.

“Our access hatches and smoke vents are manufactured for a long, trouble-free life, even if they are little used. Fundamentally, they are designed to stay weather-tight yet they are easy to open when the need arises.

“The Glasgow transport museum opportunity has demonstrated our ability to deliver products that meet all design expectations and specifications. Bilco is delighted to be associated with the construction of this outstanding building.”

Designed by the internationally-renowned Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, the museum has more than 150 interactive displays and features over 3,000 exhibits including cycles, cars, miniature boats, motorcycles, trams, buses and locomotives.

The original Glasgow Museum of Transport was established in the mid-1960s in a former tram depot before transferring to the city’s Kelvin Hall. It closed in 2010 in preparation for relocation to the Riverside Museum at Glasgow Harbour. Funded by Glasgow City Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Riverside Museum Appeal, the building is a major project within the council’s River Clyde regeneration programme.

The leader of Glasgow City Council, councillor Gordon Matheson, said: “Glasgow’s history as an industrial giant, a global leader in engineering and shipbuilding, is celebrated in an architectural masterpiece which shows that we remain at the cutting edge of design and technology.”

There are two schools of thought about the museum’s unusual appearance. One is that it is intended to mimic the Glaswegian skyline. The other is that the design is based on the ‘squidgy S’ shape of a napkin dropped by the architect while she was eating at a restaurant in Glasgow. The fact she took a photograph of the napkin before picking it up suggests there may be some truth in the latter view!

Roofing and cladding contractor Varla UK Ltd of Chester was responsible for all roofing work on the museum. Lead designer Paul Foster said his company had worked with Bilco on previous contracts and he was again pleased with the equipment and service provided on the Riverside Museum project.

Bilco has a strong reputation among architects, building engineers, specifiers and the construction trades for product and service excellence in delivering the right access and safety solutions.

The company manufactures a range of standard off-the-shelf hatches, floor doors and smoke vents and also provides a design service to meet individual requirements.

James Fisher added: “Our products are driven by customers’ expectations and often their needs are determined by health and safety requirements.”

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