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BILCO’S Biggest-Ever Acoustic Vent Is Under The Spotlight

The iconic new Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury has opened its doors for the first time – receiving a royal seal of approval for a multi million pound project which has seen smoke vent and access equipment provider Bilco ( playing a leading role.

Prince Edward, who spent nearly 10 years working in theatre and television production, officially opened the £25.6 million theatre on 4 October.

Many aspects of the new building would have caught the eye of the Earl of Wessex and other opening night visitors – not least the impressive fly tower where an enormous automatic acoustic smoke ventilator supplied by Bilco has been installed.

Built in six sections with 24 covers over an area measuring 4,000 mm x 11,000 mm, it is the first motorised acoustic ventilator made with a two-cover design. It is the largest vent ever manufactured by the Suffolk-based company.

Automatic smoke vents are essential in helping firemen to bring a blaze under control by removing smoke, heat and noxious gases from a building if fire breaks out.

Acoustic ventilators are ideal for concert halls, cinemas and theatres because, as well as providing automatic venting should a fire start, they also prevent noise intrusion and carry the highest sound rating on the market.

The Marlowe ventilator can be opened and closed remotely using internal switches to remove heat from the stage area. Its control system automatically closes the covers during wet and windy conditions while in natural ventilation mode.

The covers open up to 90° as required by BS EN 12101-2 to ensure the rapid dispersal of smoke and fumes and to prevent them being blown back into the building. They are fully-insulated and gasketed to ensure weather-tightness and sound-resistance.

James Fisher, Bilco UK/Europe general manager, said: “The covers are specially designed to reduce noise pollution from outside but, equally, they reduce noise from the theatre affecting surrounding properties.

“Safety, comfort and sound quality were all crucial considerations and Marlowe Theatre has demonstrated our ability to deliver a product that has met all the expectations of the original design.

“The major benefit of this acoustic vent is that it provides natural ventilation throughout the auditorium and stage areas while offering the reassurance of automatic venting should fire ever start inside the theatre.”

Built on the site of the old theatre, the new Marlowe has 1,200 seats (250 more than the old building), foyers and bars on three floors, a café and terrace and a piazza for outside performances. The orchestra pit, backstage space and fly tower are large enough to attract major touring musicals, operas and ballets.

The opening ceremony was followed by a weekend of free events in and around the theatre featuring a combination of music, dance and street theatre.

Bilco manufactures a range of standard off-the-shelf hatches, floor doors and smoke vents and also provides a design service to meet special 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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