This week, a system to keep workers safe from falls, hinges that are invisible to the naked eye, light switches that know when it's dark and illuminating an alien – plus the latest from the manufacturers
Lighting up an Austrian alien
The Kunsthaus, Graz
A large, shiny alien has landed in the middle of Graz, the Austrian town that is this year's European capital of culture.

This blue-scaled creature with its warty-nozzled back is the town's new art gallery – the Kunsthaus – designed by UK-based architects Peter Cook and Colin Fournier.

One of the building's more unusual features is that its unique acrylic facade is itself an artwork, which its designers, realities:united, call "an urban screen".

In reality, this is a 900 m2 facade wrapped around the biomorphic structure to form a membrane between the museum and the town, upon which computer-generated artworks will be displayed.

The screen is formed from 930 conventional circular 40 W fluorescent lights mounted behind the building's semi-transparent blue skin.

Each circular lamp forms a single pixel and is individually controlled by a central computer so that it can be turned on or off or have its brightness varied. In this way, images and films can be projected across the whole of the building's eastern facade at a speed of up to 20 frames per second.

Inside the building, fluorescent lamps have been used extensively to illuminate the exhibition floors. An inclined travelator carries visitors from the glazed entrance foyer to the enclosed first floor exhibition space.

Light on this floor comes from the battens of fluorescent lamps arranged in staggered lines across the ceiling, providing a uniform luminance across the floor.

A second travelator deposits visitors on the top floor, which features more circular fluorescent lamps. This time, the lamps form hoops of light, which line the inside of the nozzles on the top of the building. At night, these luminous hoops light up the cavernous space. Facade team
Concept, design and site management realities:united
Software realities:united and John de Kron
Screen design Musterfirma
Technical realisation Lightmanagement AG

Exhibition space
Lighting design Kress & Adams
Lighting supplier Zumtobel Staff

Wire ropes and clutches
Ductmate has launched a wire rope system called Cablemate for hanging building services including ductwork, pipework and electrical systems. It consists of wire rope supplied on a spool and a cable gripping device called the Clutcher. The wire is cut to length and fed through the cable grip to form a closed loop. The company says the device has a load rating of up to 113 kg and that it is set to launch one with a rating up to 324 kg.
Ductmate 301

Light switches that detect daylight
A range of lighting control devices that can switch the lights on or off and dim them when they detect daylight has been launched by Flex Connectors. These include the company's Flex 7 miniature daylight sensor, an extra-low-voltage manual override switch, and a network system to connect the devices together. The company says the products eliminate the need for complex programming and on-site commissioning of the lighting control system.
Flex Connectors 302

Patio doors for the home or office
Coburn Facade is a new sliding and folding door system developed by Hillaldam Coburn. It is intended for accessing terraces and patios in both homes and businesses. It consists of either three or five door leaves that have to be of equal width. Leaves are available in sizes of up to 3 m high and 900 mm wide, and in a choice of gold or silver anodised aluminium.
Hillaldam Coburn 303

Modular restraints for dangerous places
Roof-edge protection specialist Kee Klamp has launched a modular restraint system to keep workers safe from falls in situations where there is no permanent edge protection and for workers installing the company's KeeGuard edge protection system. The freestanding system is shaped like a cross, with weights fitted over the four ends to weigh it down and with the anchor connection point in the middle. The weights also have anti-slip rubber pads to prevent the system being pulled along. The weights can be used as a counterbalance in the KeeGuard guardrailing system to save workers having to take them down at the end of an installation.
Kee Klamp 304

Quicker torch-on waterproofing
A torch-on waterproofing system called Torchtec Quicflo for roofing applications is now on the market. Manufacturer Marley Waterproofing says the system includes heat transfer characteristics to concentrate the energy from the torch on activating the bonding process, a specially modified SBS type of bitumen to combine increased speed of melt and flow with good adhesion. The system is also said to remain flexible and crack-resistant down to -10º C and resists foot-marking. Cap sheets are supplied in 8 m lengths and in a choice of four colours: brown, black, green and blue-grey.
Marley Waterproofing 305

An invisible hinge
SOSS Invisible Hinge has brought out the SOSS 218 VA, a hinge that fits between the inside of the door frame and the edge of the door, and features both vertical and height adjustment of plus or minus 3 mm.
NV Tools 306

Faster duct installation
Metstrut, which makes metal framing systems for supporting services such as cables and air-conditioning units, has launched a prefabricated solution called Rapidstrut, which is claimed to reduce installation time by 40%.

The system consists of a channel designed to interface with brackets that have pre-assembled spring nuts and bolts. These are designed to fix to the channel very quickly. The channel also comes with multi-sized slots designed to be compatible with commonly used bolt sizes.
Metsec 307

Reversible aluminium windows
Velfac has added a reversible window with no externally visible mechanism called the 229 to its 200 series. The company says the product matches any of the other 200 series opening options, enabling designers to incorporate reversible windows into a facade yet retain identical sightlines. A new type of stainless steel hinge allows the window to rotate up to 170º. The window also incorporates safety devices, including a safety catch and child lock, plus a friction brake to damp the opening speed.
Velfac 308

Movers and makers

  • National drainage merchants Plumb Center and Drainage Center, both part of the Wolseley Center group, have opened a total of 11 new outlets. Products from both merchants are available at Perth in Scotland, Haverfordwest in Wales, Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire and High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. Plumb Center has opened branches at Lymington in Hampshire and Prudhoe in Northumberland. A Drainage Center has also been opened at Tonbridge, Kent.

  • Manufacturer of concrete, clay and natural stone products Marshalls plc has spent £9m on a fleet of articulated distribution vehicles, which will be located at the company’s 12 UK service centres. Subsidiary company Marshalls’ Landscape Products has just moved into a 3400 m2 headquarters building at Elland, Yorkshire.

  • The Waste & Resources Action Programme has found that there is growing awareness of new European Aggregate Standards, which start in January 2004, replacing existing British Standards. A survey was conducted on the organisation’s site, which found that 81% of users were aware of the changes. The new standards aim to create a level European playing field for the use of recycled, secondary and primary aggregates.

  • Two construction bodies promoting the use of IT are set to merge. Construction Industry Trading Electronically and the UK chapter of the International Alliance for Interoperability are joining forces. CITE hopes to benefit by gaining access to the IAI’s technical infrastructure and linking up with other chapters of the IAI. The IAI hopes it will gain greater exposure by reaching into the housebuilding and products sector of the industry, where CITE has a presence. Both organisations also hope to improve efficiency by combining administration functions.

  • Trent Concrete has won a cladding contract worth £1m for a mixed office and residential scheme in Waterford, Ireland. The contract is for 5,000 m2 of precast reconstructed stone cladding in four different finishes.

  • Paving manufacturer Tarmac TopPave has invested £10m in a decorative paving factory at Pocklington, Yorkshire. The company says it is its first production facility in the north of England, and it will make flagstones and walling products. The factory will double the company’s production capacity and enable it to develop new production lines.

Product innovation: No more cold runnings

HeatSafe Cable Systems has come up with a solution to the old problem of having to wait ages for the hot water to come through when the tap is turned on. The Hotwat Pipe consists of insulated plastic pipe with an electrical heating element inside it. Hot water is piped from the boiler through the Hotwat Pipe and the heating element automatically maintains it at a constant 50-55°C. The company says keeping the water hot all the time is more energy-efficient than allowing the water to cool down inside unlagged pipes, and therefore saves water and money. It quotes figures from the UK Electricity Research Council that says typical uninsulated hot water distribution systems are 50% efficient whereas heated and insulated systems are 75% efficient. To install the system, a special manifold is connected conventionally to the hot water tank and the Hotwat Pipe is then connected between the manifold and all the hot water outlet pipes. It is available with inside diameters of 20 mm and 12 mm, and the company says it doesn’t need specialist personnel to install it.
HeatSafe Cable Systems 309