Flying High at Trafford Park

27 Apr 2010

It has been the fastest and most efficient tunnel build to date in Airkix’ experience1. As planner, architect and engineer, and CDM Co-ordinator, RPS managed the full design process, ensured all safety and fire regulations were satisfied, and devised the initial facilities maintenance plan.

The Manchester wind tunnel is Airkix’ second indoor skydiving facility, and an inevitable expansion after the runaway success of their Milton Keynes experience (also designed and engineered by RPS), which was a first in Britain.

Recently opened on the Trafford Quays site (next to the Chill Factor real-snow indoor ski slope), the tunnel is magnificent – with a 14’ (4.27m) diameter, and a1600HP force. At 4-storeys (75’ or 23.86m) high, the £3.5m facility follows the same formula as the Milton Keynes tunnel, but with a glossier and more high-tech finish courtesy of four-years progress in skydiving simulation technology. The experience is complemented by a viewing gallery, café and bar upstairs for the less adventurous. The upstairs also boasts a conference room – giving the facility extra appeal for business team-building events. A reception area, and staff offices and facilities are provided on the ground floor.

As such a unique planning project, both facilities have been an exciting challenge for RPS, not least to satisfy the local authority on the design and visual appearance of the unusual structure. RPS worked closely with Manchester Metropolitan Borough Council to ensure a decision was achieved within just eight weeks. The positive result was further helped by RPS’ PPS6 Leisure Assessment which supported the application.

RPS’ innovative design incorporated the use of pre-manufactured components for quickest construction, optimising site operations time and costs for the client. The foundations of the building are the work-force – a wide, 16’ (5m) deep pit housing the lower turning vanes and other machinery.

Above the piling, the skin of the structure is made from steel sheets –welded on site.  All materials of the external skin are specified to closely complement the Chill Factor ski-slope, with the external structure of the tunnel evoking a feeling of weightlessness. Construction time was further optimised by partially assembling the Return Air Towers and arranging the decks (which were supplied in sections) on another area of the site during piling and welding works. The heating and cooling for the building is provided by a highly efficient air source heat pump which recovers waste heat to be re-used in the back-of-house areas.

Created specifically to accommodate the indoor wind-tunnel, the building was effectively created from the inside out.  RPS Associate Director, Kester Purslow explains:

“RPS’ integrated architecture and engineering services aided the coordination of the design process, helping us to deliver our second key project for Airkix on time and to budget. Following the success of the first project in Milton Keynes, we were delighted that Airkix again chose RPS as their design partner.”

The Airkix indoor skydiving experience facilities are amongst the most popular experiences for extreme sport gift voucher retailers, and have been noted by Red Letter Days as ‘the most successful single location attraction that we offer.’

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