Response sent: September 2010

Request:

I should be grateful to have replies to the following questions under the Freedom of Information Act.

1. Why are the chillers being replaced/refurbished now?

2. Has the refurbishment of Kew 1, the taking down or addition of partitions in the reading rooms of Kew 1 or the change of use of part of the basement repository of Kew 1, had any detrimental effect on the air conditioning flow, cooling tower or chillers.

3. Since the commencement of the refurbishment programme have there been any incidents, accidents or discoveries involving substances or contaminants hazardous to health within TNA estate buildings or grounds?

4a. Will there be environmental/air quality monitoring within the MDLR before, during and after the refurbishment? I ask as I am unsure as to whether there any asbestos to be found within this room and its immediate environs (following procedures noted at point 3.2 of the user forum minutes 21 February 2008 and the dangers of its disturbance)?

4b. Point 3.3 of the same minutes, regarding air conditioning states: "it also needs to be thoroughly cleaned and it is intended that the work will be done in the next year". It appears, therefore, from the user forum minutes that cleaning is overdue; is this the case? If so, will this cleaning be undertaken during the refurbishment to prevent further closure of the room and continued inconvenience to its users?

4c. At the completion of the refurbishment of MLDR and the Open Reading Room will there be an inspection of Kew 1 by Health and Safety officials, and, will the User Forum in particular, and readers in general, be given the full results of their findings? After talk of partial refurbishment last year and the current round of works we need reassurances that all is finally well with the air conditioning and cooling system/chillers, and that we will be working in a safe environment.

Outcome:

Successful

Response:

1. The existing chillers are beyond their operational life.  They also employ a refrigerant gas (R22) that is no longer manufactured and whose service life must end by 2015.n  The existing chillers cannot be re-gassed with an alternative refrigerant for both technical and economic reasons.  The replacement chillers are high efficiency units that are capable of running the chilled water system at lower temperatures which will improve the dehumidification capability of the system and therefore improve control of the repository environmental conditions.  The replacement chillers will also consume less energy than the old units, hence reducing our carbon emissions.

2. No.

3. No.

4a. Yes, the air quality will continue to be monitored across the building in line with our usual monitoring procedures.

4b. All is well with the air conditioning, cooling system and chillers.  It is a safe environment.  The air quality is independently reported as being superior to that of SE England and London housing stock.  (In other words it is better than in some private housing).

4c. No, however, the project and its environs will be monitored by the appointed Construction Design and Management Coordinator (CDMC) and the The National Archives' Health and Safety Advisor before, during and after the project has been completed.