Leisure and Ice Case Studies

  • Snozone Milton Keynes


    Snozone provide the UK’s leading snow centres for indoor skiing and snowboarding on real snow. Snozone’s two indoor snow centres, located in Milton Keynes and Castleford, offer skiers and snowboarders an authentic slope experience. The facilities suit first time skiers or experienced snowboarders, and have taught nearly 2 million guests since opening in 2000.

    The facility in Milton Keynes has a run 170m long is maintained at -4C air temperature and contains 1500 tonnes of Snow and Ice.  The cooling system provides low temperature glycol for circulation in pipework under the slope, to air coolers in the room and snow guns to maintain the Alpine environment for the customers enjoying their winter sports.

    The facility is also an anchor tenant in the purpose built Xscape leisure and retail complex and is a key attraction in Milton Keynes which celebrated its 50 year inauguration in 2017.

    Snozone contacted M&E Building Services Consulting Engineer, Hulley & Kirkwood, to help them with problems they were experiencing with the refrigeration system.  In recent years the plant was becoming more unreliable and was having difficulty coping with Summer ambient temperatures.  This resulted in problems with maintaining temperatures in the snow chamber and meant that temporary chiller plant was required on a seasonal basis to augment cooling from the R404A chillers installed in 1999. 

    The striking architectural line of the Xscape roof structure mean that all building services were located inside the building with air intakes/ outlets taken through the perimeter walls.  The plant comprised 2 x 100% primary circuits with screw compressors and shell and tube evaporators inside the machinery room.  Heat rejection equipment comprised air cooled condensers located in a dedicated chamber and air blast oil coolers also in the plant room.   The secondary refrigerant system pumps glycol through the chillers to 16 coolers mounted in the roof of the ski slope and to the underfloor pipe grid.

    The screw chillers were rated for 360kW at -16C glycol off temperatures.    As the original manufacturer, Tri-Therm are no longer in business the plant was being maintained by a local contractor.

    For this reason, it was difficult to obtain information about the plant so site surveys and some original drawings provided some background data.

    The customer decided to invest in a future-proof, brand new refrigeration plant and since they had good experience using ammonia at their other location in Castleford, they sought to use this refrigerant at Milton Keynes.

    The existing plant room was unsuitable to retrofit a new ammonia plant so the decision was taken to locate the new system outside.  A site survey revealed that it was impractical and costly to install the chillers in the car park so a location was chosen on the public thoroughfare outside the existing plant room.  This location offered short tie in connections for power and glycol but also allowed improved airflow for the new chillers and  the ability to create a secure compound.

    It was recognised early in the project that it would be necessary to engage a specialist consultant to conduct an Ammonia Hazard Assessment to identify all safety measures required for installation of the new outdoor refrigeration system. Star Technical Solutions (STS) attended site and specified a number of project enhancements for the safety of building employees and the general public.

    • Secure compound which did not obstruct fire exit stairway
    • Relief valves piped to a dispersion tank sized to absorb any ammonia releases
    • Ammonia gas detection sensors on both chillers tie back to a building alarm system
    • Alarms to isolate air intakes in the vicinity of the chillers
    • Delivery of ammonia awareness training to Snozone staff

     

    H&K arranged for planning approval for the new external plant.  Noise surveys were taken before and after the installation to prove it was no worse than the existing installation to the surroundings, particularly considering a new hotel was being built across from the facility.

    Liaison with the Landlord and affected tenants was also a key consideration to minimise the impact of the refrigeration upgrade during and after installation.

    Continuity of business was extremely important to Snozone.  Not only did they want to avoid any loss of skiing amenities for their customers, they could not afford to have any sustained cooling outage as it would result in loss of their ski slope and possible adverse release of water into the centre’s shopping and restaurant outlets.

    The location of 2 off 9.7m long chillers on the paved area outside the plant room required careful survey to ensure that they did not obstruct any underground services or impact on traffic movement or parking adjacent on the site access road.  A louvered perimeter wall was specified to screen the chillers from public access that also allowed adequate air flow onto the air cooled condenser coils.

    Break ins to the glycol system were made in advance of the chillers being installed to provide secure isolated connection points for the new interconnecting piping between cooling plant and chillers.  The piping was carefully routed to ensure one of the existing chillers was useable for as long as possible before being decommissioned. 

    A Programme was prepared to manage overall works and the changeover from new Star chiller from hire chiller was achieved without any cooling outage.

    The original hydraulic circuit was arranged to circulate 50% of the flow through one running chiller which cooled from -10 to -16C and then mixed with 50% bypassed flow to achieve an aggregate glycol temperature of -13C pumped to the ski-slope.  The upgraded system was designed to circulate full flow through 1 chiller giving a glycol off temperature of -13C for improved efficiency.

    The new installation included 2 off Star AA415MTE-1 Azanechillers 2.0 rated for 360kW capacity chilling ethylene glycol to from -10 to -13C.  The chillers were equipped with Sabroe reciprocating compressors with flange mounted VSD electric motors allowing capacity control down to 17% load.  Vahterus plate and shell evaporators allowed a close refrigerant approach while minimising ammonia charge to only 85kg per chiller.  Acoustic enclosures around the compressor/motor assembly combined with EC condenser fans to present the lowest noise signature for the retrofit installation.

    The new chillers have been operational since September 2017 and the effect has been transformational for site.

    The new equipment has been easily able to maintain -13C glycol temperatures in the ski slope even on warmer days, whereas the previous equipment was struggling to achieve -8C at peak times.

    Reliability of the installation is enhanced with a full 100% standby chiller available and no need to bring in hire chillers due to down time with original R404A chillers.

    Energy savings have been dramatic.  The table below shows monthly energy bills before and after the plant was changed over including refrigeration, pumps, lighting, electric defrosting and chairlifts. In the first 4-month period of operation, the electricity usage was 661,255kWh compared to 1,511,062kWh for the same period in 2016.  This 56% saving improved the profitability of the business and helped to justify the investment in new plant.

    The environmental impact of operations has been much improved with almost 700 tonnes of CO2 saved in indirect emissions from electricity in the initial 4 months running and saving of approximately 30kg of R404A per month for top up refrigerant on the old plant.

    Given the uncertain future of HFC refrigerants, the chosen ammonia chiller solution offered a high integrity industrial plant with 20 year life and was future proof with no risk of phase out in future.  This also allowed Snozone to fund their investment over a longer term in line with their financial targets.

    Better operation control of cooling has allowed Snozone to manage the snow environment in the chamber and to optimise snowmaking and defrosting activities for an improved customer experience.  On their company website Snowzone advertised “ they now have a £1m investment in new chillers and have the best snow ever!”


     


  • Stirling Curling Rink - UK’s first National Curling Academy


     

    Star has been working in the leisure industry since 1970, installing 80% of the UK’s ice rinks, curling rinks, indoor ski slopes and ice walls, including Braehead Arena where Sochi Paralympics 2014 bronze medallist Aileen Nielson trained for the competition. This experience in delivering high quality winter sports training facilities resulted in the company being approached as a consulting partner in the construction of the UK’s first National Curling Academy.

    Scotland has a long history with curling but surprisingly until recently there had been nowhere in the UK for elite curlers to train. In preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, it was decided that a dedicated training facility for curling athletes was to be built in Stirling, as an extension to The Peak sports centre.

    The National Curling Academy at The Peak is launching a bid for gold as Aileen Nielson, captain of the Paralympian curling team, aims to capitalise on her bronze medal from the 2014 Winter Olympics.

    When asked about the new state of the art curling rink Paralympian Aileen Nielson, said, “For me, the quality of ice at the ice rinks I practise at is crucial to enable me to become the best curler I can be. If you have consistent ice then you are able to more accurately analyse your technique and delivery and if the ice is consistent it is one less variable to take into account. It is good to train and practice on different ice conditions but there is nothing better than training on ‘World class’ ice every day in preparation for playing at the major competitions, like Worlds, Olympics and Paralympics where you generally get top quality ice”.

    “I would like to thank Star Refrigeration for their continued support, and all the ice rinks we have used over the years. We appreciate all of the hard work by dedicated staff who are involved in producing top quality ice in order for us to be the best we can be”.

    Robertson Central East was the main contractor for the project but had no experience in ice rinks. As Star Refrigeration had installed the original ice rink at The Peak in Stirling in 2008, the organisation was approached to become the subcontractor and offer expertise and installation to deliver the premium quality ice required for the elite curling rink. Up until now, the elite curlers had to share ice at the ice rink facility before the £3.15 million Curling Academy, funded by SportScotland and Stirling Council, was built.

    Alan Walkinshaw, Special Projects Manager from Star Refrigeration said, “Scotland has always been on the map for curling, yet we have never had a dedicated training facility for our curling athletes to build on their success. This exciting development means that the UK’s curling teams can train all year round in the high quality facility to help them reach the top of their game – and hopefully bring back more medals!”

    As an extension of The Peak, the curling rink is a standalone building adjacent to the sports complex. Star was required for the design, supply, installation and commissioning of a packaged refrigeration unit and glycol pump assembly. Engineers designed and installed the curling rink floor and interconnected warm and cold pipe circuits. Having never built an ice rink, Robertson Central East needed to work with a trustworthy and reliable contractor with experience in ice facilities.

    David Cairns, managing director of Robertson Central East, said: “Stirling is Robertson Group’s headquarters so it was a particular pleasure to work on such a major project on our doorstep. The construction phase went smoothly and I’m sure that those who use the National Curling Academy will enjoy the high-quality facility for a long time to come.

    “We specially appreciate our partnership with Star Refrigeration. Their exceptional knowledge and vast experience in the leisure and ice market were fundamental to delivering a highly efficient, low carbon, first class facility on time and budget”.

    Star suggested the use of an air cooled package with Azanechiller 2.0. The equipment selection was ideal for the project because there was no need for a large chiller plant room, and the natural refrigerant meant it was an energy efficient, eco-friendly option as well as future proofed against the F-gas regulation.

    The EcoDesign compliant National Curling Academy’s Azanechiller 2.0 breaks energy efficiency standards with a Seasonal Energy Performance Ratio (SEPR) of 4.28, which is 66% higher than the Minimum Energy Performance Standards set by the Eco-Design Directive. The EcoDesign Directive has the potential to save end-users millions of pounds on energy bills and will have a great impact on cutting carbon emissions to achieve Europe's 80% carbon reduction targets by 2050.

    The National Curling Academy’s Azanechiller 2.0 offers a coefficient of performance (COP) which is 62% higher than competing HFC screw chillers and 42% higher than alternative low carbon refrigerants. In terms of the impact on carbon emissions and life cycle costs, this results in a 700 tonne and £241,000 saving respectively after 20 years.

    The Scottish Government Minister for Public Health and Sports, Aileen Campbell, said, “As our Paralympic curling team competes in PyeongChang, they go with the confidence of having had a high quality preparation in world class facilities, and that they have given themselves the best chance of success. This is thanks to the support and hard work of the National Curling Academy and Star Refrigeration.”

    “Scotland is committed to sport being accessible to all, and seeing our para athletes compete on the world stage is powerful inspiration to anybody who wants to participate and achieve their goals.”

    This joint project has had a transformative effect on the training facilities for elite curlers, who now have their own dedicated facility for year round practice. We wish them the best of luck in PyeongChang!


  • East Kilbride Ice Rink


    Star Refrigeration is helping one of Scotland’s most-loved ice rinks to improve both its service to skaters and curlers and its environmental credentials by replacing their existing R22 refrigeration system with an eco-friendly and highly efficient Azanechiller 2.0.

    The natural cooling contractor’s latest Azanechiller 2.0 will provide East Kilbride Ice Rink with a solution that will significantly reduce the rink’s energy costs and environmental impact which avoids the uncertainty of synthetic refrigerants caused by the F-Gas Regulations.

    East Kilbride’s famous ice rink is currently undergoing complete replacement in order to bring the facility into the 21st century. Originally inspired by Houston’s The Galleria shopping mall, the ice rink attracts between 115,000 and 120,000 visitors through its doors every year. Playing host to a wide range of events, from curling to ice skating parties and even family days out, the rink is very much a fixture in locals’ lives and requires a strong, reliable backbone to support it into the future.

    Star Refrigeration’s expertise in the specialist field of ice rink design and installation helped the company succeed in securing the project following a competitive tender. Having designed and installed a significant majority of the permanent ice rink facilities in the UK leisure industry for the last 45 years, including the original ice rink in the shopping centre, helped demonstrate that Star were the right choice for the job.

    Gerry Campbell, the General Manager of South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture said, “After a long and productive partnership with Star, SLLC are delighted that they have been selected to provide so much of the fundamental equipment at the newly refurbished East Kilbride Ice Rink.”

    “The new ammonia based chiller system with its significantly improved energy consumption will be an essential part of our successful operation.”

    “The excellence of the service received over the past 25 years from Star ensures we can look forward to the next years comfortable in the knowledge that the single most important piece of equipment will be well installed and well maintained.”

    The refurbishment project includes the removal of existing floor, plant and barriers, and the supply and installation of a new ammonia air cooled chiller, pump set, ice rink floor, barrier system, curling stone storage area, interconnecting pipework and wiring.

    The Azanechiller 2.0 is an air-cooled, packaged ammonia chiller which incorporates energy saving technology and delivers cooling efficiencies that are 71% higher than the EU’s EcoDesign Directive’s requirements and 20% higher than competing high efficiency chillers. In addition, the use of ammonia, a natural occurring refrigerant with zero ozone depleting and global warming potential, will keep the rink in line with current regulations which have banned the use of R22 due to its ozone depleting potential.

    The installation works are being carried out in conjunction with the main contractor’s larger redevelopment of the area around the ice rink, within the Olympia Mall. In order to facilitate a successful and timely delivery, Star’s engineering team scheduled the removal of the existing floor during the night, which allowed for the other works to continue without disruption. Star Refrigeration have a vast experience working in collaboration with main contractors, with ice rinks being a key specialist sector, which proved to be fundamental for this project as the contractor required to be fully reliant on Star's expertise to execute the new ice rink facility and guarantee a successful delivery.

    The standalone air cooled modular Azanechiller 2.0 AA415MT-2 model is part of a specifically designed MT range for medium temperature applications with two compressors to provide extra resilience, and will be installed with run/standby pumpset. The total installation offers numerous benefits, including reduced energy consumption, low maintenance requirements and the advantages of using a zero GWP refrigerant, which future proofs the ice rink against new environmental legislation. The Azanechiller also offers proven exemplary safety credentials and reliability, reduced life cycle costs when compared to the next best alternative, and a long life expectancy of over 20+ years.

    Lewis Brown, Business Development Manager for Star Refrigeration who is overseeing the project through from its inception, said, “East Kilbride ice rink’s state of the art Azanechiller 2.0 has a Seasonal Energy Performance Ratio (SEPR) of 4.32, which is 71% higher than the EU EcoDesign Directive requirement.”

    “Our research showed life cycle cost savings of £278,000 and carbon savings of 1,204 tons of CO2 over 20 years for this specific application when compared with ‘best in class’ ammonia screw chillers.”

    Star Refrigeration has long ties with East Kilbride ice rink, having installed their previous system – which lasted 26 years and operated round the clock – when it was first opened in 1989. The rink is also located just 10 minutes away from Star’s head office and manufacturing facility with in-house design team in Glasgow. This is a welcome extra layer of assurance for the ice rink which will have a dedicated, fully qualified engineering team readily available 24/7.

    The installation is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Star Refrigeration’s local Bellshill branch will continue to offer support through a three year maintenance programme to ensure the ice rink performs at optimal design conditions. 


  • Aberdeen Curling Rink


    Star Refrigeration has confirmed its position as the market leader in ice systems for the UK leisure industry, with the completion of a world class curling rink in Aberdeen.

    Over the past 35 years, Star has designed and installed refrigeration systems for over 70% of the UK’s ice rinks. The cooling solutions specialist has also designed and built a range of ice-climbing walls and ice-based visitor attractions for the leisure industry clients.

    Star’s latest ice system was developed for the new Curl Aberdeen facility in Summerhill, Aberdeen. The purpose built indoor facility is North East Scotland’s main centre for the traditional winter sport of curling.

    The building houses a large six sheet curling rink with a total floor space of 1,350 metres square.

    Star designed an ice system that would provide optimum coverage across the entire curling rink floor. It was vital that the surface of the rink was level and that the temperature, quality and hardness of the ice remained even and constant.

    Star¹s ice system for Curl Aberdeen comprises an ammonia refrigeration plant connected to specially designed flooring. The plant chills glycol to a low temperature prior to circulation through a network of cooling pipes embedded in the ice rink floor.

    Rob Lamb, Sales Director of Star Refrigeration, says: “Curl Aberdeen is another example of Star's expertise in providing world class ice for sport and recreation. Star has over three decades of experience in ice rink design and installation. We are dedicated to providing rink operators with reliable, efficient and easily maintained ice systems.”

    Star's refrigeration plant for Curl Aberdeen is a packaged chiller with a cooling capacity of 253kW. It features twin reciprocating compressors, a patented low pressure receiver and plate and shell heat exchanger.

    Curl Aberdeen is now approaching the end of its first full season (September to April). The centre is home to 27 curling clubs and also features changing rooms, lounge, bar and catering facilities.

    The new facility was visited by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in October 2005. The Queen enjoyed a curling display and unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark the official opening.

    Curl Aberdeen is the latest in a long line of ice rink and specialist ice projects for Star. Previous specialist leisure ice installations include the world's largest indoor ice-climbing wall at The Ice Factor in the West Highlands of Scotland in 2003. Star has also designed and built unique ice-based visitor attractions at Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh and The Deep in Hull.

    Star Refrigeration is the UK’s largest independent industrial refrigeration engineering company. Star focuses on the design, manufacture, installation, commissioning and maintenance of industrial refrigeration systems. The company offers a turnkey package to all users of refrigeration plant.

    Star’s technical advisory arm, Star Technical Solutions (STS), operates as an independent consultancy providing advise on refrigeration engineering issues. Star also owns food freezing and chilling equipment specialist Starfrost, as well as mechanical and electrical contractors Penec.


  • Lammas Leisure Centre, Notts


    Star Refrigeration has designed and installed an ice rink cooling system at a brand new £16million leisure centre in Nottinghamshire.

    Cooling solutions specialist Star is the market leader in ice systems for the UK leisure industry. Star’s work at the new facility in Sutton-in-Ashfield is the latest in a long line of ice-based leisure projects spanning nearly 40 years.

    The Lammas Leisure Centre is being provided by Ashfield District Council. The council has invested £16million in the community facility, which includes an ice skating rink, swimming pools, sports hall, indoor bowling and fitness suite.

    Star worked in partnership with the project’s main building contractor. In a contract valued at around £400,000, Star supplied the refrigeration plant, pump system and specially designed ice rink flooring.

    Rob Lamb, Sales Director of Star Refrigeration says: “Overall, the council was looking for an energy efficient refrigeration plant to minimise its carbon footprint in line with current environmental policy. Star is dedicated to developing environmentally conscious cooling solutions. To date we have designed refrigeration systems for over 80 per cent of the UK’s ice rinks.”

    Star’s ice system for the Lammas Leisure Centre provides optimum coverage across the 32 x 18 metre ice rink. The refrigeration plant is designed to be reliable, efficient and easily maintained.

    The system comprises a low charge ammonia refrigeration plant. This chills glycol to minus 10 degrees centigrade, prior to being pumped through a network of cooling pipes embedded in the ice rink floor.

    Star’s ice system ensures that the temperature, quality and hardness of the ice remains even and constant. The refrigeration plant has a total a cooling capacity of 195kW. It features dual compressors, a plate and shell heat exchanger, external condensers and an ammonia gas detection system.

    The environmentally conscious, low energy cooling solution also incorporates an innovative heat recovery system. Waste heat from the ice rink plant is captured and recycled to heat water for the two swimming pools on site.

    The Lammas Leisure Centre project is another example of Star’s expertise in providing world class ice systems for sport and recreation. Star has nearly four decades of experience in ice rink design and installation. Star has also designed and built a range of ice-climbing walls and ice-based visitor attractions for leisure industry clients.

    Star Refrigeration is the UK’s largest independent industrial refrigeration engineering company. Star focuses on the design, manufacture, installation, commissioning and aftercare of industrial refrigeration and HVAC systems.

    Star provides total cooling solutions for refrigeration, air conditioning and process cooling. The company offers a turnkey supply and support package to all users of cooling equipment. Star continues to invest in the development of new products to provide energy conscious cooling systems for the benefit of customers and the
    environment.


  • Solihull Ice Rink


    Leading cooling solutions specialist Star Refrigeration has designed and installed a new energy efficient ice rink system using natural refrigerants at the Blue Ice Solihull Rink near Birmingham.

    Star has a proven track record in ice rink systems spanning four decades, having designed over 80 percent of facilities in the UK leisure industry. Star worked on behalf of regeneration specialist St. Modwen on the Blue Ice contract.

    The Solihull ice rink is one of the busiest in the UK, with around 150,000 skaters using the facility each year. The client was looking to replace the rink’s cooling system with environmentally conscious and cost effective solution.

    The existing rink refrigeration plant at the Solihull facility was in excess of 20 years old and operated on HCFC refrigerant R22, which is currently being phased out. The system refrigerant charge was in excess of two tonnes.

    Oil-clogged under floor cooling pipes and frost heave had also caused problems with the existing rink floor at Blue Ice. To maintain a level surface the rink required thicker ice, which increased both the refrigeration load and power consumption of the ageing plant.

    Star replaced the 57m x 26m ice rink floor and installed a new Azanechiller packaged ammonia refrigeration plant to replace the R22 system. Azanechiller operates with a small refrigerant charge (under 200kg) and has a total cooling capacity of 416kW.

    With zero ozone depletion potential and zero global warming potential, ammonia is used to chill secondary refrigerant glycol to -10°C. Glycol is then pumped through a network of cooling pipes embedded in the ice rink floor. The system ensures that the temperature, quality and hardness of the ice remains even and constant.

    Blue Ice Solihull Rink’s General Manager Stuart Cummings says: “The installation of the Azanechiller refrigeration system has proved to be very successful, both in terms of maintaining high quality ice for our customers to enjoy skating on and in the reduction of the related operating costs. Star Refrigeration's professionalism and expertise during the installation proved to be invaluable in ensuring a smooth transition from the old system to the new.”

    Star Refrigeration’s ice rink specialist Douglas Scott says: “As Azanechiller is a self contained air cooled package unit, we were able to locate it externally and avoided expensive building alterations to the existing plant room. The chiller is designed to allow easy internal access, ensuring straightforward maintenance and cleaning. This impacts directly on the lifelong efficiency of the plant.”

    As the Blue Ice Solihull Rink is located close to residential areas, Azanechiller’s compressors and drive motors were enclosed in acoustic housing to achieve low noise levels. The condenser fans also feature inverter controls permitting varied speeds to reduce noise levels and power consumption.

    Azanechiller is a complete refrigeration package, with each unit pre-charged and factory tested ready for installation. It offers exceptional operating efficiency and has a robust construction designed to provide over 20 yrs of hassle-free performance.

    Douglas Scott adds: “Azanechiller is ideally suited for retrofit projects where customers typically have limited space for new plant and need to keep project costs to a minimum.”

    Star developed the Azanechiller range of ammonia packaged chillers to meet cooling requirements in a wide range of markets. Suitable for cooling both water and glycol, Azanechiller is available as an air-cooled or water-cooled unit with cooling capacity from 200kW to 850kW.

    Star is the UK’s largest independent industrial refrigeration engineering company. Star focuses on the design, manufacture, installation, commissioning and aftercare of industrial refrigeration and HVAC systems.


  • The Ice Factor


    The Ice Factor, based at Kinlochleven in the West Highlands of Scotland opened on Saturday 27th December 2003. What makes this new climbing centre special is its ice-climbing wall, the largest indoor facility of its type in the world. With a 15m high ice wall, covering an area of approximately 800m2 The Ice Factor aims to provide the winter climbing enthusiast with all the experiences that they might find in the open, but without the 2 hour walk-in to find the right bit of ice. In a controlled and safe environment, beginners can cut their teeth and experts hone their technique.

    The Ice Cave, as the low temperature area of the facility is called, includes features such as Pillar Ice, a Neve Wall, the Fall out Gully and The Ledge. The ice-climbing wall has been designed and installed by Star Refrigeration, in conjunction with Entre-Prises, a leading designer and installer of artificial climbing walls.

    Jamie Smith, the MD, founder and majority shareholder of the Ice Factor first set his mind to the problem of how people could be taught winter climbing in a safe environment after witnessing a tragic accident whilst ice climbing in the Scottish Highlands.

    Over 10 years and a casual chat with an MBA colleague later, Jamie has now launched this major leisure development which, within the first month of opening, had attracted virtually all the UK's top 100 climbers through its doors.

    Jamie first seriously considered the project in 1989 and he chose the site following a mountaineering trip above the Mamore Mountains. "I was descending into Kinlochleven on the Devil's Staircase section of the West Highland Way and saw the building. It was formerly part of the aluminium smelter, but looked perfect for a climbing centre."

    A chance discussion after an MBA lecture with classmate Dave Pearson, who worked for Star Refrigeration, revealed that Dave's father is Professor Forbes Pearson, a world-renowned expert on refrigeration engineering. Jamie then met with the design team at Star Refrigeration and that laid the foundations for how real ice and snow could be created in a controlled environment.

    Simulating what nature provides is actually extremely difficult. A process of repeat "freeze/thaw" achieves the best climbing conditions on the ice wall. This process is bolstered by the surface of the rock being frozen and water/snow freezing hard on the surface. Recreating this process takes a number of separate steps.

    Under the floor of the ice room is around 15m of concrete to hold the massive weight of the ice. The floor also carries a heat membrane to prevent the ice breaking into the foundations of the building. The entire room is insulated with a single piece panel, essentially building a gigantic fridge.

    The room is laid out in a steel frame to support the weight/loads of the climbing walls. The steel frame then has rebar (as for motorway construction) overlaid. This is shaped to form the arretes, edges, gully features etc. A maze of coolant pipes is laid behind the rebar. This piping carries the industrial glycol coolant, which allows the operator to cool the room rapidly. It can bring the temperature down to -10ºC.

    Concrete is sprayed over the top of the pipes/rebar. This gives additional strength and provides an excellent surface to which the ice can adhere. The industrial coolants and fans provide the temperature flexibility to create "real" ice/snow/frozen turf/neve.

    For the ice wall cooling, Star Refrigeration designed and built a customised low-pressure received chiller unit incorporating two semi-hermetic screw compressors, a plate heat exchanger evaporator and surge vessel operating on R404A refrigerant. The unit has a total refrigeration duty of 100kW and is cooling ethylene glycol from -8ºC to -10ºC.

    For the room cooling system, Star Refrigeration designed and supplied a skid mounted condensing unit, providing 38 kW of cooling capacity and operating on R404A refrigerant. The refrigerant is fed to a DX air cooler mounted in The Ice Cave. Both units reject heat to atmosphere via air-cooled condensers.

    "Other companies had tried wood or artificial walls for ice climbing," said Jamie. "No solution was ideal, but on a snowboarding trip to Vermont I saw roadside, low level ice climbs to an extremely high standard. People were having all the fun of ice climbing without the imminent danger of death the Scottish scene is associated with - and that's what I wanted to develop."

    "It is safe to say that without Star Refrigeration, the Ice Factor would have never happened - they possess not only an incredible skill set for all things to do with refrigeration, but an overt passion for problem solving."

    "Those two skills of knowledge and passion have ensured that we've built the world's biggest indoor ice wall, in Scotland, with Scottish technology - wonderful!"

    Star is recognised as the leading UK authority in the field of refrigeration for ice and leisure applications, having designed and installed more than 70% of the UK's ice rinks in the past 30 years. In addition, it has designed and built the iceberg attraction at the Dynamic Earth centre in Edinburgh, the Deep Exhibition attraction in Hull and the ice effects for Aston Martin at the 2002 Motor Show in the NEC, Birmingham.

    Star and Entre-Prises had designed and installed ice-climbing walls for Tiso Outdoor Equipment in Glasgow and for Bever, a Dutch retailer of outdoor and climbing equipment, based in Den Haag, before carrying out the Ice Factor project. This project is different from the previous ones in scale and the levels of complexity that it offers those climbing on it.

    Star Refrigeration is the UK's largest independent industrial refrigeration engineering company. Star focuses on the design, manufacture, installation, commissioning and maintenance of industrial refrigeration systems. The company offers a turnkey package to all users of refrigeration plant.

    Established in Glasgow in 1970, Star has over 250 employees nationwide and provides fast response 24-hour technical support from a network of nine branches to customers throughout the UK.

    Star's technical advisory arm, Star Technical Solutions (STS), operates as an independent consultancy providing advice on refrigeration engineering issues. Star also owns food freezing and chilling equipment specialist Starfrost, as well as mechanical and electrical contractors Penec.