National Centre for Popular Music Rotating Roof Cowls

SCX Special Projects played an instrumental role in the construction of Sheffield’s National Centre for Popular Music, designed by visionary architect Nigel Coates.

The structure consists of four stainless steel clad drums, joined together by a covered foyer. As well as being the aesthetic centrepiece of the buildings, the drums’ roof cowls channel the power of the wind to provide an environmentally friendly and cost effective ventilation system.

In order to harness this power, the roof cowls must rotate into the wind so that its full force can be fed down the funnels at all times. SCX Special Projects not only mobilised the huge structures, but automated them to sense the direction of the wind and manoeuver smoothly and silently into position, in synchronisation. This pioneering feature of engineering was the first of its kind in the world.

National Centre for Popular Music with rotating roof cowls

A sensor detects wind direction and the system automatically recalibrates the position of the cowls every 15 minutes. The cowls are able to align directly into the flow of the wind and to within ± 10mm of each other.

Radial beam inside the National Centre for Popular Music that allows the cowl to rotate

Each 4m high roof cowl runs on a 13.5m diameter radial beam. As well as automatic operation, the 10 tonnes cowls can be manually rotated completely independently of each other and in any direction. Accuracy in design and manufacture ensures that the cowls move smoothly and silently throughout their full rotations.

One of the four individually powered bogies that drive the cowl of the National Centre for Popular Music

The design of the cowls means that each roof section tilts slightly outwards by approximately 4°. Each cowl is driven by four bogies, with each powered by a separate motor to provide sufficient torque and braking to overcome this slight incline.

A centrally mounted slip ring is used to supply power and control to each of the motors and enable infinite rotation of the cowls.

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SCX Special Projects Ltd

Roman Ridge Road, Sheffield, S9 1GA, United Kingdom

t:  +44 (0)114 262 6199