ORBEM
The Basement of Broadcasting House Extension
In this section: Project Baseband
B12-B16 when new | B12-B16 later | B6

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Final Years of BH Extension: Project Baseband by Nick Jennings

Project Baseband logo
The 4.5 million project to refurbish the Broadcasting House Extension basement studios began as a scheme to replace the single air conditioning system serving the area, which was commissioned when BHX was built in the late 1950s. Failure of this plant, and it had already suffered major breakdowns, would render all nine talks studios, two drama studios, the TV studio and four conference rooms unusable and seriously jeopardise Radio's operations. Discussions started in 1989 on a project to replace it with a modern energy efficient system. Various money saving possibilities were considered but because of the increased heat load of modern broadcasting equipment, this would require new larger ductwork entailing extensive building work and disruption to the area. It was at this point that the decision was made to carry out a complete refurbishment, including the electrical and technical facilities.

For operational reasons the project was divided into two phases. The first included Studios B12 to B16 and was carefully programmed to coincide with the very near, very noisy foundation work for BHXX, the new extension to Broadcasting House, which would have made these studios unusable.
Phase 1
The area was taken out of service in July 1992. An important element of the project was the installation of sprinklers for fire containment. It was the first time this precaution has been taken in BH studios.

Due to the unusual contours of the new type of acoustic treatment fitted in three of the studios (see later), the help of BSRIA (The Building Services Research and Information Association) was sought to computer model the expected conditions in each room. Although this did not reveal any dramatic differences to the planned design, the confirmation that there would be no extremes of temperature or draughts, was reassuring.

As the appearance of the area had been unchanged since the studios first came into service and was drab and dated, it was also decided to remodel the spine corridor to produce a modern and pleasant working environment.

Artist's impression


Glass lobby
The objective was to remove the boring tunnel effect of the spine corridor, to open it out and produce an interesting and "high tech" appearance rather than merely a route from one end of the building to the other. At the same time, the architect was restricted by being unable to change the basic studio layouts, which were of a floated floor "box within a box" construction for sound isolation. However, by releasing Recording Channel H12 (between studios B15 and B16) to become a seating area and by redesigning the sound lobbies using glazed partitions (right), the appearance of the corridor was radically changed. The use of floor lighting, Ceefax displays and glass block walls also added interest to the central seating area. A room with vending machines was created here to avoid the need for catering trolleys, which had marred the area previously.

A small seating area with talkback to the studio manager was created outside each studio where contributors could be briefed before entering the studio.

Artist's impression


Plan of basement studios
At that time it was thought possible that conducted tours by the public may be possible and to that end, windows were provided from the corridor into all the control cubicles and studios. This added to the impression of spaciousness.

In Studio B12 the cubicle and studio were reversed to produce a large cubicle. Sightlines in Studios B13 and B14 were improved by creating a second observation window. Low reflectivity glass was used for all windows and the clarity of vision was exceptional. This was demonstrated with the view between the cubicles of Studios B15 and B16, which was the full length of the site and through four triple glazed windows, which caused minimal visual degradation.

Because of financial restrictions, it was decided to provide only three new control desk for Studios B12, B13 and B14. The existing GP Mk4 control desks were about ten years old and the best two were overhauled for reinstallation in Studios B15 and B16. These two studios retained their existing acoustic treatment. All five studios were capable of self selection directly to any Radio network.
Neve 66
Neve 66 in B13


The Neve 66 was a computer assisted control desk, which allowed electronic routing through the desk and the storing and recall of configurations. This proved invaluable in speeding up the changes needed between different operators and types of programme. The desks were equipped with twelve stereo and twelve mono channels, four stereo groups, four dynamics units, capability for four outside sources and comprehensive monitoring and talkback facilities.

Ancillary equipment included grams, quarter-inch and cassette tape machines, CD, cartridge players and reverberation units. The CID acoustic treatment would not allow record and CD racks etc. to be wall mounted as in the past and therefore a wheeled trolley was designed to house all the media storage requirements.
CID
Research Department at Kingswood Warren had been working on a new type of acoustic treatment and after a series of listening tests with studio managers, it was decided to use it for the first time in Studios B12, Bl3 and B14. In control cubicles, sound reflected from walls and ceiling adjacent to the loudspeakers can degrade the stereo image and affect the perceived sound quality. In the past this has been dealt with by absorbing the unwanted reflections using the traditional BBC modular acoustic boxes. Unfortunately, this is likely to produce a dead acoustic and an oppressive working environment.

CID sketch
The new acoustic treatment is known as Controlled Image Design (CID). This takes a different approach by using hard flat surfaces positioned and angled to a computer aided design, to reflect the unwanted sounds around the control desk operator to the rear wall where they are absorbed with standard acoustic boxes. This greatly improves the stereo imaging and because of the hard surfaces, produces a more pleasant acoustic generally.

CID construction
CID system in B14


The CID system under construction and complete in the cubicle of B14.

Because the whole design is based around the position of the loudspeakers and the operator, the loudspeakers have to be fixed in their optimum position. New loudspeaker stands were designed, including accommodation for the amplifiers, and bolted to the floor.
Conclusion
The first phase of the project was completed on 18th October 1993 and opened by MDR. These studios were used mainly by Radio 4 for programmes, which included, Loose Ends, Kaleidoscope, Start the Week, Mid Week, You and Yours and Going Places. Studios B12, B13 and B14 were the RPR (Radio Production Resources) front line general purpose studios for creative and artistic programmes, whereas Studios B15 and B16 were used mainly for topical live transmissions with phone ins.

Although the planning for the second phase of the project (Studios B6, B7, B8, B9 and the Conference Rooms) was complete, it was cancelled due to a reduction in the need for Radio studio capacity.

Work begins in the corridor
Nick Jennings Project Manager Baseband,
Radio Projects
Tony Godman Broadcast Systems Engineer,
Radio Projects
Brendan Barbour Technical Commissioning, EOR
Bob Walker CID acoustics,
Research Department
Tony Woolf Acoustic Engineer, RDER
Larry Mitchell BDMS Co-ordinator and
Mechanical Engineer
John Costen BDMS Architect
Brian Hyams BDMS Electrical Engineer
Peter Monnery RPR representative
Andrew Riley Manager, Technical
installation contractor
Eric Skidmore Site Foreman, Sunleys
building contractor


right: work begins in the corridor


The new corridor
Corridor from Portland Place end


Corridor from Hallam Street end


The seating area
The seating area


The seating area