Expanded NEC is in the expo big league

This year’s Manufacturing Week takes place in a new home. It’s still at the NEC of course, but this time in new halls, adding 30,000sq m of space and completed just over one year ago. Visitors coming to the event by train will notice the slightly longer distance to the show, though part of this […]

This year’s Manufacturing Week takes place in a new home. It’s still at the NEC of course, but this time in new halls, adding 30,000sq m of space and completed just over one year ago.

Visitors coming to the event by train will notice the slightly longer distance to the show, though part of this is made easy by the `skywalk’ moving pavement.

For exhibitors, the halls replicate the structural steel design of the rest of the NEC complex, with a 10m-high roof, massive access doors, and the usual reinforced floor, which is capable of supporting the heaviest industrial equipment. Under the floor are the kind of services you would normally associate with a small town: gas, electricity, water supplies and waste-water ducts, as well as compressed air.

The new halls operate a sophisticated building management system, thought to be the largest in the UK, which interfaces with the chillers, gas monitoring system and fire dampers installed in the service subways. The chillers automatically step up their output if a pre-set temperature is reached, just like an automatic climate control system for a car – but on a scale a million times bigger.

The new halls have been built on to the side of Hall 6, on the site of the Bickenhill Plantation, and link up with the rest of the NEC to create a U-shaped arrangement, similar to that of Halls 1-5, but more spread out. The two sides of the U are made up of three new halls – 17, 18 and 19 – facing across a vast landscaped open space to Halls 9, 10, 11 and 12 (completed in 1993). The base of the U-shape links the two sides with Halls 8, 7, 6 (built in 1990) and then the new Hall 20. An attractive atrium has been created to allow people to walk from Hall 17 round to Hall 20 and the older halls, and this area also features snack bars and self service dining areas.

From the outside, the new halls are distinctive, clad in aluminium. New access routes have been created from the existing north perimeter road, providing more flexibility over where cars will park. As usual, a shuttle bus service will be operating to the entrance of the shows.

The addition of the four halls and their eight attached meeting rooms, which cost £52m to develop, makes the NEC by far the largest exhibition space in the UK, with its 190,000 sq m of floor area. The extra size of the NEC has already allowed it to capture a big European show, ITMA, which will use virtually the entire site.

In 2003, the international textile machinery association’s show will come to the UK for the first time, after moving every four years between continental venues in Hannover, Paris and Milan. It is expected to attract 150,000 visitors and 1,200 exhibiting companies, of which about two thirds will be from outside the UK.

That said, the NEC is modest in size next to the biggest European venues, and is only the eighth largest in Europe (see box below), being dwarfed by Cologne, Frankfurt, Hannover and Milan. Continental European venues are still the favourites for the larger international events.

Despite it being pipped by Paris Nord-Villepinte by just 1,000sq m, there are no plans as yet for further development at the NEC, although land is available.

Thankfully, new hotels are being developed to keep up with the enlargement – a long-overdue addition to the facilities offered by the Stakis Metropole.

Holiday Inn will open a new 200-room hotel in mid-2001, while a 200-room budget Lodge Inn hotel is also to be developed on another site adjoining the NEC complex. In August this year, a further 179 rooms became available with the opening of the Holiday Inn Express hotel to the north of the NEC site.

{{Size mattersEurope’s biggest expo venues

Location Size (sq m) Country

Hannover 446,000 GermanyMilan 372,000 ItalyFrankfurt 292,000 GermanyCologne 275,000 GermanyParis Expo 226,000 FranceDusseldorf 203,000 GermanyParis Nord 191,000 FranceBirmingham 190,000 UKValencia 180,000 SpainUtrecht 170,000 Netherlands}}