A Robbens underfloor heating system ensures a warm welcome for visitors to the brand new Toyota showroom in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex.

The recent refit is part of major new retail concept currently being rolled out across Toyota's national dealer network.

St Leonards, however, is believed to be the first showroom to enjoy the discreet advantages of underfloor heating.

The result is a comfort-controlled shop window and workplace for the St Leonards Dealership run by Managing Director Ian Wakeford.


Personal experience drove Ian Wakeford to insist on an underfloor system for the new building, for he is now stranger to the technology. Ten years ago he worked with the founder of Robbens Systems to establish the company now regarded as one of the leading specialists in the UK heating market.

"I knew the potential advantages of opting for an underfloor solution," he said. They include freedom to use all the showroom and workshop space, but even more important was the freedom to open and shut the doors without losing all the heat in the process!

Vehicles have to be moved in and out of the building throughout the day. Underfloor heating creates a huge thermal store in the floor, which keeps the access areas up to temperature even with the doors opening and closing."

Energy efficiency is another benefit and Ian Wakeford confidently expects St Leonards to consume only two thirds of the fuel used by other similar showrooms in the network.

"We can save energy without sacrificing comfort, even though we operate St Leonards 3 to 4oC below our other buildings - that's the great thing about heating from the floor up rather than the ceiling down."

The Robbens underfloor system serves the entire building - a total are of some 1066m2. Specialist techniques have been used to accommodatethe concrete floor constructions of both showroom and workshop and the timber floors on the two upper storeys. Where a concrete floor construction is used, the loops of Robbens multi-layer pipework with aluminium oxygen diffusion barrier are integrated into the floor structure by a sand and cement screed (

Large areas of glass are a feature of the showroom area. Here the loops of Robbens specialist multi-layer pipe adjacent to the external walls are fixed at closer spacing to overcome any local heat loss.

On the upper levels, which are fitted with suspended floors, the spaces between the joists were first filled with insulation material to prevent downward heat transfer. The loops of Robbens alpex-duo multi-layer aluminium and p-EX pipework could then be clipped in position below special aluminium conducting sheets.

The concealed pipework loops - 97 in all - are connected via nine manifolds to the gas-fired condensing boiler located in the plant room. The low flow temperatures required by the Robbens systems will ensure that the boiler is kept in high efficiency condensing mode virtually all the time.

In practice the Robbens system offers an extra benefit for a building full of brand new vehicles.

"Because there's no temperature inversion, convection currents are kept to a minimum," says Ian Wakeford, "and that means a lot less dust and a lot less car washing!"

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