All these considerations were key to the planning of a major redevelopment of Epping Forest College in North East London, which has created 18,000m² of purpose-built learning and training facilities at a development cost of £38 million. The new campus will enable the college to provide state-of-the-art facilities for its 2,000 full-time and 4,000 part-time students, help it attract talented staff and ensure it wins lucrative training contracts.
The job of designing and completing the electrical installation at Epping Forest College fell to contractor, Imtech Aqua.
“Epping Forest College was a design and build scheme,” explains Jeff Mpakati from Imtech Aqua, “so we were able to specify the job ourselves but needed to work to quite a tight brief from the client.
“We also had to be mindful of the tight schedule that the contract entailed. The new college buildings were due to open to students in September 2008 and there was no flexibility in that deadline whatsoever. For that reason, we also needed to look for products that would combine speed and ease of installation with the building’s technical requirements and the client’s desire for quality and aesthetics.”
Imtech Aqua responsibilities included installation of all the college’s small power, IT and data transfer requirements. The company knew from the outset that the most effective way to install the amount of cable containment required quickly and effectively would be to use steel wire cable tray.
“Steel wire cable tray was the obvious choice for a number of reasons,” Jeff comments. “Firstly, it is quick to install. It’s also available in different depths, so you can use the same system for different areas of a building even if there is a significant variation in the amount of cabling required across the scheme. And, of course, it’s a hugely flexible system, which not only helps the installation team during the initial fit out because they can bend, shape and fix tray to fit on site, it also means that future modifications are simpler.”
The generic type of containment to be used was, therefore, an obvious conclusion, but Imtech Aqua still needed to specify the specific brand of steel wire tray for the job. As Mita was already a trusted supplier that could provide a one-stop-shop for numerous elements of the specification, the contractor was keen to try out the newly launched aemsa system.
“Imtech Aqua were specifying the Epping Forest job shortly after we launched our aemsa wire cable tray,” comments Neil Page from Mita. “We demonstrated the product and outlined the product options in terms of tray, brackets and accessories which gave them confidence that aemsa’s features would benefit both the installation and the installation team.”
A flexible solution
Imtech Aqua used more than 5,000m of aemsa wire cable tray throughout the new Epping Forest College campus, installed in both the ceiling voids and under the raised access floors. Based on a double transverse wire design, aemsa’s greater overall strength and loading capacity make it a robust choice for multiple cable applications, which can reduce the amount of tray needed and thereby reduce installation times. The installation involved a wide variety of cables, including armoured cables, sub mains cables, sub circuit cables and fire and security alarm cables. The contractor ran two lengths of 600mm-wide steel wire cable tray side-by-side in some areas in order to provide containment for the volume of cabling required. However, for most of the ceiling void installation, the contractor used a single run of 400mm-wide steel wire tray for the heavier power cables, with 300mm-wide tray being used for data cabling.
The challenges for the steel wire cable tray installation in the floor voids were due to the voids’ shallow 62mm nominal clearance, which would have been too shallow for some systems. As Mita’s aemsa wire tray is available in depths of 35mm and 105mm as well as the standard 70mm deep tray, Imtech Aqua were able to address these installation difficulties from a single product range.
A bespoke approach
The shallow under floor voids also posed a potential problem with the provision of power sockets. The original design had specified floorboxes but the shallow underfloor void was insufficient, forcing Imtech Aqua to put forward an alternative solution and install Mita’s 63 amp power track busbar system under the floor instead to feed desk management units via a series of grommets.
“The power track busbar system was quick and easy to install,” comments Jeff. “Connecting the network via grommets to desk management units also means that there will be no wires lying across the floor.”
To meet the aesthetic requirements of the college, Imtech Aqua commissioned 190 bespoke aluminium-clad desk management units, using both four and two socket designs in different areas of the building to suit the level of small power usage required by the client.
In addition to the desk management units, the installation also included multiple sockets around the perimeter of each room within the dado trunking. Imtech Aqua specified MITA’s Ultra 60 Cabeline dado trunking, using 2,300m of the two-compartment trunking to provide both small power and data cabling containment in the offices, learning areas and classrooms.
Ultra 60 trunking provides a dedicated data compartment allowing contractors to install up to 48 CAT 6 cables and, because Ultra 60 is actually compatible with CAT 6, CAT 7 and fibre optic cables, retro-fit of additional cabling in the future will not require a re-fit of the containment.
To meet the requirements of the latest DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) regulations, Mita provided grey lids for the trunking, allowing visually impaired students and staff to identify the white power sockets and data outlets more easily against the grey background.
Meeting the challenges
Completing the installation on a busy site within a tight schedule was one of the most challenging aspects of the whole project for Imtech Aqua.
Jeff explains: “We had to co-ordinate our work with that of all the other contractors. One small delay in the schedule for us could have significant knock on effects for our schedule or that of other contractors, so we needed to have each element of the job finished on time.”
Reliability of supply was also essential, as any product shortages could have caused a hiatus affecting the schedule.
“That’s one of the reasons we were keen to rationalise the number of suppliers we used,” Jeff adds. “We know that we can trust the supply chain with Mita products. From our point of view, it took a lot of stress out of slotting in the work around the other contractors’ jobs and for the client it meant that we were able to deliver a high quality end product on time.”