Cutting edge operation

In west Hertfordshire, a history of financial deficit going back to the early 1990s led to a reported deficit of £26.8m in 2005/6 with a total accumulated deficit at just over £41m. One of the main contributing factors to this deficit was inefficiencies caused by duplicating services across a number of hospital sites. This financial situation and a drive to improve patient services led to a decision to centralise some services onto a single site. Meanwhile, an ambitious NHS rebuilding programme means a new hospital will be completed at Watford General Hospital in 2014/2015.

The new AAU department (Acute Admissions Unit) at the hospital is a key element of both the centralisation programme and the redevelopment of the Watford Health Campus. Due to open to patients in March 2009, the department has been developed using modular construction techniques that have not only ensured minimised disruption to the Watford Health Campus whilst construction was underway, but have also reduced the time and financial investment required to build this essential new facility.

Pod cast

In most circumstances, when the client requires a ‘business-as-usual’ approach to managing a site while construction work takes place, even with creative scheduling of works, some disruption is inevitable.  For Watford General Hospital however, the design and build scheme was developed so that the whole AAU Department construction programme entailed as little disruption as possible because the building was built not in Watford……but in York.

Using modular construction techniques, main contractor, Yorkon, pre-fabricated the department as 164 individual ‘pods’ with all the main fit out work pre-installed before the units were transported to Watford.  Once they arrived in Watford in early April, all that remained was for the construction team to bolt them together on site and complete the final fixes and finishes.

Fast and flexible

To carry though the time savings and financial efficiencies achieved by using modular construction techniques, the containment for the electrical installation was also completed off site in York. There were two M&E consultants working on the scheme, EDP for Yorkon and DSSR for the Trust, however, the M&E contractor, Connect 2, was given free rein to select the most appropriate containment solutions to fit the brief and the company specified Cablofil steel wire tray as the quickest and, therefore the most cost-efficient, method of cable containment available.  This was used to contain the building’s voice, data, security, fire alarm and sub mains cabling alongside trunking and conduit containment for the unit’s general power requirements.

“The electrical services required in a modern health facility setting are complex,” comments Phil Blackburn from Connect 2. “As labour is often the biggest cost associated with any electrical installation, specifying a product that reduces the time the electrical contractor needs to spend on site can dramatically reduce costs.  In our experience, wire tray can reduce the time taken to install the cable management system by around a third, as compared to perforated steel tray.  What’s more, because the product is so flexible and can be cut, bent and fixed on site, the contractor doesn’t have to factor in any additional time for delays while we wait for bespoke joins or angles to be prefabricated,” Phil continued.

Having used Cablofil steel wire cable tray on numerous previous installations, Connect 2 chose to select the product for this project too.  The choice was not only dictated by the level of product quality and the wide choice of brackets and accessories available from Cablofil, but by Connect 2’s confidence in the supplier’s stock and logistics operation.

“An essential part of the brief on this job was completing the installation on time and within budget,” Phil continues.  “Our wholesaler Edmundsons maintain high stock levels of Cablofil tray and we knew that we could get anything we needed to site quickly and easily. That makes it easier to schedule work and guarantee installation times.”

Off site solution

While the building was to be made up of 164 individual pods, these were open plan structures, each measuring 3.3m in width, that are fitted together as entire floors rather than distinct rooms.  As a result, installation of the steel wire tray had to be completed to reflect the scheme’s finished layout whilst taking into consideration the need to transport the pods from York to Watford where they would be assembled and joined together.

“While we were working on installation of the containment in York the pods were erected on a floor by floor basis,” explains Phil.  “This meant that we were able to complete all the containment work for each floor before moving onto the next.  All we had to remember was to ensure that there were breaks in the containment at the same point as the divisions in the pods so that each floor could be broken down into pods and transported to Watford quickly and easily.”

Cablofil was installed as vertical risers to carry services throughout the building and on each floor the tray was installed in the ceiling voids.  Connect 2 was able to standardise the product used despite a variety of differing ceiling void depths simply by adjusting how high they set the runs of cable using Cablofil brackets.

“Because we were using Cablofil tray to install a variety of services, we needed to install four runs of tray throughout,” Phil continues. “We were able to install all four runs side by side within the ceiling voids using a single Cablofil bracket. This not only made our life easier and ensured a nice, neat job, it also saved time on site which, once again, had a positive impact on both the scheduling and the cost of the installation.”

Building for the future

With the pods pre-fabricated and the containment all completed before any construction work began on site in Watford, disruption to patients and staff at Watford General Hospital has been kept to a minimum throughout the project.  The Connect 2 team followed the build to Watford when the pods were transported and reassembled in their permanent home in April. All that remained for the contractor was the installation of all wiring and this meant that services were up and running by early September, leaving the way clear for final fixes and finishes and commissioning of the building.

“It’s been quite an odd way to work on a project,” Phil adds, “but it has made a lot of sense in particular for the Trust. In fact, the Trust is already thinking of commissioning an extension for the new building – and it’s not even open yet.  The good news is that using a flexible system like Cablofil steel wire tray means making changes to the containment to accommodate changes to the building will be one of the most straightforward elements of any future extension project.”

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