Electrical Contracting News (ECN) April 2017 - Page 39

FEATURE

ELECTRICAL RENOVATIONS

FEATURE

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major causes of fire in the both the workplace and the home . The likelihood of fire breaking out in older buildings where wiring may be outdated or even hazardous is drastically increased . Furthermore , the consequences of fire in properties of historical or cultural significance can be disastrous – as in the fire at Windsor Castle in 1992 which resulted in a £ 36.5m repair bill .
One reason why electrical renovation in older buildings can be neglected is because these sorts of projects are often more complex , expensive and challenging . However , it ’ s important to preserve the safety of these sites for our heritage , and for the people who live , visit and work there .
Why is renovation so expensive ?
Few heritage properties were built with the need for electricity in mind – certainly any property constructed prior to the 1900s was unlikely to have been built with provision for electrics . This makes it more difficult to use original fixtures and fittings which is one way of ensuring that any rewiring or installation work complements the original style of the building .
Large old buildings also tend to be expensive to run – the quarterly energy bill for Buckingham Palace must certainly be a hefty one . So , the custodians , managers and owners of these properties are looking for energy efficient solutions . Installing modern energy saving systems that are in keeping with historical surroundings can be a challenge – although it can be done .
In addition , heritage properties will almost certainly be listed , and as such , will have a set of statutory requirements such as building regulations and listed building consent to be met when any renovation is undertaken . This inevitably complicates the process , adding in another layer of beauocracy .
In a heritage project , renovation usually needs to either replicate the original feature or use the originals with minimal damage . This often involves using specialist craftspeople .
Old buildings , modern techniques
We would always advocate using high quality components and qualified professionals with the relevant skills . For example , any electrical work should be carried out by an NICEIC registered contractor , preferably with experience of working on older buildings . Similarly , any repairs such as those which involve working with lime plaster ( common in older buildings ) should be carried out by a building contractor with experience in that area , while joinery tasks such as removing panelling should only be carried out by a skilled carpenter .
Attention to detail
Another challenge presented by buildings such as Buckingham Palace is the fact that they often house valuable artefacts and works of art . This means that light and heating may have to be set at specific levels to ensure the preservation of delicate historical objects . In the case of public buildings , it also means that work may have to be done at unsociable hours when staff and visitors have gone home .
At Eaton , we have been involved in several projects which required high levels of skill and flexibility .
The National Portrait Gallery
Much of the work took place ‘ out of hours ’ and involved the installation of low energy LED lighting , high colour rendering and dimming and control systems . The new system improved the quality of lighting to enhance exhibitions , whilst enabling a lower temperature and a decrease in the level of UV lights in the gallery . As a result , the portraits were brought alive by the new lighting at the same time as reducing energy consumption .
The Courtauld Gallery , Somerset House
This involved the conversion of a picture store within Somerset House into another gallery area . This was an intricate project which required extensive co-ordination with other services . A key part of the brief was to
The fire at Windsor Castle in 1992 resulted in a £ 36.5m repair bill .
install a building management system which enabled the gallery to control the humidity and temperature in order to meet stringent guidelines set by Art Council England and ultimately protect the paintings – all whilst maintaining the elegance of the interior .
Preservation for the future
Maintenance is an important part of any project – the job isn ’ t finished once it ’ s done . When dealing with electrics , it ’ s particularly important to invest in a planned programme of testing and maintenance – neglecting electrical systems is at best a false economy – and at worst dangerous . We advise that all electrical installations should be inspected and tested once every five years – and more frequently if the system is older . In heritage properties , we follow the Institution of Engineering and Technology guidelines and advise having an inspection and maintenance annually .
They may be challenging , complex and expensive to maintain , but we are fortunate to have so many historical buildings in the UK – and in my opinion , they are well worth the time and money that we spend on them .
However , the technology that we now have available can help minimise invasion . Just because a project involves an old building doesn ’ t mean we shouldn ’ t use new techniques . Technology such as radio frequency control can help to avoid unnecessary cabling and associated damage . The installation of specialist containment systems and cabling including steel conduit , micro bore tubing and MICC cabling can also help minimise any potential disruption or damage .
Electrical projects in older properties often require a different approach to system design , hiding as much of a new electrical installation as possible to minimise the visual impact . We often conceal electrical equipment in ancillary rooms such as cellars or storerooms . Voids such as roof spaces , floor cavities , redundant chimneys , panelling and the inside of disused heating pipes may also be suitable sites .
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