Build | Flush | Both

Tony Prior looks at the refurbishment of an iconic Plymouth office block

I’m always delighted when a building that has fallen out of favour is lovingly restored to its former glory as is the case with The Ship – a notable part of the Plymouth skyline, which had been empty for years.

The Ship used to be home to The Herald and Western Morning News and was even being considered for demolition until a leading city property development company, Burrington Estates, acquired the building.

Managing director, Rob Monroe takes up the story: “When we first decided to buy The Ship we knew that the existing HVAC system was just inadequate and the whole system would need upgrading.   

“New tenants were keen to move in so we also had limited time in which to make the drastic changes that were required.”

What was needed was a company that would be able to design, install, commission and maintain a far more energy efficient and sustainable system and be able to do this in a very short space of time.

“We would normally expect the timescale for completion of a job like this to be three or four months and we were given 10 weeks,” said Kurt Hedgley, managing director, JCW Energy Services Ltd.  “Not only this, the client needed us on site just seven days from the date of receiving the purchase order.”

The company was able to build a team from a number of its nationwide offices and called upon the technical and logistical support of manufacturer Mitsubishi Electric.

“JCW Energy Services was a perfect fit,” said Monroe, “To finish a project of this size in the tight timescale given, I applaud their speed, organization, engineering team and work ethic.”

Now The Ship is being restored to its former glory, and has been renamed Spirit of Enterprise with hundreds of jobs being created by the businesses that will take up residence.

“It was clear that reducing the building’s energy consumption was of paramount importance to Burrington Estates, who are renowned for their sympathetic development of historic sites in the region,” commented Kurt Hedgley.

“We worked within our partnership agreement with Mitsubishi Electric who provided us with innovative support to ensure the most suitable system that could be designed, installed and commissioned within the tight deadline specified.”

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The iconic Ship is being restored to its former glory

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City Multi VRF

The air conditioning units have been installed in a hidden roof space

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Unique shaped building

JCW had to work around the unique curved shape of the building

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All hands on deck

The air conditioning had to be installed and commissioned whilst the rest of the building was also being restored

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The Boardroom

With lots of glazing, the heating and cooling system needs to be as energy efficient as possible

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A new lease of life

The Ship has been renamed The Spirit of Enterprise

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For the first phase of this impressive project, 12 City Multi Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) outdoor condensing units and four Mr Slim split air conditioning systems were installed to serve 89 individual ceiling units.

City Multi was chosen as it could be installed in a modular fashion providing JCW engineers with the flexibility needed to work around the other elements of the refurbishment.

“We chose this VRF system because of its high performance and that fact that it only uses two pipes rather than the usual three which was ideal in a job with such tight deadlines,” added Hedgley. “It also comes with intelligent controls that make it easier to interface with the Building Management System.”

As a Business Solutions Partner with the manufacturer, JCW is also able to offer a seven year warranty on the equipment. 

Working with other trades

With the whole building under refurbishment it was also imperative that JCW engineers could work alongside a large number of trades people and engineers from shop fitters, life system installers to window cleaners and even mural artists.

Working around existing equipment was also a challenge with regard to integrating systems and negotiating new pipework around old. The shape of the building and also the positioning of the plant has added to the challenge with some units being fed through over 150 metres pipe runs, putting added pressure on the system.

“One of our engineers told me that this was one of the most challenging but also the most rewarding projects he’s ever worked on,” added Hedgley.

The final solution needs to provide a regular temperature, even with the architectural challenges of the building. It also demanded a system that can be easily controlled, provide the best energy efficiency and be sustainable.

“The energy rating will drastically improve immediately and our design provides effective, simultaneous heating and cooling which can offer substantial savings on the annual running costs,” explained Hedgley.

A complete planned preventative maintenance programme has also been prepared to run alongside the seven year warranty.

The Ship's next phase will include the completion of the restaurant and gymnasium for the use of the staff within the offices. And finally, the amazing Board Room with its spectacular views.

This will see the completion of the plan to breathe new life back into the building and see it restored to its former glory and become a major hub for business in the area.