CIOB Community, Technical

How do you build a giant chiller?

Managing the refurbishment of a temperature-controlled unit proved complex but rewarding for Pexhurst site manager Mick Ward. He shares his experience with CM
New flooring and suspended ceilings were introduced
New flooring and suspended ceilings were introduced

ChillBox is a major temperature-controlled facility in Thurrock, Essex, serving the metropolitan area. It is one of the south-east’s largest logistics buildings, with a floor space of 18,225 sq m across five individually controlled chiller chambers.

Works consisted of a Cat A fit out to the internal main offices on the ground and first floors, forming a new open-plan office environment with new flooring, suspended ceilings and a new LED modular lighting system. In addition to the office space, the wall panelling was deep-cleaned and a new resin floor coating applied to all five chambers.

“To futureproof servicing requirements for the building equipment and due to the fragile flooring in the roof void and top of the chambers, we were also responsible for installing a new mansafe system with a special harness that would deliver you safely to the floor below if you fell through,” explains Mick Ward, site manager with Pexhurst.

Pexhurst site manager Mick Ward

“It really is one of those milestone projects that I’ll never forget”

Mick Ward

In addition, all existing shutter doors and dock levellers were either repaired or replaced. The external face of all cladding and curtain walling was sprayed, along with a new coat to the roof. Finally, the team tested, validated and commissioned various aspects of the mechanical and electrical installations, focusing on the sprinkler system, fire alarms and chiller chambers.

“The building, while unique, was in a very poor state of repair and transforming it into a sleek, functional and modern industrial building in a very tight programme proved to be challenging at certain points,” says Ward.

All five chambers featured original 10m-high racking which had to be removed and manoeuvred through narrow entrance doorways using a new 10m-high reach excavator purchased especially for this project.

Project team

Location: ChillBox, Thurrock, Essex
Project manager: Trident Building Consultancy
Client: CBRE Global Investors
Value: £2.3m
Programme: 26 weeks (January- September 2020)
Site manager: Mick Ward

The coating of the roof area and spraying of the perimeters of the external cladding around a live industrial state were complex too, says Ward. “Tasks required a great deal of site team coordination and collaboration.

“Despite these project challenges and amidst a wider context of national covid-19 restrictions, I’m proud of the entire project team’s effort to progress the refurbishment – keeping the site open and adapting in line with CLC guidelines and Public Health England to provide a safe working environment. And the results speak for themselves: CBRE Global Investors successfully let the building to leading British meal kit retailer Gousto on a 10-year term.”

Ward adds that his team also received very positive feedback from the project management team, with Dan Roe from Trident commenting: “Your delivery team runs a tight ship; your response to covid-19 and health and safety both from a site and company perspective was excellent.”

Ward sums it up: “Logistically speaking, this was one of the largest and most challenging jobs I have managed in my 23 years with Pexhurst, but this made the outcome and the success of the project all the more rewarding. It really is one of those milestone projects that I’ll never forget.”

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