Dan Bull, Business Development Manager for the M&E Contractor’s in London and southern England, reflects on his past experience at major infrastructure sites like Hinkley, and discusses the positive step forward in project accommodation.
In his October speech, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed the government’s commitment to constructing Sizewell C nuclear power station. Coming on the back of the Hinkley Point C project, which is already well underway, it is a sign of the UK’s strong commitment to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels for electricity production.
Sizewell will be a significant infrastructure project involving tens of thousands of jobs, many on-site during a ten- to fifteen-year construction process.
If we look at how this was managed at Hinkley (where I spent almost 6 years), it’s clear that developing and managing facilities for staff and contractors is a key factor for success.
Providing enough safe, comfortable accommodation environments is vital if we are to deliver our green future
One of the many challenges with such a large project is supporting and housing the sheer number of people involved – there are around 8,000 on-site at Hinkley on any given day.
Whilst the project has built multiple onsite welfare facilities and two huge accommodation campuses (one onsite and one off site in Bridgwater) to support and house workers.
However, without the proper infrastructure for working and living, it can put tremendous pressure on nearby towns and does affect house and rental prices as well as the local community.
There is also a bigger challenge around the weather, which affects air quality, humidity and temperatures in these new accommodation blocks, which I’ll focus on more in a moment.
A positive step forward
Whilst these issues were addressed at Hinkley with the construction of these ‘temporary’ facilities (in fact, they’re designed to last the life of the project of more than a decade).
The good news is that they’re also designed to provide an excellent indoor environment for occupants.
There has been a positive change in attitude to contractors on infrastructure projects over the last decade, which is an increasingly important factor.
Health and wellbeing are high on the agenda for modern infrastructure projects, driven by requirements from HSE and unions.
What’s more, the people working on these projects are specialists who cannot easily be replaced if they leave, so ensuring that they are on the project for the long term is top-of-mind when providing these spaces.
So the buildings provide accommodation, restaurants, workspace and even leisure facilities.
And, of course, these buildings need HVAC systems that can deliver domestic hot water, cooling, and heating throughout the year.
How we support large infrastructure projects
At Mitsubishi Electric, our focus is on providing these large infrastructure projects with easy-to-install, robust and efficient equipment suitable for a range of building requirements.
Another essential factor in this type of accommodation is managing humidity in the building, which can be problematic with moisture from on-site showers or even wet PPE.
Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) systems such as our Commercial Lossnay system provides an ideal solution for keeping humidity at healthy levels. Lossnay extracts stale air from an occupied space while simultaneously supplying fresh air – and recovers valuable heat for optimum efficiency.
Nuclear power stations are located on the coast, as they require water for cooling. These locations can be hard on HVAC equipment, so maintenance is essential to reduce the likelihood of equipment failure or a fall-off in performance over time.
Mitsubishi Electric’s Service and Maintenance engineers are highly experienced at keeping equipment operating under challenging conditions – including refurbishing if necessary.
As the UK launches more large developments in our energy infrastructure, the construction industry must attract the next generation into its varying trades and professions if we are to get the work done.
At Hinkley, around 1,000 apprentices have been trained during the power station’s construction phase.
More will be needed for Sizewell and other large-scale energy projects.
Providing enough safe, comfortable, and productive work or accommodation environments to these workforces is vital if we are to attract and retain the people who can deliver our green future.
Compared to constructing a nuclear power station, selecting the right HVAC equipment may seem like a small detail, but the right choice can make a big difference to the people making it all happen.
Dan Bull is Business Development Manager for M&E Contractors