Premier Electrics Light Up The Primark Bank Buildings

1st November 2022

Primark opened its new 88,200 sq ft store on Tuesday November 1 after four years of a complex redevelopment including significant retention, demolition, and renovation. The new five-storey building includes a brand-new Disney café and Disney store, home department, nail and beauty studio and is 76% larger than the original store.

Managing Director Tony Shivers talks about the major redevelopment project: “In late August 2018, standing outside Primark bank buildings, looking at the destruction caused by the fire was a sad and sobering experience. Thank god there were no injuries or fatalities. Fast forward four years and to see this magnificently restored historical and iconic grade two listed building fills oneself with immense pride. It gives me a feeling of optimism for the heart of Belfast, that this building will be like a magnet to grow footfall and breathe life into the whole area.”

Design Manager Paul Batson describes the challenge of designing an enhanced fire system and electrical infrastructure for the new building: “The very first challenge of the project required our teams to work day and night to design and rebuild electrical services within the original extended commonwealth building. We were able to turn around the first stage very fast allowing the reopening of the Castle Street entrance within 8 weeks.”

“Following on from the incident the official bodies imposed a stricter set of fire safety requirements for the building. This presented our second major challenge which was to adapt the existing infrastructure installed in commonwealth house to provide a very intricate and enhanced fire safety system The site had a single electrical supply that was to be utilised for the trading store and construction site. This made it quite challenging at times as the works in the construction site had to be coordinated carefully with all parties to ensure that there was no disruption to the trading of the store and other interested parties.”

“The team worked closely as part of Bennett Construction’s overall design team of architects, mechanical, structural & sprinkler engineers to create a detailed co-ordinated 3D model using the industry standard software Revit. This detailed model gave the end user a visual representation of the construction process and specific coordination issues and was then used by the site teams to assist with the construction and coordination between the different disciplines. The 3D model also helped ensure there was a seamless integration between the live store and construction site.”

“The client requested a number of unforeseen scope changes to include the introduction of external lighting, escalator atrium feature, concessions such as the Disney café, beauty and homeware; These systems were successfully integrated into the overall design.”

“To comply with the enhanced fire safety requirements the design had to be altered to include an additional secondary generator system. This also required modifications to the existing incoming supply arrangement. In addition to this second generator, this necessitated the design of a suitably sized resistive load bank to facilitate ongoing maintenance.”

“The main electrical infrastructure of the project was modified significantly to accommodate these fire safety requirements. Requiring secondary cabling routes and fire protection of electrical life safety services. The system also had to be modified to provide the necessary infrastructure to comply with Belfast 2050 flood plan.”

“The team also had to design a complete plant replacement strategy and future maintenance for the electrical services of the scheme to comply with the CDM requirements.”

“As the project progressed the client required some late additions and various concessions. This meant the Premier Electrics team had to adapt and modify plans as changes demanded different engineering solutions to achieve the look and feel desired by the end user.”

“A bespoke 4 story high feature wall was included in the project that required specialised lighting & controls. The challenge required us to design lighting that could be adjusted and maintained on multiple floors in inaccessible locations.”

“One of them being a Casambi smart lighting system that can be conveniently controlled from a smartphone app. This was designed to control the external lighting scheme which was part of the heritage planning requirements.”

“Our highly trained and qualified team took all these challenges on board to create a bespoke electrical design for the project.”

Operations Manager Gary Brogan had a first-hand account of the on-site daily challenges:

“The entire project of day and night shifts was completed over a 65 week period.”

“One of the most challenging things we had to coordinate on the project was installing a substantial electrical plant onto the roof of the building. The generator and associated switchgear was craned onto the roof. Not only were we working with a relatively tall building but roof space needed to be used in a very calculated way. This meant the sizing of all machinery from all disciplines had to be precisely measured ensuring sufficient space was left for future maintenance and access.”

“To ensure there was little disruption to city centre activity and live trading stores all personnel worked at night coordinating with Belfast City Council to close roads and streets surrounding the building.”

“We are a market leader when it comes to working within a trading environment and Primark continually trusts our expertise to deliver under these circumstances. One challenge that stands out for me is the phasing of the new and upgraded fire alarm system. Primark requested a more enhanced and upgraded fire system that included a PAVA. (Public Address/Voice Alarm). This system allows for a more controlled evacuation of a building done through clear voiced instruction and live announcements. Testing and phasing this system from the old to the new system without any downtime was another detailed coordination process and substantial interaction between all disciplines.”

“Primark also upgraded from an older analogue CCTV system to an IP CCTV system throughout the building. To allow management to communicate to other regional stores across Europe we also installed a high quality conference room media system.”

Managing Director Tony Shivers pays tribute to the team and client: “I want to commend the Premier Electrics team who were involved in the rebuild and renovation of this flagship store. I salute you all for your hard work and dedication.”

“Finally to Primark for entrusting Premier Electrics to deliver the masterpiece that is Primark Bank Buildings, Belfast.”