Airedale Factory

An inspiring story

September, 2013, and a massive fire sweeps across the premises of air conditioning specialist Airedale International, in Rawdon, Leeds.

For over 40 years the British air conditioning manufacturer has provided chillers, precision air conditioning and IT cooling solutions, as well as developing controls software design and optimisation.

No staff were hurt, but they – and their specialist equipment - were subsequently relocated throughout Leeds in temporary accommodation.

Nick Howdle’s team commenced building the new factory, and reused the recycled materials that resulted from the crushing and screening of the existing facility.

The existing site follows the topography of its surrounding areas; however, the new 22000m2 facility is constructed on one level with an undercroft for parking 300 cars. To do this the team installed a massive secant piled wall to the north end of the site and a 130m long retaining wall that bisected the middle of the site. Then they carried out a cut and fill exercise of 130,000m3 and built a 130m wide concrete podium deck onto which the steel frame for the research and office area was subsequently bolted. Once that was done it became a simple build of a portal frame with a composite cladded envelope.

Project details

  • Customer: Airedale International Air Conditioning Ltd
  • Architects: Darnton EGS
  • Quantity Surveyor: Faithful & Gould
  • M&E Consultants: Silcock Leedham
  • Structural Engineer: Alan Wood & Partners
  • Value: £35m

View related projects

2km Fact icon Length of pipework installed in the main plant room
-20 to +50 Fact icon Temperature range in degrees centigrade required as tolerances for the test chambers
£11m Fact icon Value of the services package including specialist fit-out undertaken by BAM Services Engineering
170 Fact icon Number of easter eggs donated to charity by the site team!

A client with a mission to re-open on time

The client placed great stress on the primacy of the 67-week programme for this £35 million build. Nick Howdle overlapped trades so that cladding and roofing commenced before the steel frame was finished and whilst there was still some excavation taking place inside the building.

If you can’t stand the heat…

A major challenge was installing the M&E and plant for this specialised facility. The main plant room has over 2km of pipe to install (costing £1.3 million) and must deal with temperatures ranging from -20 degrees C to + 50 degrees C.
These extremes are required for the test chambers because Airedale’s finished units are tested at a wide range of temperatures and load conditions to replicate any range of temperatures found in any country and numerous load scenarios – this requires very high tolerances.

To control temperatures like this, massive quantities of glycol (anti-freeze) are required. What made the job a success was that BAM could sequence the M&E and the complex fit out together efficiently. This is where BAM’s secret weapon came into play: its people.

Says Nick Howdle: “I worked on this tender together with Martin Sibley from BAM Services Engineering. We promised the client the same BAM team that built the Rolls-Royce Advanced Blade Casting Facility in Rotherham, and all but two of them came across from that project or the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing and Research Centre (NAMRC).”

Martin Sibley backs up the effectiveness of this approach.

“We formed a great team. If you were going rock climbing you’d pick any one of that site team to be at the end of the rope because they are very dependable and will do anything in their power to help you and the project to succeed. It’s the relationships and the confidence that gets you over the line on a difficult job.”

Relocation, relocation, relocation

The BAM Services Engineering team were a significant part of the project team: the value of the services package including the fit-out element was around £11m of the total budget.

A crucial task was re-locating all of the existing equipment Airedale had in its temporary facilities. BAM was responsible for all this relocation and recommissioning. That’s a lot of heavy and complex specialist equipment to move and Nick employed specialist lift and shift companies to undertake these elements. BIM field 360 was utilised to tag and barcode these assets.

“Having also verified and recorded the commissioning data means that when we got the units onto the new site it was more or less a matter of connecting the machines up to their new supplies and flicking the switch.”

Airedale was up and running again in parallel with BAM completing the build and the commissioning the main building. It’s a turnkey project.

Martin Sibley adds: “There are three test chambers services by air cooled chillers and a boiler plant. The largest chamber has the facility to load test a 2MW chiller. To achieve this we installed a complicated system of boilers, chillers, pumps, heat exchangers, heat sinks and controls system all dealing with some extreme fluid temperatures at both ends of the scale. It’s certainly not a standard commercial HVAC boiler house!”

The sequencing for the M&E was important – BAM overlapped the fit-out as much as possible, the entire relocation had to be completed in line with the project completion date of 18 December.

Martin says: “Six phases or areas were progressively commissioned over the 12-week period. Some of the services were installed and left in a temporary state at high level, and finally installed when the equipment was located, to avoid hindering the equipment installation process.

“The kit needed to be installed in the right order to allow it to fit, and to bring the services online in the right order. It would have been very costly and difficult to rectify. It all needed to work like clockwork the first time.”

BAM moved some of the kit whilst it was half-built to speed this up.

Nick Howdle is convinced that the integration of SE into the job has created a unity of approach for the client and avoided the potential game playing that can happen with an outside partner.

“We spend no time arguing, just resolving problems. The client sees that. Planning is critical due to the phased nature of the reoccupation, we held a number of workshops just to deal with the re-location element, ensuring we minimised any manufacturing downtime and ensuring all the health and safety protocols were followed.”

The team’s big test came as the progressive commissioning got underway and final finishes like handrails came after this is concluded. BAM handed over on programme for Airedale to recommence working life in its old location from January 2016.

More Eggs-acting standards

The site team donated 170 Easter eggs to Once Upon a Smile, a charity helping bereaved children.

The eggs were topped off with a cash donation and some toys, books, and clothing for children who cannot have chocolate.

Neil Wright, BAM’s Senior Site Manager, said:

“I met Daniel from Once Upon a Smile by chance at a football game. When he finished telling me about the work he did I had tears in my eyes. We thought we’d manage 20 or 30 eggs, but when our clients Airedale and our supply chain became involved, and the lady who runs our canteen raffled a huge egg, the generosity was incredible. It’s been a big team effort and I want to thank them all.”

Daniel Jillings, Charity Manager of Once Upon a Smile said:

‘We are absolutely delighted to have been chosen by BAM Construction as their charity beneficiary. This Easter appeal that has been completed will make a massive difference this Easter to the families we support. We would like to thank Neil Wright and all the staff that took part in making this appeal a success.”

The charity was formed in 2011. It supports parents who have lost a partner or and children who have lost a parent by giving financial support, organising respite breaks and providing children’s bereavement support, which Daniel says, “is surprisingly lacking” from other provision.