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The science of construction

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Letterkenny Institute of Technology

A new £2.4 million project to provide Letterkenny Institute of Technology with improved facilities for its Department of Science is nearing completion.

The Third Level Science Block Extension project has created a single-storey extension on top of the existing two-storey structure. The new extension covers a total floor area of 1115m² and will comprise new laboratories with prep rooms, along with offices, a plant room and storage areas.

Letterkenny Institute of Technology currently houses a large Department of Science, but in order to extend its programme even further the college required additional space to accommodate facilities and students. The most cost-effective method was to build a new extension, as opposed to a new structure alongside the college.

Once the extension is complete, the college will offer a variety of courses including bioscience, bioanalytical science, analytical & forensic science, food science & nutrition and veterinary nursing.

Boyle Construction is the main contractor for the project, which has been designed by architect Coady Partnership Architects. The mechanical and electrical consultant is Gillespie & Cummings and the structural consultant is HGL O’Connor and Co.

Work commenced in July 2011 with the construction of a steel frame approximately 700 millimetres above the existing roof membrane. Steel was selected as the material is lightweight and therefore ideal for supporting the load of the new building.

The internal stud walls of the extension have been constructed using plywood, whilst lightweight vinyl has been used for the flooring and plasterboard has been used for the ceilings. Hardwood door frames with Formica facing have been used inside the facility in order to offer a hardwearing durability for entry and exit ways – ideal for a busy college.

External work has included the installation of a felt roof and a rainscreen cladding system with fibre cement panels on the sides of the extension. The fibre cement cladding has been designed to tie in with an existing extension and has only been used for the more prominent areas of the building, whereas shadowline cladding has been used for the less visible areas.

External lights have also been fitted to the roof in order to encourage north facing illumination in the laboratories and reduce the amount of glare created from natural sunlight.

As the project involves increasing the size of the original building, a number of important safety elements have been considered to ensure that the development adheres to building regulations.

Coady Partnership Project Architect, Neal Keaney, explained:

“One of the most challenging elements that we came across at the beginning of this project was how to ensure that the whole building would remain safe in the event of a fire.

“If the project had involved the construction of a brand new building on a Greenfield site then consideration would only have be given to that particular build, however on this project we had to take into consideration the existing building. Particular attention was also paid to the fact that the new extension interfaces with the existing building in five different locations.

“We had to make sure that we were compliant with building regulations in terms of fire separation areas so that in the event of a fire the outbreak would be limited to just one part of the building. This has been a primary consideration during the project and we made sure we addressed it early in the detailed design stage.

“Every project offers its own little challenges, but we see this as a very beneficial way for our company to develop.”

Additional work on the project has included the reconfiguration of car parking spaces in order to create additional provisions for disabled drivers, whilst the forecourt located at the main entrance to the campus has also been revamped.

Letterkenny Institute of Technology has remained open throughout the construction phase and all efforts have been made to minimise any disruptions. As the existing science facility has no direct crossover with the new extension, construction work has been able to continue without disrupting the timetables of budding scientists.

Neal Keaney said:

“A lot of thought has gone into the health and safety aspects of the build and how Boyle Construction accesses the site as it’s a busy campus with a lot of students and staff coming and going. There are two vehicular entrance points on to the campus, so whilst the construction crew is using the rear entrance to access the site, staff and students are using the front entrance.

“Everyone involved with the extension is working closely with Letterkenny Institute of Technology to make sure that there is very little disruption to college life and most students are working away without noticing anything is taking place above them.”

Construction work is currently running to schedule and is due for completion towards the end of March 2012. Fit-out work will then take place before the Department of Science moves into its new home in time for the summer term. The fit-out will include the installation of an air handler unit (AHU) and associated equipment, along with liquid petroleum gas (LPG) distribution and proving systems, a laboratory gasses distribution and vacuum systems.

Prior to the handover of the project, a thermal imaging test will also take place and an assessment of the building will commence in order to ensure its compliance with all of the necessary building regulations. The extension has been designed to achieve a BER rating of A3 as well as a grade of air tightness that is 3 m³ per 1 m² at 50 particles of air pressure. All efforts are being made to ensure the building remains energy efficient throughout the duration of its life.

Neal Keaney added:

“We’ve been conducting work up in Donegal since the early 1990s and have a long and successful history of working with the Letterkenny Institute of Technology. We developed the original master plan for the campus and have been involved with most of the work that has taken place on the IT site to date – it’s great to be a part of this latest phase of development.”

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