Premier Construction

Plymouth Marine Laboratory

Plymouth Marine
Written by Roma Publications

Plymouth Marine Laboratory

Main contractor Devon Contractors have officiated a construction hand-over of a multi-phase redevelopment of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) research facilities located on West Hoe. The extensive £5.4m refurbishment programme of the impressive 15-metre-high, five-storey building was carried out over eight phases.

PML is an independent, impartial provider of scientific research and contract services relating to the marine environment. PML focuses on understanding how marine ecosystems function, their role in the Earth system and how we can protect this important environment for the prosperity of future generations.

A truly interdisciplinary marine research centre, PML delivers highly innovative research and solutions for national and international marine and coastal programmes. PML’s research is timely, highly relevant to UK and international societal needs and has at its core the mission to contribute to issues concerned with understanding global change and the health and sustainability of marine ecosystems around the world.

Throughout the 18-month refurbishment programme, the site team progressed well with all the works including vital daily liaison and design development with the future phases and the snagging and commissioning of live phases. Close communication between all parties was key to maintaining the clients’ experiments, research and operation of the business throughout the programme of works.

Works involved demolition; isolation and strip out of existing areas; forming new office and preparation areas, as well as seawater analytic laboratories and state-of-the-art control temperature rooms. The external envelope of the building has also been enhanced with new windows, flashings and a fabric clean. In several instances, smaller rooms and walls have been demolished to form larger laboratories, and the colourful new units were chosen by the PML staff ensuring they were fully engaged with this ambitious project.

Simon Lawrence, Contracts Manager – Devon Contractors said: “It has been a challenging but very interesting project and the construction teams have worked well together to ensure that the project was delivered on time and to the client’s precise requirements with limited disruption. The bright and funky colours chosen by the staff for laboratories were very successful. A special thank you to our site manager Matt who helped to keep everything moving along smoothly throughout the process.”

PML has been providing evidence-based environmental knowledge and solutions to societal challenges for over 40 years from its laboratory on the famous Plymouth Hoe. The impact of its science of the years has been far-reaching, ranging from highly cited scientific papers and contributing to national/international environmental policymaking to training the next generation of marine experts and sharing knowledge around the world to support healthy, productive and resilient oceans and seas.

Prof. Stephen de Mora, former Chief Executive of Plymouth Marine Laboratory said: “It has been a delight working with Devon Contractors to give our research facility a much-needed update, thanks to financial support from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Throughout the process they have been a pleasure to collaborate with, offering our staff the opportunity to be involved in the design process whilst also working in an operational laboratory both efficiently and considerately.”

Prof. Icarus Allen, Chief Executive of Plymouth Marine Laboratory as of October 2019 and Refurbishment Coordinator commented: “Devon Contractors were consistently helpful and dedicated throughout the building project, offering real added value in terms of both the functionality and appearance of the building. We were particularly grateful for their ability to work in and around an active research environment with minimal disruption to the staff and the world-class science they do.”

Macegreen Consulting Ltd with offices in Plymouth, Bristol and London acted as Project Manager and Contract Administrator on the PML refurbishment project. Rob Cameron MRICS, Macegreen Associate Director Ltd, said:

“We are very proud to have worked on this project and contributed to its successful completion. This was a particularly challenging scheme given the complexity of the works and number of delivery phases. As with all refurbishment schemes there is always an element of ‘unknown’, and the whole team worked in a collaborative manner to find the right solution, always ensuring that disruption to PML’s staff and visitors was wherever practicable kept to a minimum.

“The project was successfully delivered whilst the building remained fully-operational and there was limited down-time caused, which is testament to the good working relationship between the contractor’s site team, the Project Manager and PML’s Senior Management / Estates team. We look forward to the opportunity of working with PML and the project team again in the future!”

WWA, based in Royal William Yard, acted as Quantity Surveyors providing cost advice to the team for the PML project from inception to completion. The complicated, multi-phased approach in the operational building required a significant level of ongoing cost management to ensure constant, accurate commercial data was available to inform the decision-making process. Close liaison between Macegreen, WWA, Devon Contractors and the wider team allowed accurate reporting and a swift, successful conclusion of the final account.

Mitchell Architects were involved with the project from the outset, working as lead designer throughout all work stages in close collaboration with PML staff and the consultant team to achieve a complex and comprehensive upgrade and expansion of PML facilities.

Hulley & Kirkwood (H&K) were appointed by PML to undertake the full MEP design of the project and provide construction support through commissioning and handover of the scheme. All works were undertaken whilst the building remained live and operational in order to ensure disruption to ongoing scientific activities was kept to an absolute minimum.

As part of the scheme, H&K’s responsibilities included the MEP design of a new clean room, new sea-water experimental facilities, workshops, office accommodation, a new reception area, a new containment level 2 laboratory, and new ‘close control’ laboratories simulating environmental conditions experienced throughout the world’s oceans, ranging from tropical to Arctic conditions. Horticultural LED lighting was also provided as a specific Client requirement, offering adjustable light output across a range of electro-magnetic frequencies in the visible spectrum, essential for mirroring the conditions found in both deep oceans and coastal regions.


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