With COVID gripping the UK since the beginning of March last year, there was an urgent need to produce face masks on a mass scale. That is when we were employed to undertake the construction of a facility in Northampton that would have the capacity to produce 1 million masks a day, providing PPE for front line and essential workers.
The client utilised an empty Homebase distribution centre as their premises, and we were required to create a building within a building to enable this facility.
We built a clean room production space at 95m x 23m which we did in 2 phases to accommodate the clients tight deadlines to install the machine and start manufacturing.
The electrical supply throughout the building was in need of an upgrade however the production of the masks could not be interrupted – we were able to ensure the electrical services upgrade was completed with no interference with the factory’s production and output.
Externally, we installed foul drainage in the existing car parking area, bike shelters for greener alternatives to travel to work, electric charging points for the new welfare space and smoking shelters.
CMB also constructed office and welfare facilities for the production staff and completed Mechanical and Electrical installation for these facilities as well as the clean room status production. This included works such as:
Ventilation, via a central AHU and localised a/c in the welfare units
Chilled water distribution
Local electrical boilers to supply the domestic hot water distribution
Trend BEMS system
Fire Alarm systems
Disabled refuge and alarm systems were also installed.
The project was a fast-moving one from the very start with the client ordering the production machines immediately and the first ones being delivered just 2 weeks after we had possession of the empty building. This was all in an effort to get this facility up and running as quickly as possible so that the national demand for PPE was met without interruption.
Whilst preparing for steel erection to the working space, we provided a temporary structure with electric and air connections for the machines. That was the first challenge the client gave us and the project continued in that vein with the pressure increasing for masks - as soon as the machines were available, the client wanted to install the machines and commission them.
We subsequently had to install 2 temporary scaffold structures, fully serviced, 40m wide by 30m long, to house these machines. This was in addition to preparing for the steel frame for the production area and providing clean and safe access for their production staff, along with the supply of raw material to their temporary production areas.
Over a close-down weekend and with the first production area substantially complete, we then had the task to move some of the production machines into their final location through the area where we were constructing the extension, ensuring that the machines were connected and ready for production on the Monday morning.
The project all in all was both a memorable and challenging experience for our team but they were triumphant in seeing it through till the end with a satisfied client at handover. So much so that by the time Practical Completion was achieved, the initial target of 1 million masks a day was quickly surpassed to an amazing 2 million masks a day.
We would like to give a special mention to our CMB team on the site who helped make the project a success and delivered it in record time, including Rob Webb and Mark O’Callaghan, Bertie Borley (Special Project Director) and Peter Cole (Quantity Surveyor).