Schneider Electric saves time and adds value for Birmingham schools

Just two and a half hours were needed for the installation and wiring time of a 24-way distribution board for a major school-building project in Birmingham, compared with a normal 90 h. This large time saving was made possible by using Schneider Electric’s new modular wiring system. Working on behalf of Birmingham City Council, Transform Schools (a consortium comprising Balfour Beatty Capital, Building Design Partnership, Haden FM, Balfour Kilpatrick and BM) recently awarded Balfour Kilpatrick a £22 million contract to design, supply and install electrical, HAC and plumbing systems for 10 new schools. Balfour Kilpatrick invited Schneider Electric to submit proposals for equipment to be used for the electrical content of the contract. The requirements included main switchboards, sub-distribution panels, final distribution boards and wiring accessories — worth, in total, £300 000. The offer submitted follows the principles of modern methods of construction advocated by the Egan Report on the construction industry. The complete solution included equipment from the Square D and Clipsal brands of Schneider Electric, together with final-distribution products developed by Schneider Electric and Wieland. A key innovation was that the products would form the basis of a plug-in installation — from the final distribution board to the furthest point of each final circuit. Since no conventional wiring would be needed from this point, the approach has the potential of offer big savings. Most of the equipment, including the final distribution boards, would be delivered to site as factory-built assemblies — prewired and type tested, ready for immediate installation. The modular plug-in approach provided a high degree of cost certainty at an early stage, making preparation of the final bid documents faster and easier. It also reduced bidding costs. Overall programme times for the work were also cut. Other benefits include the lower skills needed to install plug-in equipment compared with conventional wiring and enhanced safety, as the installation uses type-tested equipment throughout. A study carried out by Mark Beardmore of Balfour Kilpatrick showed that 8-, 12- and 24-way distribution boards now all take around two and a half hours to install compared with, for conventional techniques, 50, 65 and 90 h, respectively. This study also revealed that with the new system, a 2-storey primary school could be wired by two men in just two days. ‘The savings are already impressive,’ says Mark Beardmore, ‘but we’re actually seeing continuous improvement as the project progresses and we become more familiar with the equipment. There’s no doubt at all, therefore, that future savings will be even greater.
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