Building a better Cavendish laboratory at Cambridge16 August 2021

A major construction project for a prestigious world-class physics department at the University of Cambridge, involving challenging criteria for temperature and humidity control, has been supplied with key equipment and advice by Wolseley Pipe.

The University of Cambridge is home to one of the world’s most respected physics departments, established in 1874 as the Cavendish Laboratory. In 2019, the university began a £300m project to replace existing facilities with The Ray Dolby Centre, bringing all learning and research activities under one roof. A 354,000 sq. ft. development comprising a series of interconnected wings, the new building demanded specific environmental conditions, including challenging criteria for both temperature and humidity control. As a secondary part of the project, The University of Cambridge also commissioned a neighbouring ‘shared facilities hub’ (50,000 sq. ft.) to house a library and to provide catering, teaching and study opportunities for students and the local community.

Both buildings have been designed to achieve a BREEAM Excellent rating, and work is due for completion in 2022/23.

Bouygues UK was appointed as the project’s principal contractor, with Hoare Lea and BDP acting as M&E consultants and designers.

Princebuild is responsible for supplying all pipes, fitting, valves and drainage packages for the Ray Dolby Centre. Equipment includes Pegler Xpress stainless steel with 316 tube, Pegler valves and Marley Akutherm plastics.

Cambridgeshire-based mechanical and electrical services contractor, CPS Building Services, is supplying a mechanical package including plant, fittings, pipework, valves and drainage for the Shared Facilities Hub, as well as providing packages within the plant rooms - otherwise known as CUBS - in the Ray Dolby Centre. Elements within the CUBS are being pre-fabricated off site to create efficiencies.

Wolseley Pipe was appointed as one of the preferred suppliers from the start and worked alongside leading supplier manufacturers such as Pegler, Marley & Grundfos to provide various packages throughout the project. To date this includes:

  • Grundfos Pumps
  • UK Exchanger PHE Units
  • Valves, Meters, Tanks, Air Dirts, and other items
  • Sanitaryware
  • Radiators
  • Flamco Heat Interface Units
  • Humidifier package
  • Heatrae Sadia water heaters
  • plus all associated pipe fittings and valve packages.

Wolseley Pipe has an extensive track-record of supporting both Bouygues and CPS, including on the recently concluded Triangle Project for Cambridge Assessments. Since then, the business has worked closely with Bouygues on other projects, supplying key equipment and value engineering solutions.

Initially on this project, Wolseley Pipe supplied plant equipment which was free-issued by Bouygues. It also supplied considerable quantities of PY & Marley fittings, along with various sanitaryware and other packages. Although Wolseley Pipe did not originally have an established relationship with Princebuild, it was able to meet a pressing need that the main supplier could not.

A number of Wolseley Pipe teams contributed to the success of this project. The company’s London South East (LSE) project team took the lead, forging strong relationships and adding value throughout, not least working closely with the Bouygues Procurement team to ensure a seamless tender and ordering process. In total, the team spent over 100 hours working alongside the contractor to find cost-effective alternatives to original specifications. On many occasions, the merchant introduced manufacturers to Bouygues, giving them an opportunity to demonstrate ways to drive efficiency and cost-saving into the project. Wolseley Pipe’s national technical team also provided support throughout, responding to questions and collaborating extensively with the LSE estimating team, its branch network and with key manufacturers including Grundfos.

As a consequence of all this work, the Bouygues project stakeholders have introduced Wolseley Pipe to their national procurement team in order to realise similar value on other projects.

“Because of the size and complexities of the project, there were plenty of technical submissions to deal with, and Wolseley Pipe really got to grips with the detail. That made a real difference, and our relationship grew over the course of the project,” says Brian Brewis, Bouygues MEP technical director.

“Because of the nature of the challenge, there were a lot of design changes, and though Wolseley Pipe hadn’t been involved with the original design, it still helped us with the reviews and approvals and developing new proposals. That level of contribution is invaluable on a project of this size. Commercially, it was able to support us at a competitive price too, so our experience with Wolseley Pipe on this project has been very positive,” said Lucy Piao, Bouygues procurement officer.

Operations Engineer

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