Midland Fire Security Services Completes Phase 4 Electrical Works at Aston University

aston university main building

Midland Fire Security Services Ltd recently completed the upgrade of electrical works at Aston University’s main building – improving the existing electrical infrastructure while ensuring compliance with the latest IET Wiring Guidelines.

The objective of this project was to replace obsolete tap off units, located on the power and lighting rising busbars to 8 floors of the main building, the project is known as phase 4 of previous similar works at the university.

As the appointed principal contractor Midland Fire was expected to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate the entire construction phase. Principal contractors have an important role in managing health and safety risks during the construction phase so they must have the skills, knowledge, experience and, where relevant, organisational capability to carry out this work. Sub-contractor management was key to ensuring the process went smoothly with minimal disruptions to university activities.

The principle contractor is expected to meet or exceed The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 – Ensuring accountability and a high standard of service and quality of workmanship.

Project Management and Planning

The main building features laboratories used for research and a constant power supply is required to keep essential equipment like freezers and fridges turned on. A temporary power supply to essential equipment was provided to avoid disruption.

Sub-contractors were specified for certain aspects of the project. This included builders, data specialists, fire stop specialists, cupboard installers and decorators.

A Successful Tender Process Based on Quality

As with all public tenders, the client assessed the proposed methodology and planning of all bidders. This was an important part of the tender, as the chosen contractor needed to provide all aspects of the installation. This Phase 4 project had been carried out 3 previous times by the university and on each occasion the project was not completed within the timescales as planned because of the previous contractor’s execution of works. The evaluation process was based on quality (planning, methodology and previous experience) and price.

Experience in Electrical Works with Planned Shutdowns

As the nominated framework provider for electrical works at the university, Midland Fire had already completed works at other buildings on campus. This helped provide clear evidence that they could deliver the contract with minimal disruption to university activities.

Previous projects including Electrical Installations at The Medical School, MB 7 Workplace, The Library (HV Switch Room Panel Extension) and Student Guild Demolition and Car Park Extension. All of which included an element of planned shutdown works. Midland Fire currently has an on-site presence of 4-8 engineers daily carrying out planned and reactive maintenance.


Aston University Busbar Upgrades

Before and After Installation Of New Tap off Units And IFE Ethernet Modules

Upgrading the existing power distribution system

The main building uses a series of vertical and horizontal Busbars to distribute power. They are controlled by tap off units on each floor. Originally installed in the 1950s, the tap off units at the main building were obsolete and in need of replacement.

Rising busbars are vertical metal containment systems containing copper bars – sending electricity around the building. Horizontal bars send electricity to distribution boards (mains switches) which are split into power and lighting.

Tap off units are mains switches that control power to each horizontal busbar. They make up a crucial part of the infrastructure of the building.

Quality Products

All products and equipment specified by the University are manufactured by reputable companies – known for reliability. Midland Fire procured the electrical switchgear from MCH Electrical Systems Ltd, these custom built enclosures were colour coded – applicable to the building location, lockable and housed Schneider Electric MCCB’s and Interface Ethernet (IFE) Modules.


schneider electric mccbs


IFE Electrical Metering

The Schneider Electric Interface Ethernet (IFE) module allows the university to view, control, and streamline data from electrical equipment assets, helping to reduce costs and improve uptime. A central control unit is used the monitor electricity use in real-time.

The Benefits of Electrical Metering Usage for the University

Adam Reilly Estates Engineering Manager, said “The low voltage distribution network within the Main Building is a mesh of vertical and horizontal busbars dating back to the 1950s. The system design gives us lots of supply options and resilience, including operating the system as a mesh of open LV rings. Whilst the copper busbars are in good condition, the tap off switches are ageing and require replacing. The upgrade project is being carried out over six phases, with phase four just being completed. MFSS have completed two phases of the project.

“The tap off switches are being replaced with Schneider NSX MCCBs within individual lockable enclosures. The Schneider Facility Expert system is also being included, with IFEs being installed in each tap off box. This allows us to monitor contact wear, breaker position and metering data by connecting to the device IP address. The data from the Schneider Facility Expert devices is also transmitted to our AM&T system provided by component, allowing metering data to be processed by our campus metering system without the need to install additional meters.”

On-site Works & Planned Shutdown

A weekend isolation and shutdown period was planned to prevent disruption to normal week day working hours. Midland Fire completed as much of the work as possible before the shutdown period such as cable containment and cable installation. All potential equipment had been prepared prior to the event.

An on-site team of Midland Fire staff including 6 Electricians, 3 apprentices and 1 Foreman carried out the works. Work included removing the existing switchgear and installing new units – terminating at the vertical and horizontal Busbar system. To support and assist the university estates team, experienced electricians and Midland Fire managers – Luke and Jack were also on-site.

Projection Completion

The operation was successfully completed 24 hours before the end of the 48-hour isolation window. This gave Midland Fire and the Estates Team plenty of time to carry out testing and inspection of the new installation. After the successful re-energisation of the electrical infrastructure, all temporary supplies to the laboratory and research equipment were removed ready for the start of the working week.

James Timmis, Project Officer said  “Midland Fire has successfully completed many electrical and fire alarm projects under my direction since I have been working at the University. This project was a highly complex electrical infrastructure upgrade with associated building works, undertaken within one of the most sensitive areas of the Main Building on campus, which houses over 30 laboratories of various disciplines. These laboratories were in use, with live experiments running throughout the period of works, so it was business critical to the University that these works were completed within the limited timeframes available.

Not only were the works completed to a very high standard, but also well within the available timeframes. MFSS also sub-contracted and managed the associated building works, which were completed around the needs of the business in a prompt and professional manner.

Overall, MFSS more than delivered in line with the agreed specification for this project and I would not hesitate to recommend them for similar works in future”.


For more information and a free consultation contact Midland Fire Security Services Ltd.