How we helped Foyles bookshop to get back on its feet after serious flooding and power failure

15-December-2016 19:59
in General
by Admin

At Karsons Consulting we have years of experience in building services projects, which include anything from energy and maintenance management to property dilapidations, dispute resolution and business management.

To highlight this expertise, I wanted my first blog to be about an emergency we were called to which needed all our property, engineering and building services expertise – and more, as it happens. 

Our client is Foyles, the famous bookshop with its headquarters in Charing Cross Road, London. Recently, the company suffered serious flooding in the basement which affected critical engineering equipment necessary for the ongoing operation of the business.

As soon as we arrived at the scene we carried out a thorough inspection and put in place all the measures and recommendations to help rectify the problem, while ensuring safety was paramount. 

What we found

At the time of the inspection the flood had largely drained, but there was significant evidence of water and heat damage to the engineering services. As there were no lights in the basement, we used torches or flashlights to inspect the damage.

We undertook our view of the electrical infrastructure and found that there were three electrical LV panels that suffered significant water damage. These served the Foyles retail areas, the life safety services and the landlords/residential areas.

Each of the three boards were affected by the water damage, which was so bad that the internal plastic safety casings to the boards had melted.

Managing the issue, our first task was to ensure Foyles and any adjoining residential apartments had temporary power – so we instructed suppliers to install temporary LV panels. While this was being installed, we instructed the use of a temporary generator to serve the retail areas. Always conscious of safety, we also contacted fire marshals and took temporary fire safety measures as none of the life-safety services were operational.

During our project management, we enforced items of safety such as ongoing temporary fire management in the absence of the sprinkler and fire system; ensured that the generator cables serving the Foyles LV panel were marked, and that the energised room was locked with only secure access to those operating the panel.

We then appointed a CDM Advisor and Polyteck Building Services Ltd as principal contractor, since the works would require an F10 notification to HSE.

Our approach

Our approach brought power back to the retail unit immediately, including the full use of all services within two weeks; it was reported to the insurers that it would take between 4-6 weeks, while incurring hotel charges for the apartment residents and loss of trading to Foyles’ store.

We understood from the client that there needed to be an urgency of reinstatement to mitigate the loss of trading as well as ensuring residents could return to their homes. As a result, we started an approach that would ensure the safe use of power within the building as soon as possible.

The following sets out our anticipated delivery approach for the project:

1.    The initial process would be to reinstate the electrical and life safety services temporarily. Here the contractors representing Foyles and the landlord would each remove cables serving the existing failed LV panels and install a new temporary panel for each panel and test. Once testing was satisfactory, they would contact UKPN to reinstate power.

2.    Propose and witness a series of testing on all mechanical equipment to ensure that services such as drainage sump pumps, sprinkler system, hot water and domestic boosted water system, heating system, electrical stand-by generator and rain water harvesting systems were all operating.

3.    We would work with the contractors and specialists to review their proposals for permanent reinstatements where required. Where items had suffered damage from the water, and had been energised temporarily, we would seek for the manufacturers advice on options for reinstatements. In many cases, replacements would be required, but there could be plant items where refurbishments would be okay. We would work with the specialists and manufacturers to evaluate this.

4.    Finally, we knew that the electrical reinstatement was a temporary installation. We would seek to provide a specification for the replacement of the damaged electrical panels for permanent installations and any other provisions such as carpentry, decoration etc.

For the permanent reinstatement we would seek to obtain best value by undertaking a tender exercise. For temporary works we would constantly discuss the approach with the project teams and the appointed specialists. We would also aim to hold weekly meetings in the management of this project as retail/residential losses, health and safety and CDM will be major factors for consideration during the scope of this project.

Our project team

This project would require an overall team approach with expertise in the various fields of engineering.

Those most critical would be the overall reinstatement (Hashil Ramjee), project management (Nigel Pavey) electrical reinstatement – temp and permanent (Nigel Pavey and Ricardo Inniss), health and safety (Nigel Pavey), and lifts (Chris Stevens).

Overall, we provided the technical expertise to reinstate the power to the commercial and residential parts of the building, minimising disruption and excessive costs, which were predicted due to the client's estimate of 4-6 weeks of down-time. Following the temporary reinstatement, we are working with the insurers on the permanent reinstatement during a 6-month project period.

Finally, Foyles was extremely pleased with the smooth running of the job and the company was trading again within weeks – and people were able to return to the adjoining residential apartments.