Designer Group – Ireland’s leading MEP engineering solutions provider – came up trumps on the treble at the 2019 Plumbing & Heating Awards, taking home no fewer than three prestigious honours. As well as scooping the coveted Large Contractor of the Year award, Designer Group also picked up the Commercial Project of the Year (Large) accolade for The Shelbourne Hotel, while Mark Fitzgerald was named as Apprentice of the Year.
No strangers to capturing major honours at prestigious awards ceremonies in Ireland and beyond, it was no massive surprise when Designer Group struck gold three times at the 2019 Plumbing & Heating Awards ceremony, which took place at The Citywest Hotel on Friday, September 13th.
In announcing Designer Group as the Large Contractor of the Year, the independent team of judges said the company never puts a foot wrong or lets standards drop: “They can work all over the world and take on jobs at landmark buildings such as their recent project at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. This project was finished to an incredibly high standard which is a hallmark Designer Group’s work.”
Founded in 1992 by former Dublin hurler Michael Stone, and wholly Irish-owned, Designer Group is a leading international mechanical & electrical provider specialising in turnkey packages for the design, supply and installation of utilities. Headquartered in Dublin but with regional offices in Limerick, the UK, Germany, Africa and USA, the company had a turnover of circa €225m in 2018 globally, with more than 1,200 staff directly employed across the Group.
The health, safety and wellbeing of their people is at the core of Designer Group’s business. They aim to do things right first time, every time and are passionate about being the innovative and technical provider of choice for specialist turnkey engineering and energy solutions, listening carefully to clients and tailoring solutions to their needs.
Designer Group have established a successful in-house training academy to enhance their employees’ capabilities while further expanding their offering to clients. The in-house academy boasts a full apprenticeship workshop within a facility that is City and Guilds and Solas ATO approved. This includes a range of facilities that can offer apprentices basic domestic plumbing installation training up to advanced orbital welding training for their qualified pipefitters.
They also have an off-site pre-fabrication facility at Nore Road, Glasnevin. Coupled with their strong in-house BIM and 3D capabilities, this enables them to maximise productivity on site and also allows works to be completed within a quality-assured environment.
Employing a strong, non-adversarial, workforce which in turn provides exceptional self-delivery capability, Designer Group are currently focusing on renewable energy projects in line with the global drive for alternative sustainable energy sources and are engaged in developing biomass projects in East Africa and the USA using local suppliers and materials.
Constantly striving to provide innovative project solutions, they continually look for new products and technologies and are an Engineers Ireland accredited employer offering accredited in-house CPD training.
As well as being selected as Large Contractor of the Year, Designer Group also collected the Large Commercial Project of the Year award at the 2019 Plumbing & Heating Awards. This was in recognition of their chilled water system upgrade at The Shelbourne Hotel.
According to the judges: “Everything about this job was a logistical nightmare. From bringing cranes into the heart of Dublin to operating in one of the city’s iconic hotels took incredible expertise.”
Undaunted, Designer Group professionally provided a turnkey design-and-build solution for the replacement of the existing roof-mounted chilled water system including chillers, pumps, pressurisation units, de-gassing units and buffer vessels. Heat meters were also installed and a chiller plant manager was used to ensure the most efficient chiller sequencing. While all this was going on, the hotel remained open for business.
The existing system was not performing to its original design criteria due to a number of factors including poor water quality, poor system hydraulic performance and insufficient clearance between the chillers in accordance with manufacturer’s requirements and poor maintenance access.
Due to the nature of the building, it was decided that prefabrication of the systems components was vital to the delivery of the project. As this was a live building, the client identified three critical circuits that were required to remain live for the duration of the project. In order to do this, a temporary chilled water header was fabricated on site and the three critical circuits were migrated onto the system, minimising downtime. This enabled the phased removal of the existing chilled water system.
A full BIM 3D survey was completed in advance of the works, so that all tie-in points could be identified. It also allowed for off-site prefabrication of pipe racks and spool pieces, again to minimise lost time.
Once strip out was complete, a full packaged plant room was delivered to site, which included the secondary pumps, de-gasser, pressurisation unit and MCC. This was lifted into position during a street shutdown by a logistics specialist via a 500-tonne capacity crane.
The crane also lifted into position three new 600kW chillers and pipe racks containing the primary pipework. This required careful coordination and the shutdown of one of Dublin’s busiest streets.
There were a number of innovative design and construction considerations that were taken into account to deliver this project. These included: the use of victaulic fittings on the roof to remove the requirement of hot works; the use of prefabricated plant rooms and pipe racks to minimise downtime on the system and reduce footfall on the roof; and the use of BIM 3D modelling to construct the offsite pipe racks and identify access walkways in advance of delivery of equipment to site so the improved use of the site could be demonstrated to the client. Furthermore, the design included the use of a chiller plant manager that would alternate the chiller use to the most efficient setting
An essential part of the team working on the successful deliver of this challenging project at The Shelbourne Hotel, Mark Fitzgerald – winner of the Generation Apprenticeship competition last year – was named joint-winner in the Apprentice of the Year category, making it a notable treble for Designer Group at the Plumbing and Heating Awards.
Mark attends all training courses available and is always first man to volunteer for extra training or duties outside his normal works. The judges were impressed by the dedication to his trade demonstrated by Mark, who decided to retrain as a mature student after switching from a career as a landscape gardener.
They noted he possesses the skills and determination required to go to the very top. It was also noted that Mark is serving as a great ambassador for the apprenticeship scheme having already given newspaper (The Irish Times) and radio (Ireland AM) interviews about his experiences to date. A Phase 3 level apprentice, who joined Designer Group in 2017, he is also undertaking First Aid training as well as welding and coded welding training.
He was nominated for the Apprentice of the Year Award by Designer Group’s Training Director Brendan Kearns, who is confident that Mark will be one of their leaders in the future.
IDA Blanchardstown Business & Technology Park,
Tel: 01 8600520
Email: [email protected]
This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, February/March 2020, Vol 6 No 1