Cobec Engineering was partnered with main contractor John Sisk & Son to provide both the electrical and mechanical installations at the Avondale House and Forest Park, in Co. Wicklow. The brand-new tourist attraction offers a Visitors Centre, the Coillte Pavilion, which features a learning experience on the history of forestation, the Seed Café, and the Avondale House, the former residence of Irish nationalist Charles Stewart Parnell. Other attractions include trails in the woods, a walkway over 23 metres above the forest floor, and a 38-meters high viewing tower.
“It is a lovely project to be involved in, as there aren’t many attractions like this in Ireland,” commented Peter Mulligan, business development director at Cobec Engineering. “It is quite unique, and we really enjoyed being part of it.”
The electrical services offered by Cobec for the main buildings included main and sub-main board installation, mains and sub-mains wiring, containment systems, PV system installation, sitewide lighting and emergency lighting, DALI lighting control system, general services, IT installation, including fibre, security systems, life safety systems, BMS Wiring and EV charging points in the car parks.
A sustainable approach
Client Coillte, an organisation responsible for 440,000 hectares of forests and lands in Ireland, focused on developing the project as sustainably as possible. “The Visitors Centre includes low energy use LEDs throughout, lighting controls to further save energy, and an extensive PV system for renewable energy generation,” Peter explained. The EV charging points in the car parks also contribute to this sustainable approach.
Mechanically, the centre is powered completely by electricity, using air-to-water heat pumps and heat recovery units. In addition, a rainwater harvesting system was installed to meet the centre’s needs for general water usage.
The Avondale House was built in 1779, and listed buildings always pose a challenge for installations, as services must be provided in keeping with the overall design. Peter explained that Cobec relied on early pre-construction engagement and a proactive design development approach to provide solutions to engineering challenges. “The pre-construction stage is very important, as it helps us to understand what we need to do and how before arriving to the site. However, a certain amount of design development must also be done on site to achieve the best results,” he said.
COVID was another obvious challenge during the project, and the contractor had to come up with solutions to ensure the safety of employees when travelling to and from the site and when onsite. Site travel and onsite safety policies were issued, and Cobec worked in partnership with John Sisk & Son to ensure that works were coordinated to minimise the crossover of tradespeople within active workspaces.
“We established timeframes for each group to complete their work. Once they vacated the area, the next service would commence,” Peter explained. “We worked our way through it, we adapted and got there in the end.”
It’s all in the planning
Working with so many subcontractors in such a large project, Peter commented early engagement and detailed planning are key to successful project delivery. “This includes having intimate knowledge of the project, early communications with stakeholders, a proactive pre-construction approach and early product or system submittal approvals. Once the products or systems are approved, orders can be issued to suppliers and deliveries scheduled to meet the needs of the programme,” he explained.
“From there, all parties involved in the construction process play a significant role in ensuring that programme commitments are met to bring the project to a successful completion on time, on budget and to the highest quality standards. At Avondale House and Forest Park, it was the responsibility of the whole project team to work in partnership to bring a client’s vision to life and deliver a world-class visitor attraction.”
For generations to come
Cobec is proud to have a varied portfolio, and Avondale House and Forest Park was their first incursion into the tourism industry. The company was also thrilled to work on a building with such historical value thanks to its connection to Parnell. “It was amazing to see the project through from the very beginning, when major sections were dilapidated or non-existent, and contemplate the finished product: a vibrant, sustainable world-class visitor centre,” Peter said. “There is also a great sense of pride in delivering a project that you know is going to stand the test of time. It will be a great place to bring our kids and even our grandkids and say: ‘This is a project we delivered.’”
For the full feature on Avondale, check out Ireland’s Electrical Magazine Issue 94 Dec-Jan here.