WKK Electrical is a family-run business specialising in the installation and maintenance of electrical contracts and is proud to feature in its portfolio buildings that mean a lot to the local community. Among them are The Gateway in the Antrim Loughshore, the Assembly Buildings in Belfast, and the Copeland Distillery in Donaghadee. More recently, WKK was awarded the electrical contracts for the Ballycopeland Windmill and the Larne Fire Station refurbishment works.
The company has delivered several rewiring projects for historical buildings, but the electric refurbishment of the Ballycopeland Mill in Millisle is literally one of a kind. The 18th-century building is the only hooper roller-reefing windmill left in the world, and it still retains its original machinery and ancillary buildings, elevating the site to international importance.
The rewiring done by WKK was part of a £1.7m development to restore and preserve the monument for future generations. The project also included the construction of a visitor’s centre with a coffee shop, a new access road with car parking facilities, and refurbishment of the existing miller’s cottage and kilnman’s house.
WKK relied on its own work history to plan the rewiring. “We have rewired quite a few historical buildings in our time, including a complete rewire of The Argory in Moy, and experience has taught us to carefully plan ahead, agree on all requirements with the building owners, and take extreme care to prevent any damage to existing finishes,” WKK’s contract director Chris Kennedy explains.
He also highlights the fact that nowadays electrical makeovers include much more than the installation of power. “We need to think about lighting and emergency lighting, data cabling, AV cabling, backup power with PV, solar and battery storage, and standby generators. The new modern-day buildings normally have space allocated for all these services, which makes installation a lot more straightforward,” Chris compares.
The rewiring was an integral part of getting the site ready for the public, but when it comes to historical buildings, the best electrical installations are those you can’t see. “We met with the client’s conservation architect to agree on positions of various electrical and AV outlets within the miller’s cottage and the windmill, as these needed to be hidden as much as possible and to blend in with background colours,” WKK’s contract director Chris Kennedy explains. “As back in the day when the cottages were inhabited there was no electricity available in most rural areas, we needed to keep the surroundings exactly the same”.
WKK Electrical couldn’t be more satisfied to be part of this huge transformation. “We were very pleased to be involved with this project as it allowed us to showcase our skills and expertise in a different type of building,” Chris says.
As a family-owned and managed business, they also take special pride in working on projects that truly benefit the community. That was certainly the case with the complete rewire of the Larne Fire Station as part of a £1.25m total upgrade. The refurbishment started in February 2021, five years after the station was damaged during a break-in when a fire engine was stolen.
The station had been remodelled for the last time 30 years ago, and WKK’s installation included a complete rewire of the existing station building and electrical services to an extension and new training tower. In a collaboration with Seaview Developments, works also included refurbishment of the surrounding car-park with new electrical services including specialist Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) radio systems and stand-by generator installations.
The rewiring also comprised of a new main switchboard, lighting and power controls, a self-test digital emergency lighting system, a lift installation and refuge system, a fire appliance charging system, a fire alarm system, and a lightning protection system. The station has gone greener this time, with a solar PV provision.
Such a huge refurbishing job in a tall building has its own challenges, but fortunately fear of heights wasn’t of them. “Installing the site lighting at the top of the training tower would have been a bit of a challenge for some, but our site foreman had a good head for heights and didn’t see this as a problem,” explains Chris Kennedy, WKK’s contracts director.
The rewiring project was finished in February this year and Chris’ team was very satisfied with the result. “The most rewarding part of the project was handing the job over and providing demonstrations to the NIFRS team. It was great to see their satisfaction with the various systems we had installed,” he commented.
The station had been vacant since the robbery incident, and the NIFRS was based near the harbour at Redlands Road. Architecture firm Samuel Stevenson & Sons were commissioned by the NIFRS to provide modern facilities and update the appearance to reflect the NIFRS estate aesthetic. Duty room, offices, and changing facilities were upgraded on the ground floor with a community space, kitchen, and training room provided on the first floor. The building was also upgraded for DDA with a new accessible entrance and lift.
Additional staff welfare and training space have made a big difference to the station’s facilities. The new bespoke training tower and building to the rear with portholes and ship doors will enhance firefighter training in the station for the wide variety of incidents they respond to, as well as allow them to better prepare for specific incidents in Larne Port.
The NIFRS team is already operating from the long-awaited premises, and residents feel reassured having the firefighters finally back home.
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