Ipswich/Rendlesham: Wiremek brings futuristic Willis building up to date

SUFFOLK-based electrical control panel designer and manufacturer Wiremek has completed a major project for the global insurance broker Willis.

The landmark Willis building in Ipswich, was designed by Norman (now Lord) Foster and opened by Harold Macmillan in 1975. With 890 black glass panels and its avant garde organic shape, the building has won numerous design awards.

Wiremek, based at Rendlesham, near Woodbridge, was tasked with replacing the original control panels, situated on the ground floor and visible from the outside of the listed building. Because of this degree of visibility, the plant room is part of the listing and therefore changes or replacements must be an exact match to the originals.

Unsurprisingly, modifications had been carried out on the control panels over their 37 year life span and the technology they utilised was well out of date. Wiremek’s brief was to install new panels that would facilitate easy diagnosis and reporting, whilst improving performance and saving energy.

Wiremek engineers worked closely with the building maintenance services team at Willis to agree the deployment of new technologies and bring the fragmented BMS into a centralised system. Bespoke, colour matched panels were designed in a modular system that could be disassembled and reassembled inside the plant room.

Design features of the original installation had to remain, such as safety screening to an access point that allows engineers to walk inside the control panels.

The installation was completed two days ahead of schedule. Soft starter technology now gives energy savings on all the building’s pumps and the new system provides in-depth, easy to run reporting functionality for the Willis managers.

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Ian Gleed, Wiremek managing director, said: “This was a unique project in a unique building. Our strengths lie in tackling bespoke and time controlled installations; we’re delighted to have had this opportunity to work closely with Willis and achieve a successful outcome.”

Lord Foster’s Willis building provides 220,000 square feet of space over 3 floors, each of which extends to approximately 1.5 acres. There are 140,000 square feet of carpet files, 65,000 square feet of rubber flooring, a swimming pool (now converted for office space), a roof restaurant and a half acre rooftop lawned garden.