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Behind the scenes working on the Coombe Girls’ School Kitchen Refurbishment

PUBLISHED: 14/10/2022

We first worked with Julian Edwards from GY5, who is also chair of the FCSI UK&I, on a school project over five years ago. It was a fantastic development with great feedback from both the client and Julian. So, when this project at Coombe Girls’ School came up, Julian contacted our director, Michael giving us the opportunity to tender for this work. We went into a huge amount of detail for our submission and completed various site visits with different members of the team including electricians and flooring experts. After a presentation by Julian for the school board, they were impressed with the strength of what we submitted as it was very detailed and accurate.

Speaking about the tender process, Julian told us: “The Coombe Girls’ School project was subject to an independent design and project specification. It involved me consulting with several kitchen houses and this resulted in a mini competitive tender. During this process, Chiller Box obtained the highest tender score based on their references, compliance, systems and procedures, as well as a competitive price. One area they scored particularly well in was their references having completed projects to a high standard in the past.”

Getting the project underway

The kitchen design was already done but we were brought in to complete the build work over the summer holiday. We had a tight timeframe to work to, from receipt of order to completion. In fact, we had just five and a half weeks to turn around seven weeks of work. This was a complete turnkey project, so it involved a full strip out, new flooring, walls, ceilings, ventilation, electrics, plumbing and installation of the new equipment.

Managing the supply chain

The industry is still facing supply issues, and this had to be considered at the start of the project so we could ensure the kitchen would be fully functioning ready for the pupils returning. We did have to make some changes to the equipment, but we had factored in a contingency to our quote in case product changes were required.

Understanding the education sectors

We really wanted to work on this project as we’ve got a good working relationship with Julian and it was great to build on one of our strengths, which is education projects. Having experience in the education sector made a big difference as we understand the importance of meeting timescales and our strong project management skills help us to achieve this. There is no scope for a school project slipping behind.
Our team also understand the required procedures for working in schools and we have the right accreditations. Facilities teams in education settings tend to have a good understanding of construction and are aware some issues may arise as we work through a project. It’s great when a client has such confidence in you to overcome any challenges and trust that you will do whatever it takes to have the project delivered on time, to a high standard and within budget.

Overcoming project challenges

One element of the job that required our extensive expertise was the extraction system. The existing one was going through the school, but the air volumes didn’t cater for the new cookline. The duct work wasn’t big enough for the increased amount of cooking equipment under the canopy. We had to redesign a whole new duct system but through the existing holes so we could minimise the costs. This put pressure on the timescales but didn’t impact the overall completion date.

Due to other commitments within the school, we could only work on four of the Saturdays and we needed to do some weekend work to ensure we hit our deadline. It required great teamwork, flexibility and effort from our construction staff, but we achieved it.

A happy Chiller Box customer

Feeding back on his experience of this project, Julian added: “We found Chiller Box to be hugely pro-active right from the start of project. There were a lot of discussions around the potential logistical challenges that come with working in schools and Chiller Box were great at helping overcome any issues. We found them to be hugely enthusiastic about the project and they were extremely easy to run ideas by, for what was quite a complicated project. The frequency of their site meetings was appreciated, and their open and frequent communication helped us in ensuring the project started and completed on time. For me, being a school catering consultant, it is vital that school chefs are able to cook hot meals for their students on the first day of term.”

To begin with Michael was leading the project but due to both directors having holidays booked over the summer there were times when Marios stepped in and managed the project. Both directors were fully involved with the handover and resolution of snags. The joint expertise ensured a smooth project delivery.

Strengthening the partnership

Chiller Box is proud to be an Allied member of the FCSI UK & Ireland. Allied members work with professional members, such as Julian, who provides consultancy to a wide range of foodservice clients, from project managers and architects to facilities managers and caterers. Members could be working on anything from large hotels or restaurants to workplaces, retail units, hospitals, schools, and universities.