Grand Opera House, Belfast

Award-winning electrical contractor completes landmark project in Belfast…

William Coates Ltd can celebrate a spectacular end result with the completion of a challenging electrical installation during restoration work at the iconic Grand Opera House.

As part of the £12.2 million restoration and development project, the theatre’s electrical and technical infrastructure was fully upgraded.

The installation of state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems will meet modern-day theatregoer expectations; while also being aesthetically sensitive to the historical fabric of the building. Also, a permanent heritage exhibition was installed, telling the fascinating story of the auditorium’s 125-year history.

William Coates was responsible for the installation of all electrical systems throughout the project including all new lighting, power, audio visual, stage lighting and life safety systems. Victorian master The Grand Opera House was designed by the leading Victorian theatre architect Frank Matcham and opened on 23 December 1895. Many of the world’s leading actors, singers, dancers and entertainers have appeared on its stage, including Charlie Chaplin, Sarah Bernhardt, Laurence Olivier, Vera Lynn, Luciano Pavarotti, Darcey Bussell, and Laurel and Hardy.

Speaking about the completion of the project, Ian Wilson, Chief Executive of the Grand Opera House said, “The Grand Opera House was last restored 40 years ago, and we are delighted that this vital project for the Belfast arts scene has been completed.

“The restoration of the iconic and unique 1895 auditorium is stunning and maximises the beauty of the original architecture. Alongside the transformation of the public areas and facilities within the building, theatregoers will have a much-improved experience from the minute they walk through our doors.”

With fifty years of experience behind them, William Coates can undertake electrical projects of any size and any value. The Newtownabbey-based firm has built a dedicated team around its four core values of quality, value, service and delivery in all aspects of electrical engineering. This has enabled the business to take projects from design through to completion, and follow up with necessary maintenance.

William Coates’ projects range from state-of-the-art aerospace manufacturing facilities and prestigious national stadium projects to major new build/refurbishment projects and industrial process installations.

Commenting on the project, Phil Quinn, Electrical Contracts Manager said, “This is a hugely important project for Northern Ireland’s art and culture sector and we are proud to have played our part in it. As a listed building, the Grand Opera House project offered us a wide range of challenges, but once again we were able to utilise our experience to provide a bespoke solution. The timber construction of the auditorium and ornate plasterwork completed over 125 years ago presented many difficulties in installing state-of-the-art, 21st century electrical systems but working closely with the main contractor, Tracey Brothers, we managed to overcome the issues while protecting the original quality of workmanship that is evident for all to see and deserving of a building like this.

“This is another example of the high quality projects that we continue to deliver in Northern Ireland and highlights the importance of the province to our company.”

Project team…
Client: The Grand Opera House Trust
Main Contractor: Tracey Brothers
Architect: Consarc Design Group
Structural Engineer: Albert Fry Associates
Project Manager: WH Stephens
Electrical Contractor: William Coates Ltd
M+E Designers: Semple & McKillop

William Coates Ltd,
37 Mallusk Road,
T: 0044 (0)28 9034 2560

Atlas World

Atlas World’s fire and intruder technology takes centre stage but installation stays behind the scenes…

Industry specialists, Atlas World, were called on to upgrade the fire and security alarm systems for the recently restored Grand Opera House in Belfast.
This landmark project wasn’t without its unique challenges, but the highly skilled and experienced Atlas World team was more than capable of meeting them.

The work had to be completed within a live environment, which involved daily co-ordination with the client. Completed work from the previous day was reported in detail alongside the proposed work to be carried out that day to ensure all occupants of the building were safe and fire cover was maintained throughout.

Maintaining fire cover was one of the biggest challenges, explained Stephen Hendren, Sales Manager. “Preparatory work was assessed and completed, which involved pre-programming all software for the new system and bench testing prior to any work being started,” he said.

“Once successfully pre-tested, we changed one loop per day to ensure fire cover was maintained when the building was vacant. During the day, when there was limited fire cover, a radio fire alarm system was installed with call points at all exits to ensure the safety of the occupants and premises.”

The intruder alarm upgrade involved an extension to the existing system to incorporate the refurbished areas while integrating the upgraded elements with the original equipment. Additionally, panic alarm buttons were unobtrusively installed at various locations throughout the building for the protection of theatre staff.

There were additional considerations to be taken regarding the listed status of the building and its décor. “Due to the large dimensions of the auditorium and elaborate plasterwork and finishings therein, we worked closely with the Opera House’s renovation team to ensure surface-mounted components had the least visual impact possible,” explained Stephen.

“A smoke aspirating sampling system was installed in the void above the auditorium rather than conventional fire alarm sensors. The result is an effective fire alarm and security system with negligible visual impact. The grandeur of the early 1900s is retained, with the latest fire and intruder detection systems protecting from the wings.”

Atlas World is a privately owned company with over 40 years’ experience within the fire and security industry. The Belfast-based firm offers a full suite of products and services to help protect, sustain, connect and maintain their customers’ premises and resources. This approach creates a secure, safe, sustainable and efficient environment for their clients.

“We recognise and value all our customers’ requirements and take pride in our ability to design solutions which best meet their needs,” said Stephen. “We collaborate with consultant engineers, design and build teams, M&E contractors, facilities management companies and building owners to optimise the finished product for the end-user. Service, flexibility, communication and reliability are cornerstones of our business.”

Blending the old with the new and maintaining the aesthetic of this historic Belfast institution makes this a stand-out project in Atlas World’s extensive product portfolio.

“Our biggest source of pride in this project is that, for the theatregoer, our work is all but invisible,” said Stephen. “Successfully incorporating the latest in fire and intruder protection technology into the Opera House, yet leaving the historic ambience untouched, is a great source of satisfaction for everyone involved at Atlas World. Most companies like their product to be front and centre, but in this case, we are happy to remain backstage.”

Atlas World has collaborated regularly with William Coates Ltd on projects and has built up a great working relationship. “While this is vital on all jobs, a project like this highlights the importance of that relationship,” added Stephen. “Being able to communicate regularly and easily with the electrical contracting team ensured a smooth project.

Due to the requirement to maintain fire cover throughout the works, the regular daily meetings and updates between ourselves and William Coates meant this was achieved and assisted in reducing the visual impact of the works on the iconic building fabric.”

Atlas World,
Glenbank Industrial Estate,
720 Crumlin Rd,
Belfast BT14 8AD
T: +44 (0)28 9039 1000


Spotlight shines on specialist architectural and decorative lighting…

Lighting specialists Lightsource provided the stunning architectural and feature lighting for the Grand Opera House restoration project.

There is no denying that the focal point of the ground floor is the new spiral staircase that allows access to the mezzanine and first floors.

The 5-tier brass pendant hangs gracefully in the centre of the staircase. This feature luminaire has been custom-made by Lightsource for the Grand Opera House and has been designed and supplied to incorporate an efficient LED light source and include Bluetooth mesh control gear to provide integration into the building- wide control system.

The large black and brass LED chandeliers from Santa & Cole create a statement piece in the open bar area on the first floor. These luminaires have also been provided with Bluetooth-enabled control gear to also allow integration into the building- wide control system.

A trio of statement pendants were required to hang above the beautifully designed box office. The Edizioni pendants were selected because of their delicate, modern and quality finish. As brass is the accent material throughout the building, the simple and clean design of these pendants was the perfect selection for this important area.

The etched glass pendants that hang above the Circle Bar area are the ‘Rowan’ by crystal glass specialists Ebb & Flow. The surface-mounted ‘Ray’ downlights by Wever & Ducre were added to the lighting scheme to add texture to the large open space while providing further texture to the first floor as you look through the glazed facade from the outside.

The linear downlights in the main atrium have been specifically chosen to not only provide the desired aesthetics but to also provide the required level of background illumination. Their high performing optics not only provide an energy- efficient solution but also a comfortable distribution to reduce glare and not cause any unnecessary distractions.

These, along with the downlights throughout the circulation areas, have been plastered into the fabric of the building to provide a very clean and seamless installation. All have been supplied with integrated Bluetooth-enabled drivers to not only allow integration into the building-wide control system but to also reduce the number of components to be installed- reducing complexity and saving precious installation time.

The team at Lightsource put forward a building-wide solution in keeping with the initial specification. The design team at Sundara provided a clear vision of what the lighting should look like. It was then up to Lightsource to source the products from original manufacturers and create bespoke luminaires where ‘off-the-shelf’ products were not suitable. Efficiency, performance, controllability, and aesthetics were paramount when selecting suitable luminaires for this very prestigious lighting scheme.

When the project reached the fit-out stage, the team at Lightsource was on hand to support the installing electrical contractor and provide all relevant information when required.

The final stage of the project for Lightsource was the commissioning of the control systems. With each luminaire having Bluetooth-enabled control gear, it provided the client with an extremely versatile and adaptable lighting system with the capability to create different lighting environments for various stages of events. Commenting on the project, Michael Martin, Commercial Sales Director said, “We are delighted to have had the opportunity to be involved on such a prestigious high profile and iconic Belfast project. We are sure that the refurbishment of this landmark building will amaze returning clientele, while attracting new performances and theatregoers from far and wide.”

There were three key prerequisites when it came to lighting this historic building: The architectural lighting had to illuminate all floorspace to legal levels while producing as little glare as possible. The decorative lighting had to be high quality LED and stand out, while matching the proposed interior design themes and materials. ALL lighting had to be controlled from central points. Wireless, Bluetooth Casambi modules were installed for all light fittings.

The Engine Room,
Portview Trade Centre,
310 Newtownards Rd,
T: +44 (0)28 9066 6615

Hanover Systems

Tailor-made, multi-product solutions from Hanover Systems switch on Grand Opera House…

Hanover Systems provided and fitted bespoke MCCB panel boards, distribution boards and final circuit protection devices for the challenging Grand Opera House restoration project.

All boards were fitted with galvanised trunking arrangements, surge protection and multifunction metering.

With the Grand Opera House being a listed building and following planning legislation, Hanover Systems had to follow strict constraints with the use of modern technology, explained Alastair Hair, Managing Director. “Also, we were very limited with the space requirements within the various risers. However, we were able to design and manufacture bespoke, tailor-made solutions to meet the specification and customer requirements.”

On this project they used Hager switchgear through their Invicta 3 and H3 range and used various surge protection throughout to protect stage lighting equipment etc.

Based in Bangor, Co. Down, Hanover Systems is an innovative company specialising in HV and LV power distribution, total building control, automatic meter reading and energy efficiency solutions.

Commenting on the project, Alastair said, “The Grand Opera House is one of the most iconic and historic buildings in Belfast and so we are aware of the significance of being involved in this restoration. We are proud of our efforts in delivering a fantastic project.”

He was full of praise for the direction from the electrical contractor.

“Having worked on various projects with William Coates in the past we have built an excellent relationship and understand the requirements and standards which must be met. Once again, we would like to thank William Coates for being able to work with them on this project and appreciate the opportunity.”

Hanover Systems,
Units 3-4,
6B Balloo Drive,
Balloo Industrial Estate,
BT19 7QY
T: +44 (0)28 9070 9130

MGA Communication

AV solutions from MGA Communication take centre stage at Grand Opera House…

MGA Communication provided a host of AV technology systems for the intricate Grand Opera House renovation project in Belfast.

Included in the package were: CCTV system, IP infrastructure, large format LED video walls with integrated digital signage, show relay system and disabled assistance systems including refuge alarm.

As this was a listed building, all works had to be fully integrated into and sympathetic to the historical building, which added to the challenge.

The Ballynahinch-based company has been at the forefront of AV technologies since its formation in 1994. They are the choice of many Irish and UK electrical contractors when it comes to providing high-end integrated solutions.

Specialising in working to tight deadlines and budgets, MGA Communication provides a quality installation and after sales service. Commenting on the completed job, Aaron McKeown, Managing Director, said, “It’s always nice to be involved in such a prestigious project, and the restoration of the Grand Opera House is certainly that.

“The large format displays are there for all to see and it gives me a sense of pride when I drive along the front and the large display is advertising all the upcoming shows.”

Aaron McKeown was full of praise for the collaboration with electrical contractor William Coates Ltd.

MGA Communication,
55 Antrim Rd,
Co. Antrim
BT24 8AN
T: +44 (0)28 9756 5614

Electrical Equipment Company (EEC)

A stunning supporting role by Electrical Equipment Company adds another prestigious project to their impressive portfolio…

Electrical Equipment Company (EEC), Boucher Road, Belfast, provided all lighting, wiring accessories and containment for the Grand Opera House restoration project.

This included specialist and feature lighting from Lightsource, high quality, cost-effective alternatives to the back of house areas and the majority of day-to-day requirements.

As specialists in larger commercial projects, EEC is used to working with major contractors.

A strong relationship between Phil Quinn, Contracts Manager for William Coates Ltd and Nicky Davidson, EEC Key Account Manager, enabled the wholesaler to deliver on what was required without too many issues along the way. Thanks to Phil’s organisation and Nicky’s expertise on managing large projects like this deadlines were met and the project ran smoothly with minimum disruption.

Commenting on the job, Jake Keyworth, Manager said, “We are lucky to work on many prestigious projects with William Coates and others.

Visiting the GOH site recently and seeing the end result of 18 months hard work was extremely rewarding and a testament to both Phil and Nicky’s efforts. We are proud to have been entrusted with this project and look forward to working with William Coates in the future.”

T: +44 (0)28 9066 1177