Bright sparks at Belfast Royal Academy

The company has earned a reputation for excellence in education project recently, having completing around 10 such projects in the last two-and-a-half years. That experience was put to the test during work at Belfast Royal Academy with Mac Electrics having to seamlessly integrate the old with the new.

The £4million investment was part of the Government’s School Enhancement Programme and the project included the construction of a new two-storey building to provide purpose-built accommodation for music and learning support together with the extension and refurbishment of the Jackson building which provided new dining facilities, HE accommodation and toilets.

It was that balance between the new build and working in the Listed Building that proved the biggest challenge for Mac Electrics.

“Working in the Jackson building offered a lot of different issues and was certainly a lot less straightforward than the new build section of the project,” explained Philip McBirney, Contracts Manager at Mac Electrics. “Restoration projects require a certain skills set but with a Listed Building you have to be additionally respectful of the structure.”

The fact that this project incorporated thelatest technology, such as audio-visual touchscreens, energy efficient lighting and fire and security systems, also created a problem.

“The existing voids were not created for this high level of service, so it was a bit of balancing act overall. Also, the wiring didn’t always follow the plans that we had and, as the school was operational, we had to ensure that we didn’t just pull the plug and turn the lights off on students and staff.

“We are experienced in working in these environments, however, and were able to find suitable solutions to these issues.”

As Philip mentioned, the school being fully operational during the project also placed an added emphasis on health and safety and planning.

“Health and safety is a priority on every project but having so many pupils and staff on a live site increased the risks overall, so we had a specific plan to deal with this,” he said. “In addition, we also had to be mindful of not disrupting the normal school day so had to carefully plan ahead. For example, we had to think carefully about any work that created a lot of noise or when we scheduled in deliveries. We understand the importance of a flexible approach and of workingclosely with the main contractor and the client to ensure the works programme runs smoothly.”

This attention to detail is one of the reasons why Mac Electrics is so successful and that is clear to see when you take a closer look at the high standards of finish delivered at the Belfast Royal Academy. From the new recording studios in the music department through to the new dining facilities, Mac Electrics worked closely with main contractor, Felix O’Hare & Co, to create a truly modern school environment.

“The finishes are all of a high specification and when you look at the new dining hall, complete with a coffee dock, it is hard to imagine that this is actually a school,” concluded Philip.

For more information on Mac Electrics, telephone (NI) 028 3752 4007 or (RoI) 048 3752 4007, e-mail or visit

Belfast Royal Academy
Architect: Samuel Stevenson & Sons
Main Contractor: Felix O’Hare & Co
Electrical Contractor: Mac Electrics
Mechanical & Electrical Engineer: JCP Consulting

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