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Case Study

King’s College London James Black Centre

King’s College London James Black Centre – Air Handling Unit Refurbishment

King’s College London is one of the UK’s top ten universities. With nine faculties, institutes and schools of study and five Medical Research Council centres, it offers world-class teaching and research.

The University’s James Black Centre houses several research teams, laboratories and an MRI suite. Two of the building’s air handling units needed to be overhauled to increase the building’s energy efficiency and improve reliability. The work specified by the King’s College London operation team included replacing single, belt-driven fans with direct drive fans with motorised dampers. The frost coils needed to be replaced and the air handling coils needed to be cleaned and their filters replaced. Automatic balancing valves were installed on all coils. Finally, all controls were to be replaced and a new control panel installed.

As framework contractors to King’s College London we tendered for the project and won the contract.

Because the AHUs served offices and laboratories that are in constant use, we had very limited access to the air handling units before starting the works. We were also aware that each air handling unit was different so would require different interventions. We carefully planned the works prior to arriving on site and ensured the design could be adapted on site to suit the specific requirements of each air handling unit.

To meet Covid-19 pandemic recommendations regarding building ventilation, the building could only stay open if the air flow was maintained throughout. We overcame this by installing a temporary ventilation system, which we sited outside the building because the plant room had limited space. The temporary system was connected to the building’s main ductwork system to ensure ventilation throughout the duration of the project. We carefully planned the project so that all changeovers took place outside normal working hours so there was no disruption for staff or students on site.

Covid-19 also impacted the project in other ways. Supply chain disruptions meant we needed to keep a closer eye than usual on delivery schedules and we liaised closely with suppliers to stay up-to-date on the progress of deliveries. We also liaised closely with the client to keep them informed.

On site, we carried out rigorous Covid-19-specific risk assessments to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Trades were staggered to help maintain social distancing requirements. We also put our teams into dedicated working bubbles to reduce the risk of virus transmission.

Despite the complications caused by the pandemic, work was completed within the agreed timeframe to the client’s satisfaction. The James Black Centre now has air handling units that will deliver greater energy efficiency in the coming years.




“JDS carried out an efficient and smooth air handling unit refurbishment with no disruption to the function of the building. We found the JDS team to be professional in their approach and always courteous to staff and students on site. In spite of the difficulties caused by the pandemic they were proactive and keen to ensure the system was up and running in a quick, efficient and safe manner.”

Nick Gouveia. Mechanical Asset Manager, King’s College London