Upgraded building services at Recipharm contribute to carbon reduction


12 October 2023

The £4 million project to design, construct and commission a production facility for the global drug delivery devices manufacturer, Recipharm, has now been completed and handed over by BES, a specialist in controlled environments for the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors.

The 4000 m2 facility, located in King’s Lynn, has involved an extensive redesign and refurbishment of a large section of an existing assembly facility first designed and constructed by BES in 2014. BES has carried out several successful projects at multiple sites over the years; this project originally created additional capacity to enable Recipharm to futureproof for expansion and the new adaptation allows Recipharm to realise that goal.  The project included the refurbishment and remodelling of approximately 70% of the ground floor and 60% of the first-floor plant areas including a new mezzanine level, increasing the buildings floor areas by approximately 8%. The works involved minimal alterations to the external fabric of the buildings but required additional transformer/switch gear, significant services work and new mechanical services plant. Existing cleanrooms and fallow areas were stripped back, remodelled, and refurbished to accommodate the latest injection moulding and assembly capabilities, with the existing offices retained and used throughout. The installation of 15 new state of the art machines, each weighing between 16-20 tonnes, tested existing floor loadings alongside achieving CO2 reductions and maintaining ‘business as usual’.


CO2 reduction targets

The significant upgrade supported the businesses sustainability goals, reducing fossil fuel usage across the site as well as reduce energy levels. Recipharm’s FM Technical Projects Manager, Alfred Cook, responsible for the facilities capital pipeline explained.  “Originally Recipharm was considering installation of gas boilers, however, this would have involved new gas supplies, roadworks, and the associated disruption of introducing gas to the site. Following consultation with BES the suggestion was to use dry air and heat source pumps. Recognising the value but also realising the cost of initial investment, several new technologies were evaluated.” “Although we were sticking with electric, it was from a sustainable source. Also, the new equipment had high energy ratings, so savings were going to come from improved efficiencies there too.”  Overall, the area was also downgraded from a clean room to white room or red area, so this meant it would require less energy to run. HEPA filtration was no longer required, which in turn reduces the amount of power required and delivers greater energy efficiencies than previously.  Another saving was to come through utilising waste heat from the process systems for use in the HVAC plant. The new chillers and air source heat pumps feature new standby capabilities as well as an innovative recovery chilling process.



An initial assessment of the current plant and equipment was undertaken along with enhanced calculations to determine whether the existing HVAC plant was suitable to be reused. The added factors of phasing, and requirement to keep part of the building operating as “business as usual”, were also incorporated within the mechanical design. Significant services work involved the reconfiguration of existing HVAC systems with new mechanical services plant, responsive to the external climate, and with minimal carbon footprint. Room sizes were reviewed to reduce the air volumes and reduce energy consumption. Relevant calculations and modelling to ensure energy efficient measures were optimised wherever possible within the scope of the project. The additional specialist systems comprised a building management system, process chilled water reverse osmosis (RO) system, process vacuum and process compressed air systems and sprinkler system.


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Thermal modelling

A thermal building model was produced to assess the building’s thermal profile, enabling BES to provide the correct equipment and plant sizing, while taking account of dynamic changes throughout the year. One of the key parameters was to ensure the main process rooms were stabilised within a set temperature profile. It was agreed that several existing air handling units and associated HVAC equipment could be retained and reused, while ductwork pipework, low temperature hot water (LTHW) and chilled water, compressed air, domestic hot and cold water, and sprinkler system were stripped out. Air handling unit 1 (AHU01) was dedicated to the moulding room only and modified to suit the new projection requirements. The existing bypass cooling coil would be bypassed with a new cooling coil and this utilised for the latent cooling of the outside air only. A secondary sensible coil was installed in lieu of the existing HEPA filtration section, and the new arrangement provided significant reduction in cooling demand and energy savings, completely removing the need for reheating post latent cooling. Air handling unit 2 (AHU02) served the rest of the facility, as its size and components were suitable for the newly calculated demand, with limited modifications.


HVAC chilled water

An existing heat pump chiller for the HVAC chilled water air handling units cooling coils was replaced with heat pump chillers for a new HVAC cooling only chiller, which then linked to the existing primary circuit. Operating at 5°C flow and 11°C return. The air handling unit coil sizes were sized based on the design air volume +10%. A further margin was added to the chilled water flow rate to allow for pipe losses.

Most of the cooling requirement will only be needed during warm periods; there is a base load all year round demanded by the moulding lines when in operation, therefore, a second standard chiller, is in situ for use on a standby arrangement. It would also offer free cooling of the chilled water system during colder months. Regarding maintaining the room temperature profile in the moulding room, the temperature difference between the room air and supply air was not to exceed 8°C. The moulding process required the ideal supply chilled water temperature at 24°C. The low flow rate through individual equipment provided a high return temperature of up to 75°C, with potential to peak at up to 100°C. It was agreed dry coolers that provide refrigerant free cooling utilising ambient air would deliver a good solution. If the ambient condition was lower than the required chilled water condition. A dry cooling system delivering chilled water at 20°C was provided. The process cooling water being used to cool down the melted plastic in the moulding tool. During days with high ambient temperature the system is supplemented with the HVAC chilled water system that cools down the higher temperature chilled water from the dry coolers via a plate heat exchanger. A new vacuum system was installed to support the process chilled water operation, to evacuate the residue water from the moulding tools, once disconnected from the process chilled water loop. There is also potential to reuse this wastewater, which is under an ongoing assessment in terms of cost vs payback.



Alfred Cook added: “This is one of the first of our facilities to include these sustainable production process solutions. We will be evaluating the benefits as we start operations. Although we understand the base usage, we naturally need the plant fully up and running to understand the whole picture.” “We very much hope aspects of what we have introduced will benefit the rest of the business, as we look at rolling out similar approaches across our other facilities where appropriate as we make further strides towards greater carbon reduction. BES was principal designer and contractor and Colin Clayton, BES’s Senior Project Manager, added: “It has been satisfying to be able to maximise our knowledge of the facility from our earlier involvement and take it to the next level to meet the needs of smarter manufacturing capabilities.” Alfred Cook concludes: Overall, this has been a very good project completed within an aggressive timetable, enhanced by BES’s friendly, open, and honest approach which has made life much easier throughout.”