The Department of Life Sciences, Aberdeen University, operates an aquarium department which has fresh, marine and warm water facilities to provide experimental services for students, staff and external bodies. They identified that their systems were becoming difficult to manage and maintain, and that their ongoing running costs were high, and only increasing. It was therefore decided to instigate a project of upgrading and renewal of the facility.

Initially the scope of the project was restricted to one system, but very quickly it increased in size to include all the aquarium facilities. The University identified key elements:

  • Energy costs
  • Maintenance costs
  • Monitoring and alarm systems for life support
Aberdeen University Aquarium Refurb

Sterner AquaTech’s design team were identified by the client after a selection procedure to advise on the existing facilities and indicate the options available to the University using the latest equipment and techniques.
The design team worked closely with the Universities technical staff, and also with the Estates Management and external consultants to design and specify a full project to be tendered under European Procurement Directives. Full specification documents and pre contract drawings detailed the existing facility and proposed requirements.

Sterner AquaTech’s project team entered into a two stage process to tender for the works. Having passed the pre qualification stages, including interviews, Sterner were selected as the preferred contractor and, after some cost engineering, entered into a fixed price contract with the University under a Design & Build contract. The final contract value was in excess of £800,000 and included more than £380,000 of purchasing in foreign currency.

The project team moved quickly to assess the implications of the works involved, and the problems associated with working, not only in an occupied, operational building, but also operating on, and alongside, live aquaculture systems.
A phased programme of works was agreed with the University which allowed the ongoing operation of the aquarium throughout the duration of the project, but still allowed the full replacement of all the aquarium water treatment service

The project programme allowed for 34 weeks of works, with works commencing off site in August of 2009, and site commencement in September 2009. Phased handovers of elements of the system were allowed for, provide continuity of operations for the department.

Along with the aquatic works that Sterner carried out, there was also a program of refurbishment of elements of building works made available during the project. Sterner were required to work closely with the Estates department to ensure external contractors and our own operatives carried out the works in an ordered and structured way without affecting the users of the building or the Aquarium.

The Project

The University’s Fresh Water systems were completely renewed and redesigned to include dedicated recirculation treatments for individual tank rows, all housed in dedicated containers to maximise biosecurity and ease of construction. The containers were built off site and include particle filtration, bio filtration, degassing, temperature conditioning and UV treatment. They were delivered to site as operational units ready to be connected to the livestock tanks.

The Disease Challenge aquarium water treatment was also completely redesigned. Again, high levels of biosecurity were a priority, and also the requirement to discharge potentially hazardous waste to the municipal drainage system. Conditioned water is supplied to the livestock tanks, with an option of fresh or marine water, and is recirculated through skimmers, bio towers, degassing, UV and temperature conditioning. Recirculation ensures energy costs are minimal and all pumps are fitted with variable speed drives to ensure only the correct energy use for the purpose. When fish are undergoing a Challenge, waste is filtered for particulates, and then treated through a new ozone treatment plant, before discharge to waste. The ozone treatment ensures the quality of discharge is maximised and there is no requirement for chemical treatments or sampling.

The entire facility was provided with an integrated monitoring, alarm and control system, with multiple access points, and full remote access for out of hours operation.

Aberdeen University Aquarium Refurb