The client on this project owns a group of pharmacies across N Ireland, with one of the busiest being at the junction of Falls Road and Donegal Road in Belfast. Constant restocking was becoming a time-consuming process and so in order to increase efficiency they asked us to look at the potential for redesigning their building to accommodate a new state-of-the-art pharmaceutical robot.
The premises, whilst in a prime location for their business, are on a very tight corner site in a building which would originally have been a Victorian 3-storey terraced house. The building structure had already been altered over the years, with walls removed, extensions added and accommodation reconfigured, leaving considerable uncertainty regarding the integrity of the remaining building fabric.
Physical workspace for building on one of Belfast's main thoroughfares also needed to be factored in, as did an uncompromising schedule necessitated by the licensing regime of the pharmacy governing body, the Pharmaceutical Society.
The Design Process
Our first consideration was to determine the physical size of the robotic enclosure required and the additional services necessary for this. Consulting with the preferred supplier we determined the dimensions required and also that the efficiency could be enhanced further by the installation of a goods lift and loading hopper – meaning that drugs need only be emptied into the hopper from where the robot automatically sorts them onto shelves for later 'picking'.
A number of design options were presented and priced, including complete demolition & reconstruction, before the optimum solution was decided upon.
The chosen solution was a complete internal refurbishment including a new structural frame and lift shaft, with the robot accommodated in a bespoke compartment which spanned the 1st & 2nd floors. One of the main advantages of this solution was that no Planning application would be required therefore saving approximately 6 months in the design & construction schedule.
Use of a lift and a separate compartment for the robot freed up considerable storage space on the ground floor enabling a larger shop floor and a private consulting room, as well as a much more modern, open-plan shop-fit to be achieved.
Regular site meetings, full contract administration and consistent liaison between all trades and professions resulted in the project completing on time and on budget giving the client what is undoubtedly one of the most efficient and contemporary pharmacies in the UK.
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