• Robert Hooke Building, University of Oxford

    The Robert Hooke Building houses the Department of Computer Sciences and required a new mains panel. The sub-station feeding the Robert Hooke Building also supplies power to the Pitt Rivers Museum, the Department of Atmospheric Physics and many more besides. The same team from Darke & Taylor had recently replaced the antiquated switchgear at the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory, so the University decided they should project manage this sub-station and mains panel replacement.

    Robert Hooke Building, University of Oxford


Highly technical project management: It is unusual to simultaneously upgrade a sub-station and mains panel. This required the coordination of the civil workers (who dug the trenches), the network power team (who supplied and installed the sub-station transformers) and an external specialist company (who manufactured the Panel Board) as well as Darke & Taylor’s (D&T) undertaking its own design, installation and commissioning work.

Civil work: A significant amount of work was required to house the sub-station cabling: trenches reinforced with concrete needed to be dug, 750 mm x 500 mm wide, filled with sand and grit, using heavy specialist plant.

Sub-station work: High voltage specialists Midlands Power Networks would normally undertake this work on their own, but the University wanted to replace the Panel Board at the same time and could not tolerate any loss of power, given the number of buildings that relied upon the sub-station (long-running experiments at the Atmospheric Physics Dept., visitors to the Pitt Rivers Museum etc).

Panel board work: Panel Boards of this nature are specifically made for a specific job, so D&T had to employ specialist manufacturer, Main Systems of Newhaven, to build it.


Tried and trusted team: Having recently undertaken a complex refurbishment and replacement project at the ICL, D&T was aware of the need for pinpoint planning and constant communication.

Considerate working practises: Being located in the centre of Oxford, D&T needed to carefully manage the noise and disruption to both students and laboratory workers. Hence, the noise element of the work was largely undertaken out of hours, from 6−9 am in the morning and 5−10 pm in the evening.

Pro-standard completion: Having overall project management responsibility, D&T was able to look at the big picture and ensure all elements of the job were completed to standard. This included extending the existing fire alarm system and upgrading the emergency lighting in both the Panel Board room and the refurbished sub-station.

Board level supervision: Because of its critical function, the Panel Board needed to be witness-tested (down in Newhaven) in front of the client to ensure it was fit for purpose and operating correctly. D&T arranged for the Electrical Consultant and the Head of Electrical Services at Oxford University to be there in person, alongside D&T for the testing.


“Having overall project management responsibility, Darke & Taylor was able to look at the big picture and ensure all elements of the job were completed to standard.”

Technical overview

D&T was the principal contractor, undertaking all responsibilities of the job under CDM regulations, including liaison with numerous stakeholders, H&S additional responsibilities, and Design & Risk management.

A detailed high-voltage switching plan had to be agreed with the University and back-up generators installed to support essential services during the changeover. Special care had to be taken with the old paper-insulated cables to ensure they were not damaged during the removal and reinstallation of the Panel Board.

Project details

CLIENTUniversity of Oxford

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