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Townmore Group’s Cleanroom Division: Meet the Team

Engineering Manager, Finbarr Marrett heads up the Cleanroom Division of Townmore Group. Finbarr has more than 25 years experience as an engineering manager and specialist contractor delivering cleanrooms across the MedTech, Pharma, Food and Biotech sectors. He joined the Townmore team back in 2017 and was central in the establishment of this Specialist Division.

The Cleanroom Division team works on specialist projects, including medical device facilities and pharmaceutical cleanrooms. The scope of works is generally design and build, however, Townmore is routinely called upon to act as specialist contractor for external design teams. For key clients, in addition to design and build, Finbarr and his team take on the maintenance of cleanrooms and facilities for their many repeat Clients. 

Finbarr’s team has recently delivered projects for Aran BioMedical, Jabil (Nypro), Avenue Mould Solutions (A GW Plastics company), Coxon Medical, Merck (ATEX Rated Cleanroom Suite) and BD Medical. Most of these projects took place in live environments with complex service integration and rigid protocols. All projects were Design & Build with product selection and turnaround time of critical importance.


Particular Challenges

Most of the time, the Cleanroom Division team are working in active facilities with busy employees, therefore, ensuring business continuity for clients is essential. Clients need to trust in the core expertise of the project delivery team.

“One recent cleanroom project involved us getting on site into a live facility within two weeks – so this was a tight lead-in timeline – and we had six weeks to complete the works and hand it over. This was a mammoth undertaking, but the team rose to the challenge.”  


Forward Planning

The Project Engineer on site needs to be well organised weeks in advance. Careful planning is critical to ensure the right services design, not just for this current project but for services that will likely be required in the future. There are a significant number of moving parts, nothing can be left to chance, given the rapid-build nature of delivery. Also, as most projects take place within working facilities, consideration must be given to minimise business disruption while still allowing work to progress. For example, route plans will need to be thought-out prior to work commencing and perhaps a spotter will need to be assigned, these are all factors that impact on frictionless project delivery. 


Meticulous Execution 

Cleanroom construction and fit out deliver in tightly controlled environments, which mean a clean and exacting build. Unlike in General Contracting, personnel and material access as well as logistics are much more stringent. In fact, from the initial build stages, no one is allowed on site without the appropriate PPE including full coverall suits, gloves and shoe coverings taking cognisance of a live manufacturing environment. Cleanroom construction demands meticulous execution, with each space requiring adherence to strict international standards in terms of air control and cleanliness. These sites require a completely different mentality than might be seen elsewhere across the construction industry. 


Why Experience Matters 

Most projects will require an element of structural design and civil engineering work with architectural input for product selection. Typically, each product needs to be assessed for structural and aesthetic suitability; each must fit in with the overall scheme of products that makes up the system i.e. the walls, types of ceilings, windows, doors, return air columns etc. Oftentimes, for architectural finish, services need to be ‘invisible’ or hidden behind other elements of the design.  Finbarr explains:

“In General Contracting, there are opportunities to learn and develop the process and amend design elements to suit throughout the build process. Cleanroom construction is precise by nature and has to be delivered within exacting timelines to ensure manufacturing can commence. The sites are run very differently and require a deeper understanding about all the other services and processes in there, including product selection. It is very specialist and that’s why Townmore is amongst only a handful of companies in Ireland qualified to deliver these projects successfully.” 


Changes in Response to Covid-19

While the Cleanroom Division team at Townmore are used to operating in highly controlled settings, additional measures have been implemented in line with HSE protocols and Construction Industry Federation (CIF) guidelines. These include initial safety inductions and online training prior to going on site and social distancing measures, including staggered breaks and shift work. The team currently has two crews working 12-hour shifts in blocks of four and three days, respectively. 

Working to deliver cleanrooms is very different to working on traditional building sites. For example, there would never be large numbers of workers on site at any given time. As most of the workers are specialists, they tend to work alone or as part of a small team so there is generally sufficient room to ensure social distancing at all times. The new protocols will see all team members not only wearing masks and gloves, but adopting a heightened focus on regular handwashing, housekeeping and hand sanitising. 


What’s Next for Townmore’s Cleanroom Division?

“Given the nature of the work that our clients do, most of them have gotten much busier in response to the Covid-19 crisis. Companies that make inhalers and masks and other medical devices are increasing their outputs and, in turn, need to increase their facilities. In fact, one client for whom we have recently completed work, has now instructed us to proceed with a new project and we expect to be on site within the next four weeks. We are at the design and negotiation stage of this right now.”

The Cleanroom Division is currently working on four projects across Ireland, three of which are for repeat clients and one Design & Build public works contract. All four projects are in the delivery of new ISO 7 & 8 cleanroom facilities to allow manufacturing to ramp up for our valued clients. 


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