Battersea Power Station

Battersea Power Station

Due to be fully opened by 2028, The Battersea Power Station development is designed to create a whole new neighbourhood. It will cover approximately 2 million feet of space designed to integrate residential, retail, offices and leisure usage.

The site was purchased in 2012 for a reputed £400 million and is being developed by a Malaysian Development Consortium. The combination of an existing burden of debt equating to a reputed £750 million and the need to make a £211 million contribution to a proposed extension to the London Underground have made the commercial development of the site a significant challenge. By the time it is completed, the once derelict site will house 25,000 people and will have created more than 20,000 jobs. Total cost is expected to be in the region of £15 billion.

£20bn is thought to be being injected into the UK economy from the regeneration of the site and Battersea will contribute directly £200m into the cost of the Northern line extension. It is understood that over 20,000 jobs will be created as a direct result.

Originally built in the 1930’s with just two washtowers (and known as Battersea A), construction was funded by the London Power Company. The building is formed of brickwork around a steel girder frame and is the largest brick building in Europe. In effect Battersea is two power stations, and the familiar silhouette of four chimneys did not appear until 1953. Battersea A Power Station was built in the 1930’s, with Battersea B Power Station (consisting of the second two chimneys) to the East following in the 1950s. For the first 20 years or so, the building had a long rather than the more iconic square appearance we know now. At the time this was described as a ‘temple of power’ and was seen to rank as a London landmark equal to that of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The station is one of the largest brick buildings in the world and is notable for its original, lavish Art Deco interior fittings and décor.

The Power Station was decommissioned between 1975 and 1983 and then up until 2014 was left abandoned, empty and unused. It gained Grade II listing in 1980, declared a heritage site and this was upgraded to II* in 2007.

PAYE’s works

PAYE’s contracted works centre around the external package, which throws up a number of challenging aspects to the restoration of this iconic building. A sizable project for PAYE, this contract is set to run over an approximate 4 year period and is valued in excess of £20M to us as a company.

The scale of operation on this project should really not be underestimated. For example a management team of x8, to include full time members of the SHEQ (Safety, Health, Environment and Quality) team is needed currently to facilitate a team of x40 operatives. It is expected operative numbers will rise up to approximately x100 at its busiest point. This magnitude, puts PAYE in an almost unique position to be able to undertake historic building repairs of this nature.

1.7 million handmade bricks have been ordered for this project, with approximately 1.2 million coming from Northcot brickworks in Gloucestershire – the original supplier.

The complexities of our works revolve around the matching of the mortar, brick blends (of which there are three – reflecting the differing periods the station was built) and the repair/replacement of the steel structure. Despite currently being the largest building site in London, the other major challenge is the limited amount of space on site – making for a logistical jigsaw puzzle. Matching the existing mortar (which has been subject to 90 years of British weathering in places) with regard to colour, texture & aggregate come with its own obstacles that need to be resolved. Consistency of finish is key with all aspects being scrutinised by Historic England, the client and of course ourselves.

The order of works for us is;
Opening up works – demolition
Surveying exposed material
Remedial repairs
Brickwork rebuild and repointing
Final Cleaning

The first element for us relates to ‘opening up’ works to treat the expanding, rusted steels which are encased in brickwork. Oxidation of the metalwork sees a net expansion of material, so that when it occurs in a confined space, stresses are generated in the metal itself or in any surrounding medium such as stone or cement. So much energy is released by oxidation that the stresses generated are of sufficient magnitude to deform or fracture all known materials. Obviously, exposing all of the steels is impossible. These cracks readily identify the areas of expansion and allow us to target areas to be treated. Bricks are removed and temporary propping introduced to support the material above it. Once exposed, the brick filler is cut out and the steel revealed. The steels are de-frassed and then treated with a converter, before being re-sealed with an epoxy-based paint system.

Approximately 200 tonnes of sulphate resistant white cement have been imported specifically from a Danish supplier for use in the repair medium – this will help prevent any efflorescence developing on the completed brickwork.

It is important to remember that whilst being sympathetic and having the restoration of the heritage items at the projects heart, care and understanding must be given to how the building will function once occupied – this can on occasion lead to philosophical conflict. The importance to restore, conserve and to a degree, showcase Britain’s industrial history cannot be underestimated and is becoming an ever-increasing focus for the conservation team, as more and more of these buildings are not only recognised for their architectural heritage, but are proposed for redevelopment and reuse.

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