27 May 2010
The historic Crescent Arts Centre building in Belfast has recently re-opened following a 18 month, £7.2m refurbishment and extension programme.
International consultancy, WYG was appointed to the design team to provide civil and structural engineering consultancy services to the project. It involved refurbishment of the existing Grade B1 listed building to provide office space, workshops, galleries, dance studios, and construction of a new multipurpose performance space with high levels of acoustic separation.
Keith Morrison, Associate Structural Engineer, WYG Ireland project managed WYG’s input to the design.
Keith said: “Integration of the design and construction teams with respect to co-ordination and conservation of the original character of the building was important to the success of the overall project.Following preliminary feasibility stages, we worked closely with the members of the project team to deliver an efficient and viable design.
“Our role included a detailed assessment of the existing building to determine the extent to which the original fabric and structure could be retained within the design,” he added.
The Crescent Arts Centre is a grade B1 listed building which was formerly a ladies school founded in 1859, becoming an Arts Centre is 1984. Over the years, the structure and façade of the building experienced significant deterioration and decay and we were presented with a building in a poor state of repair. Parts had been permanently closed to the public for safety reasons and the extent of deterioration in some areas was not fully realised until work had started to progress, and more of the original structure became exposed.
“The desire to create a modern centre which would meet current building standards, yet retain its eloquent structural arrangement, including much of the original building fabric and in some cases the mandatory retention of elements to secure funding, presented many challenges for the team.
“Drawing from our experience on award winning building and restoration projects, such as the recently re-opened Ulster Museum, Belfast and the Mill Village residential scheme in Comber, we were able to provide high quality services, adding value to the overall design,” added Keith.
The construction of the new performance space entailed the design of a three storey steel framed structure on piled foundations with high levels of acoustic separation. This required the installation of specialist anti-vibration bearings between the pilecaps and reinforced concrete ground beams to mitigate the vibrations from the adjacent railway line. Specialist acoustic hollowblock was also used in the construction of the walls to achieve the acoustic requirements.
Considerable skill was required by the team to overcome the challenges of the restricted nature of the site together with piling adjacent to a listed building, which in parts had evidence of historic subsidence.
As part of the refurbishment, our specialist consultants conducted a detailed inspection of the existing unique timber elements in conjunction with Trada Technology. Thespecialist timber survey included visual grading of the existing timbers and species identification. This enabled structural assessments of the existing building to be undertaken, and also meant that the hierarchy of retention, conservation/treatment, repair and replacement of structural elements was strictly adhered to, ensuring the highest level of conservation achievable, in accordance with recommendations from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).
Several innovative timber repair techniques were adopted including traditional carpentry-based methods and resin-bonded repairs.
Keith added: “We are committed to demonstrating technical excellence in our work and feel that the project has been a huge success which is testament to the skills exhibited by both the WYG team and our partners within the project team.”
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A profile of the overall project with input from a number of members of the design and construction teams will be available in the next issue of Specify magazine. For more information on this, contact firstname.lastname@example.org