The Building Conservation Directory 2024

46 THE BUILDING CONSERVATION DIRECTORY 2024 CATHEDRAL COMMUNICATIONS TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED Safety issues and the need for creative responses JONATHAN DEEMING REVIVING OUR historic buildings brings unique challenges in many areas, not least of which is site management. For the UK’s retrofit agenda to be successful, this is an area that almost all architecture practices and contractors will need to get to grips with, as their portfolio of work shifts from mostly new build to a more balanced ‘retrofit and reuse’ approach. The basic principles remain the same on any construction site: to ensure that a project is safe to build, use and maintain. For new build projects, site management is established at the beginning of the process and can be planned using data and lessons carried over from similar projects. With conservation, or any retrofit or reuse project, the site is already live and will present an exclusive set of circumstances. It is here that experience in working on existing sites is essential. Many of these projects are without precedent, and as complex as they are valuable. They need to be as bespoke as any new design, but they also invariably come with a distinctive story that can be used to guide the approach. Whilst working on ‘live’ operational sites brings its own challenges, it can also present opportunities to do things that seem practically impossible and can sometimes facilitate innovations for the visitor experience. Some of these result in examples where the challenges have been great but have been overcome through an innovative approach. SCAFFOLD AS OPPORTUNITY When overhauling the roofs and refurbishing the orangery at the National Trust’s Dyrham Park, we knew it would involve a lot of scaffolding. The roof was 150 years old, and we would expect the new roof to last just as long, so it is unlikely that an opportunity for undertaking such a significant task will happen again in any of our lifetimes. Dyrham Park Mansion is a Grade I listed baroque country house in Gloucestershire, built in the late 17th century. Owned by the National Trust, the estate comprises the mansion, orangery, stable block and church set in an ancient, landscaped deer park of over 260 acres. In 2013, Purcell was commissioned to undertake a £4.2 million programme of re-roofing and masonry repair works, internal reservicing, conservation and repair to the orangery and the installation of a new biomass boiler plant. A stipulation from the client was that Dyrham would remain open to the public throughout and that public activities and educational opportunities would be woven into the programme. Scaffolding is an obvious obstacle to any attraction but there was no way of avoiding having it on the site – lots of it. Our thoughts therefore turned to looking at how the scaffolding could be part of a new temporary visitor experience. From this notion came the idea of using the scaffolding to give visitors a rare opportunity to access the site and see the extent of the work needed to take apart such a large and complex roof, making it weather tight and secure for the future. In essence, an undesirable scaffold was flipped into a revenue stream and enhanced visitor opportunity. After looking at various possibilities, it was decided that the best solution was to install a solid, wide walkway with passing points, fully accessible via a lift. An internal working scaffold was supplemented by a second outer scaffold for the public, allowing the works to be observed as they progressed. Site huts at the base of the scaffold equipped visitors with PPE and allowed collection of their waiver forms. The contractor provided a visitor guide and programmed ‘meet the builder’ days for students and local colleges to run alongside existing apprenticeship and training programmes. Purcell’s team provided student placements and work experience along with a programme of expert talks for the public. Entirely freestanding and made up of 500 tonnes of scaffolding, the structure was fixed into the ground with mini piles, removing the risk of fabric damage had it been tied to the building. The scaffolding covered an area 47.5 metres long and 38.2 metres wide. It was a modular system, so that the sections could be assembled on the ground and craned into place. The scaffold area was sufficient Canterbury Cathedral and the restored Great South Window: every conservation project requires bespoke solutions to ensure the safety of everyone, from those who use the building to those working on its fabric. (Photo: Purcell)