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The reasons for restoring the world’s oldest and most iconic structures are as varied as the structures themselves. Maintenance is always necessary to repair the ravages of time, but often more radical refurbishment, modernisation and redesign of key elements are needed.
“When the function of a building changes, the regulations also change. We had to comply with current standards for the structure, acoustics and insulation while maintaining the most important features of the original building. Before beginning the design we interviewed all the interested parties and developed a detailed specification of requirements. The area is residential, so effective sound insulation was essential. We designed thicker walls, sound proofed glass and even special window frames to prevent sound from escaping. This was achieved without losing the original characteristics of the facade.
Royal Haskoning manages the restoration, refurbishment, transformation and maintenance of a wide range of structures built using wrought and cast iron, traditional timber and masonry, and more contemporary concrete structures. These include Victorian glasshouses, factories and other industrial buildings, tourist sites, maritime structures, and waterways.
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“Wherever possible we worked with the existing characteristics of the old building to enhance the new. For example the old industrial roof contained a giant window which is now used to provide natural light to the art gallery and other areas.
“Local government sees this project as a starting point for the redevelopment of the whole area, making it more attractive for others to invest in the regeneration of Schiedam.”
In contrast, the Wouda steam pumping station in Lemmer in the Netherlands retains its original function as the largest operational steam-powered pumping station in the world, which protects the people of Friesland from flooding. Listed as a UNES CO World Heritage
Site, the pumping station is prized for both its architecture and its engineering excellence.
With more than 100 years of experience in steam-powered pumping, Royal Haskoning was asked to draw up a conceptual design, and project manage the work.
Ido Boonstra, co-ordinator of Technical Systems at Friesland Water Authority, explains: “Last year we restored the superstructure and now our focus is on the section below the water line. There is damage to the structure of the pumping station which has affected the concrete and masonry, vegetation is growing on the walls of the locks and there are cracks in the walls and ceiling of the machine room. We cannot be sure what will happen to the floor once we pump out the water, for instance it may bulge upwards once the pressure is released. Dealing with what we uncover as we go along is the biggest challenge posed by the project.”
Similar challenges were faced by members of the Royal Haskoning team responsible for restoring a very different structure – the Cheshunt North Reservoir, located thirteen miles from London. Some of the original mortar used in the masonry construction had washed away over the course of 170 years, evidence of leakage had been observed and there were other hidden structural problems. A succession of repairs over the years had not completely addressed the underlying problems, so a long term sustainable solution was needed urgently.
The reservoir holds more than 25,000 cubic metres of water above the natural ground level, and could pose a flood risk to nearby housing, contamination of the local water supply, and disruption to traffic on the nearby A10 trunk road.
Tei Ho, lead design engineer for Royal Haskoning, explains: “Understanding how the reservoir had been built was challenging, as very little information existed. Original sets of drawings were created during different time periods, and were hard to understand, and some of the technical terms were different to those we use today.” Despite these challenges, the work, completed in 2011, will ensure no further major refurbishment is required for the next 50 years.
Whatever the challenges, the preservation of historic building structures requires sensitivity and a thorough knowledge of construction techniques and materials from earlier times used rarely today. In a wider sense, requiring the engineering, project management and construction expertise that Royal Haskoning has in abundance.