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Renowned as the charity that saves lives at sea, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) Lifeboats are at the heart of many coastal communities all around the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Now, one of the RNLI’s most remote lifeboat stations has undergone a £7.4 million rebuild.
Located at the foot of a 45-metre cliff, surrounded by treacherous waters, the Lizard Lifeboat station at Kilcobben Cove, Cornwall, is situated at England’s most southerly point.
Completed at the beginning of 2012, the new station is double the size of the original building, constructed in 1961. It includes housing for the RNLI’s latest all weather Tamar Class lifeboat, a 70-metre slipway, boasts state-of- the-art crew training facilities, a mechanics’ workshop, secure storage areas, and improved public access.
The RNLI commissioned Royal Haskoning to manage the project, undertake planning, geotechnical works, technical assessment and detailed design, and to supervise construction works provided by contractor Bam Nuttall.
“The state-of-the-art facilities will help to ensure the safety of all sea users as well as the station’s crew, and will benefit the local community for many years to come.”
Howard Richings, Head of Estates Management, RNLI
Johnathan Kirkland, Project Manager for Royal Haskoning, said “Royal Haskoning has designed many RNLI rescue facilities, including the Lizard’s original lifeboat station, some fifty years ago, and we were fortunate enough to hold detailed drawings and hundreds of photographs in our records. These proved invaluable because it limited the need for invasive testing before demolishing the old station.
“We completed the design and construction of a new RNLI lifeboat station at Padstow in 2006, and its successful implementation meant we could use a similar design for this project. However the Lizard proved more challenging due to its remote location and limited access. Because of this, we decided early on to construct the new slipway from the sea using a jackup barge, and to build the station from the land, using a tower crane, an approach which had not been attempted previously.”
Work began in April 2010, with essential widening to the access bridge to allow the tower crane and construction materials to be transported to the site. The old station was demolished while the jack-up barge removed the old slipway from the sea, and the team began piling into the seabed to create new slipway supports.
Following these preparations, the immense concrete buttress (the main support for the existing station), was modified and reinforced for reuse. A new concrete slab was also constructed to support the rest of the new station, which was a complex and lengthy aspect of the building works. Johnathan adds: “During the construction process, the team faced a number of challenges, including rock falls from the cliff face. This, coupled with extremely cold weather, meant the contractor had to change the planned sequence of works.”
Innovations in sustainability
The RNLI is very clear about the sustainability of its lifeboat stations, and is looking for a design that is highly energy efficient, requires low to zero maintenance, and a desired design lifespan of 50 years that will stand the test of time and tide.
One of the station’s most innovative features is a water source heat pump. Developed by the RNLI itself, the pump is designed to take water from the sea to the boat house underfloor heating system. Other sustainable features include the use of a timber framework selected for its construction efficiency and natural insulating properties, and a copper roof that will turn green over time to blend in with the surrounding landscape.
Johnathan comments: “The entire boathouse frame was constructed in less than five weeks, and because we used the same design as the Padstow station, we were able to fine-tune the architectural details to create a very tight-fitting, energy efficient building.
Its simple, curved structure maximises available space, and variations in building height take advantage of the changing gradient of the cliff face. “It was extremely rewarding for us to return to this location 50 years on to design another lifeboat station for the next generation of the RNLI Lizard crew. The team’s expertise has resulted in a magnificent building and brand new slipway.”
Howard Richings, Head of Estates Management, RNLI, said: “The expert knowledge of Royal Haskoning’s maritime specialists and engineers, combined with the experience of the RNLI’s in-house specialist team, resulted in the highly successful construction of the new Lizard Lifeboat Station and slipway. It is an excellent example of what can be achieved by an active, cooperative approach by client, designer and contractor.”