Archive for Car parks

Car Park of Death!

Posted in Engineering, Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Rantings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2011 by awickerman

Via Tim I discovered the Observer’s architect critic has joined the chorus demanding the horror of Preston Bus Station be saved. The main argument appears to be that it ” it embodies the spirit of its 1960s age”, you can argue if that is a good or bad thing visually but in the world of civil engineering, particularly those parts related to large concrete car park type structures, that is reason enough to flatten it. Indeed the man himself admits the reason before attempting to dismiss it;

“The bus station is not alone. It is part of a company of buildings from the 1960s and 70s that fall victim to a vicious compound of circumstances. They are tough, not obviously charming and carry a label no PR expert would have chosen, of “brutalism”. Some have serious technical problems, albeit often exaggerated. Some have serious technical problems, albeit often exaggerated

I will now demonstrate why those serious technical problems have not been exaggerated. We begin in the 1960s when reinforced concrete was a new idea and building huge civic structures in the brutalist style was all the rage. After the architect had produced his swooping lines and grand gestures for the new Preston depot he handed it over to the designers to do the actual hard part of making it work and not fall down, and here is were things went a bit wrong. To be blunt the concrete specifications of the time allowed fairly weak, porous concrete and didn’t require much cover to the reinforcing steel, for those interested in water/cement ratios and porosity of concrete I commend you to this handy government guidance. To add to the fun the design codes of the time were also a bit ‘optimistic’ on concrete strength in shear so most designs weren’t really strong enough and didn’t have the safety margins the designers assumed.

So fast forward a few decades to the 1990s and these chickens begin to roost, car parks start rotting far faster than planned and a few demolition contractors get nasty surprises when the buildings fall apart faster than expected. The big change is probably Pipers Row car park, the top floors of which quite dramatically collapse overnight;

Pipers Row Car Park, pride of Wolverhampton. It got it's own HSE report you know, where do you think I nicked the photo from?

After the HSE investigation a whole generation of material engineers relax knowing their careers will be safe for life, looking after corroding 1960s/70s car parks will be a job for life for anyone who cares to do so. While the collapses generally get avoided these days that doesn’t mean the buildings are OK, it just means they get demolished earlier than expected leaving the owners to try and explain the problem to confused punters looking to park. A good one was Heathrow Terminal 3 car park;

Once a car park stood here, not anymore obviously.

You may be forgiven for thinking this was just part of the ongoing 'permanent rebuild' strategy for Heathrow Airport. However this is the old T3 car park, the one that was conveniently opposite the terminal till it was condemned by a mate of mine due to massive corrosion. So this car park was demolished and a new one built further away. If you've ever been at T3 and wondered why the car park is so far away and why the pick-up/drop off area is so huge, that's why.

This is still a live problem, a quick google throws up a car park in Nottingham that got the old ’emergency closure’ treatment a couple of years back and only last month a Southend car park collapsed during demolition, the top five stories letting go as they had corroded far worse than previously thought. It should now be obvious why Preston Bus Depot has to go, it’s not going to last long in any event so better to take it out while it’s safe before it decides to do the job itself.

I will leave the final word for today to another article in the Guardian, quoting a former Secretary of State for culture when the first listing of the depot was rejected;

“It therefore appears to the secretary of state that the main attractive feature of the design was the result of a miscalculation which led to a poor quality of construction.”

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Anti-NIMBYism?

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Almost Beyond Words, Engineering, Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Rantings, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2011 by awickerman

Those of you with long memories, and a deep held fascination with ugly concrete buildings, may remember the grippingly exciting story of Preston Bus Station, the one that looks like this;

That someone even thought about listing this makes me weep. And then hope in all these budget cuts that most of them have been sacked. Alas I fear such cockroaches tend to survive.

With the monstrosity finally declared ‘Not listed’ (hopefully due to the fact that someone on the panel had a working set of eyes) the structure was promptly marked for demolition as part of a large shopping centre scheme by Lend Lease, the people who gifted the world Bluewater and so on. After a great deal of faffing about that took most of the year (the original application went in back in 2008, which prompted all those efforts to get the concrete horror bus station listed in the first place) the planning inspector finally produced a tome which said ‘It’ll all be fine, apart from local traffic in Preston which may go up a bit.’

This was a bitter disappointment to Blackburn with Darwen Council, who had claimed because of all the shoppers going to Preston there would be social unrest, extremism, death and terrorism and said as such to the planning inspector. Sadly I’m only making up the last two, the local council genuinely said that shoppers going to Preston not Blackburn would cause unrest and extremism. In case you couldn’t guess the Blackburn and Darwen council leader at the time was Labour. I know, I was shocked too, a Labour politician using an unconvincing threat of terrorism to justify their own agenda? Whatever next?

However back to the point, as planning law says government shouldn’t approve a scheme that increases traffic in town centres the scheme should have been cancelled by Eric Pickles, he however didn’t. Perhaps he thought £700 million of investment in a historically depressed region during a recession was worth some traffic, or perhaps he just wants the people of Preston to choke on exhaust fumes, who knows? Either way it had happened and Blackburn council, complete with new Conservative leader,  said it was ‘extremely unlikely’ to appeal and piss yet more money up the wall for no good reason.

However to the great surprise of no-one, least of all anyone who’s lived in the UK for the last decade or so, the politicians have proven to be untrustworthy bastards. Yes Blackburn council will be appealing against Eric Pickles decision on the grounds of the traffic impact on Preston (well after the inspector called Labour’s claims about lack of shopping causing terrorism ‘tenuous’ the Blackburn Conservatives had to find something else to whine about). That Preston council is happy with the traffic impact is, surprisingly, irrelevant.

Thus I commend this to you as an example of anti-NIMBYism, or IIMBYism as it may soon be called, the complaint from Blackburn basically being that the shopping centre Isn’t In My Back Yard.

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