In preparation for this milestone, the Grade I listed building has been carefully cleaned, restored and upgraded, a task made possible with access provided by GKR Scaffolding.
The work completes at the end of 2020 after GKR has worked on every phase of the restoration since it started in 2014.
The main challenge was to create unobtrusive, safe access to enable cleaning and restoration of the external façade which is made up of brick, stone, terracotta and mosaics.
GKR’s Special Works Division specialises in working on listed buildings, overcoming the operational and engineering challenges presented by minimising the impact of access works on heritage buildings.
Programmed to work on a quadrant at a time, the external scaffold was first erected at the North East Quadrant. A full height scaffold was installed to the lower and upper tiers of the main external façade. This was built in 4m individual towers in order to follow the circular profile of the building.
Each tower was linked together to create a splayed scaffold. This allowed clear access through the towers, with full working platforms complete with a Haki staircase to all levels and the upper roof area.
The scaffold moved around the building quadrant by quadrant, also taking into account the access requirements for a building that was still open to visitors. This included extensive bridging over all entrances to allow clear access in the hall for members of the public.
Gantries were installed over the public footpaths to both support the scaffold and give maximum protection to members of the public. 6 board wide protection fans were also installed at the second lift.
At the highest point is the ‘inner drum’ where scaffold was erected around the entire external perimeter.
However, in order to avoid tying into the terracotta and mosaic façade to work above the East and West Porches, the inner drum was also used to bridge beams to the main external façade.
Cantilevered double 450 aluminium beams with fully braced support towers were used to tie the 4-lift hanging scaffolds. Dropping each lift in sections allowed the scaffolders to work from each completed lift, ensuring a safe and controlled build for operatives whilst protecting the historic façade.
Extensive bridging was also installed above the Smoking Gallery – the ornate balustrade above the top tier. This was to distribute the weight of the scaffold above as the Gallery is not designed to support imposed loadings.
The project included internal roof support and access in various parts of the building including the areas used by the Monarchy. Although one of the more challenging parts of the internal restoration work was excavating a new two-storey basement to extend backstage facilities.
Before this could progress, GKR initially created access to the boiler rooms to replace the heating and boiler systems by erecting a birdcage scaffold. The team were required to create access to reroute the boiler house flue due to the existing chimney being decommissioned to allow for excavation work to commence. A full height support scaffold was also erected adjacent to the north porch to support the new flue from the boiler room.
A lifting beam was then built to facilitate in the excavation of the two-story basement extension.
Being one of London’s most recognisable landmarks, 6.5m high hoarding complete with di-bond panels replicating the iconic building was used to replicate the iconic façade.
The work overall was sympathetic to both the aesthetics of the building and the access needs of the restoration; keeping the building accessible and safe.
But more importantly, the scaffold programme ensured delivery of the work in time for a very special anniversary.