DBFL were commissioned by Primark in 2016 to provide structural and civil engineering services for the re-development of their existing 6 storey Bank Buildings store, which is a Grade BI listed building located in the centre of Belfast’s retail district and bounded on 3 sides by Royal Avenue, Castle Street and Bank Street.
Works included the installation of new lifts and escalators in the existing building and the construction of a new 6 storey, reinforced concrete framed, extension on the neighbouring Commonwealth House site to the west of the Bank Buildings. This effectively doubled the retail space of the store. The project presented many challenges, not least in the ground where the location of a culverted underground river beneath Commonwealth House resulted in the rear part of the building being designed to cantilever over the culvert. The project was nearing completion when in August 2018 a devastating fire took hold in the Bank Buildings element resulting in the total destruction of the interior of this building and severe damage to the external facade.
A safety cordon was erected around the remains of the structure which restricted access to the surrounding streets and many retailers and businesses. Numerous bus routes through the city centre had to be diverted around the cordoned off area with significant impact for commuters. DBFL’s commission was extended to include the provision of structural and civil engineering services on the stabilising of the historic façade and re-building the interior.
The re-building of the Bank Building was a complex project and required the input of, and close collaboration with, facade retention specialists, stone restoration experts, and Conservation Architects in addition to the more typical design team members and Bennett Construction, the Main Contractor. From the outset, the structure took the lead, initially in the development of the facade retention system to facilitate clearing out the fire-damaged interior of the building and the opening up of surrounding streets and businesses. A structural rebuilding scheme was required to take cognisance of the following.
Complicated groundworks were required for the installation of new piled foundations, lift pits and a 200sqm basement plant room within close proximity of the fragile structure of the retained facades. Diversion of the culverted underground Farset river flowing beneath the building was also necessary in order to facilitate the construction of the new basement.
Significant structural repairs and re-building works to the fire-damaged historic facades required intricate temporary works solutions to provide masonry support and allow safe access for the repairs. Also, the construction of a new 6 storey steel framed structure and reinforced concrete stability cores within the confines of the retained walls included tying into the historic facade and linking each floor through to the adjoining Primark store.
Despite numerous unforeseen complications throughout the rebuild the project was completed on time and on budget as a result of the close collaboration between the design team, client, main-contractor, sub-contractors and the relevant statutory authorities. The store was re-opened for business by the Lord Mayor of Belfast on 1st November 2022. Our client, Primark were delighted with the performance of all involved in this complex project.