Battersea Power Station chimney reconstruction project wins Constructing Excellence Award

Buro Happold is thrilled that the project to reconstruct Battersea Power Station’s four iconic chimneys has been announced winner of the Preservation and Rejuvenation category of the Constructing Excellence Awards.

Battersea Power Station is one of the largest, most iconic buildings on the London skyline. The structure is of exceptional architectural and historical significance and so its future – including the longevity of the chimneys – is important to many people.

Buro Happold was engaged to work on the reconstruction of the impressive chimneys. Following many years of neglect, close examination showed the reinforced steel within the concrete had corroded and the chimneys were in a very fragile state, covered in small cracks like an old porcelain vase.

After trialling different ways of repairing the chimneys over many years, it became clear that the only way to safeguard them for future generations was to dismantle and rebuild them. Buro Happold was able to use its engineering expertise to secure the future of Battersea Power Station, and the expectation is that, with periodic maintenance, the rebuilt chimneys will last well into the next century before requiring any major repairs.

We are delighted that this project has been recognised with this award. What a thrill it is to see the iconic chimneys of Battersea Power Station return to the London skyline! Leading the forensic engineering and the collaboration process with key stakeholders and industry experts has been a demanding challenge for Buro Happold over a number of years. By working in partnership with our client, Heritage England, and the London Borough of Wandsworth, we have been able to apply rigorous attention to detail throughout the investigation, testing and trial works that has delivered the optimum safe and sustainable solution. Not least, we have enjoyed replicating the architectural detailing and original construction methodology, thus preserving this famous landmark for generations to come. Justin Phillips, partner and director, Buro Happold

What a thrill it is to see the iconic chimneys of Battersea Power Station return to the London skyline! We really enjoyed leading the forensic engineering and replicating the architectural detailing and original construction methodology, preserving this famous landmark for generations to come.

Justin Phillips, partner and director, Buro Happold

How Buro Happold approached the reconstruction

To meet planning conditions, Buro Happold had to start by proving that one of the chimneys could be rebuilt successfully before work could begin on the other three. Work therefore began with the south-west chimney and it was only once it had been reconstructed to a height of 25 metres above the brick wash tower that work able to begin on the three remaining chimneys. A sequencing schedule was implemented, so that the structure was at no point left with no chimneys visible.

Buro Happold used an ingenious circular rigging solution, descending the chimney slowly from the top, chipping away at the material and safely removing the debris through the existing structure before reusing it. Once each chimney had been dismantled it was rebuilt from the bottom, using the same form of reinforced concrete materials as the original, but improving the pattern of the steel reinforcement and the composition of the concrete to make the chimneys less vulnerable to corrosion and to ensure longevity.

Retaining the look of the original chimneys was painstakingly thought through, so that the chimneys are visibly identical to the originals. As each chimney was subtly different in its building height and geometry, Buro Happold surveyed each one in 3D to capture its unique features – including the fluting and ornate detail – ensuring it could be rebuilt exactly as it had been originally. Paint scrapings were scrutinised, too, and matched with new paint to ensure accurate replication. This attention to detail helped ease public concern over the project.

Each chimney took months to dismantle and rebuild to its height of approximately 50 metres above the brickwork.

About the Battersea Power Station development

The development of the 42-acre site has probably been one of the most eagerly anticipated new developments in the UK for years. The final development will be a vibrant, mixed use, urban quarter with homes, shops, cafes, offices and 18 acres of public space. It will be serviced by an extension to the London underground network and the restoration of the Grade II listed power station.

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