10th February 2019

Thomasons power through to deliver office transformation

Electricity North West’s (ENWL) main building on Frederick Road, Salford, dates back to the early 19th century, when it originally served as the main power station for Manchester and Salford. While the main building is now used as office space, its history is still evident in some original features, which formed the basis of a recent Thomasons project.

Two rooms on the main depot’s ground floor housed two 30-tonne transformer units. Redundant for several decades now and likely twice as old, ENWL wanted to remove the units to free up space for offices and workshops. Thomasons was appointed for two roles.

As principal designers, Thomasons produced the pre-construction information and health and safety documentation. As structural engineers, Thomasons commented on the capacity and suitability of the existing building to accommodate the method of removal and provided details for the demolition of masonry walls to clear the path for the transformer’s removal.

When it came to the removal, the units were jacked up using hydraulic lifting equipment, sat back down onto aluminium tracks and skated out of the building.

A number of challenges were overcome. Firstly, the transformers contained mercury, so had to be carefully handled to avoid spillage and contact. Subterranean Victorian cable tunnels required inspection of the ground floor slab’s underside to check its condition and capacity.

Finally, as the transformers had to pass through a live site, extensive RAMS (Risk Assessment and Method Statements) meetings, toolbox talks and PPE (personal protective equipment) inductions were held. In addition, an appointed independent safety auditor was on site throughout the works.

Structural Engineer Mark Furmston comments: “Extra care needs to be taken with historic equipment and structures. Age, outdated building standards and construction methods add another element of risk to a project. When historic buildings are approached properly, there is great potential to preserve character while their function is repurposed.”

Now that the transformers have been removed, Thomasons has been appointed for the next stage of works to provide structural advice for the conversion of the space into offices.

To read more about Thomasons’ historic building work, click here.