Experts challenge City on London Wall West demolition

The Barbican Quarter Action campaign against the City’s plans for the Museum of London site has published an expert report robustly challenging the justification for demolition, and presented it to councillors.

The City’s London Wall West scheme for 780,000 sq ft of offices involves demolishing the Museum building prior to its move to West Smithfield, and the Bastion House office block.

This week both local and technical press gave strong coverage to the report, prompting a response from the Corporation, sticking to its plans.

City A.M. says: “A campaign group has slammed the “misinformed and misleading” data that has been used to justify demolishing two historic buildings in London’s Barbican.

“The City of London Corporation has submitted plans to demolish the Museum of London and adjacent office block Bastion House after raising concerns over the safety of the buildings.

“But a new independent report argued the buildings are in good condition and said warnings from the council that it could collapse were unfounded and factually incorrect.

“Bob Stagg, a consultant to Coinsbee Engineering, published a 17-page report into the construction of the two buildings.

“He concluded that there is no need for them to be demolished and rebuilt as there is not a disproportionate risk of them collapsing.

“The Barbican Quarter Action (BQA) campaign group is calling on the corporation to consider the new evidence and rethink its demolition plans as a result”.

Opponents of the corporation’s plans have also highlighted that demolishing the buildings would create a net increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The BQA highlighted new analysis that estimates a new build would add about 20,000 tonnes more CO2 equivalent emissions than if the buildings were partially retrofitted instead.

Chairman of the BQA, Adam Hogg, said of the Barbican redevelopment: “The City of London Corporation has stated that the most carbon efficient outcome is demolition for safety reasons to make way for new office development.

“We now have expert analysis of these claims clearly showing they are misinformed and misleading”.

Architects’ Journal says: “Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Sheppard Robson’s plans to demolish parts of the Barbican Estate are based on ‘misleading data’ about carbon emissions and the site’s structure, a residents group has claimed.” Adding:

“A structural report authored Bob Stagg of Alan Conisbee & Associates says that Bastion House is not threatened by disproportionate collapse due to its in-situ reinforced concrete construction. It argues that the risk of disproportionate collapse comes with large concrete panel system construction, such as that used at Ronan Point.

‘Noting the substantial size and arrangement of the structural elements in the buildings, I consider it most unusual to even question this aspect,’ said Stagg.”

“Barbican Quarter Action’s whole-life carbon assessment was written by architect Simon Sturgis, of Targeting Zero, and says that the City of London’s report ‘appears to be designed to pay lip service to the requirement to examine retrofit, and to set out to prove that new build is the only realistic solution’.”

In a response to City A.M. and AJ, a spokesperson for the City of London Corporation said: “Our proposals have been carefully developed with industry experts, and would deliver cultural, community, and economic investment, and public realm improvements for the benefit of City residents, workers and visitors.

“With the Museum of London planning to move, and Bastion House falling below the standards expected for an office block, it is important to find a viable new future for the site.

“Fully retaining the existing buildings is not a suitable option due to significant structural issues, fire safety, very poor energy performance and the limited uses which would be possible at the site.

“Redevelopment allows for a larger, more efficient scheme, and will deliver lower whole lifecycle carbon emissions in comparison to the part demolition/part retention option, per square metre.

“On balance, redevelopment is therefore considered to be the preferred option for the site.”

The report from Bob Stagg of Conisbee Structural Engineering and Simon Sturgis of Targeting Zero, is available for download here, together with a video of a webinar featuring the experts.

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