SILVER MEDALLIST IN 2020 | Public and Infrastructure

Russ Parks
Willmott Dixon
All Finalists2020 Winners

Willmott Dixon

The Futurist, Demolition and Stabilisation, Scarborough

There is nothing straightforward about demolishing a building holding a 40m-high cliff in place, in a prime sea front location and surrounded by homes and businesses. Russ Parks overcame the ferocious technical difficulties by improvising and adapting. Just as important was his ability to keep his head – particularly when ground sensors revealed movement within the entire cliff slope during the post-demolition construction of the main retaining wall. His successful leadership of this taxing project won the client’s utmost respect.

About the Project

Client: Scarborough Borough Council

Contract: NEC 3, Scape 3 framework

Value: £3.9m

Improvise, adapt and overcome. As a former infantry commander, Russ Parks lives by this army mantra. It neatly encapsulates his leadership of a demolition project of ferocious technical difficulty. There is nothing straightforward about taking down a building holding a 40m-high cliff in place, in a prime sea front location and surrounded by residential and business properties.

Neighbours are never more concerned than when their home is at risk from a large demolition project next door, with a catastrophic cliff fall looming high on the fear agenda. Unsurprisingly, the project was anything but popular locally. Yet Russ never shied away from engaging with the local community face to face. He treated residents and business owners with courtesy and respect, explaining what was happening in an easy to understand way. He kept the site – a desirable destination for ‘urban explorers’ – super-secure with round-the-clock CCTV, night vision cameras, perimeter sensors and guard patrols. The considerable level of interaction he put in ultimately brought positive community relationships.

It may have taken all his skill, experience and nerve to deliver this job safely and correctly, but that is exactly what Russ put in. He painstakingly planned and oversaw the removal of 6,000 tonnes of ground-weight from the upper cliff slope while introducing 5,700 tonnes of concrete to 31 rooms, stairwells and corridors in the Frankensteinesque theatre below to keep the cliff in place. He methodically achieved the stabilisation of the upper slope using soil anchors and geotechnical ground modelling, while removing all the asbestos from the building to make it safe to demolish.

The biggest gulp moment of all came when, with the building demolished and excavation work on the main retaining wall begun, the ground sensors revealed movement within the entire cliff slope. The retaining wall works were canned, and 12 weeks of downtime followed in search of a workable plan to retain the slope. King post walls, anchored piles, CFA piling, contiguous wall piling were among the solutions considered – and then dropped because of safety, technical, practicality or cost concerns. Eventually, 34 pairs of 17m-long sheet piles were driven in, securing the slope, and completing a job that won the client’s utmost respect.