318 Oxford St Facade

The Elephant, Oxford St London

Publica Properties
Structural Engineer
Commercial Buildings
Central London
PDP London

As the world of retail has shifted dramatically in recent years, department store buildings have needed radical change. Civic Engineers’ is helping deliver a major refurbishment to one such building at 318 Oxford St which currently hosts House of Fraser.

Major improvement works will see continued retail use in the lower levels of the building. The refurbishment will add an eighth floor to the 35,000m2 building, boasting a rooftop restaurant and extensive terraces. The sixth and seventh floors will be rebuilt to provide high quality covid compliant office space while the second to fifth floors are retained and converted, also for office use.

The redesign requires the complete removal of most internal masonry walls, which provide stability to the structure. In response, Civic Engineers has designed a completely new stability system comprising a braced steel frame to be inserted into the former escalator well.

Considerable research was required to understand details of the existing structure, and to justify the necessary increase in height. Keeping the new structure ‘light’ allows much of the existing structure to be retained which significantly reduce the scheme’s carbon footprint. A further reduction in environmental impact is achieved by re-using some of the demolished steelwork in the new construction.

Working closely with the architect PDP, our engineers analysed the existing and proposed loading on each of the near-1000 columns in the building. By combining information from archive records, opening-up and materials testing, we were able to justify the changes in load and eliminate the need for major strengthening works, reducing cost and embodied carbon.

In a deal conceived by ourselves and FORE, pre-WWII steel is being re-used in a UK construction project for what is believed to be the first time. In the latest breakthrough in ‘urban mining’, 20 tonnes of 1930s steel beams have been salvaged from a project we are currently working on, the former House of Fraser on Oxford Street to be reused in a new London office scheme, being developed next to Tower Bridge by FORE Partnership.

The construction sector is one of the largest consumers of materials and produces more waste than any other sector in the UK. Re-use of existing materials is an essential step in the industry’s transition to a net zero future. The re-use of steel is in its infancy. While there are certain protocols for the re-use of steel manufactured in 1970 to current days, there is a lack of clarity around steel produced in earlier eras.

This deal will save an estimated 48 tonnes of carbon dioxide when compared with using new steelwork, equivalent to driving a car around the earth 50 times, or the annual carbon absorbed by 20 acres of trees.

Following the first 20 tonnes, FORE plans to save at least 100 tonnes of steel from this project which will make up 20% of the total steel to be used at Tower Bridge Court (TBC) London. The remaining steel framing at TBC London will contain at least 56% recycled content.

Our team liaised with McLaren, contractor on our project, the House of Fraser refurbishment, to support the proposal.

Gareth Atkinson, director, Civic Engineers, says: “It’s exciting working with clients and collaborators with this much vision. We’ve proved it isn’t ‘too difficult’. These types of deals can and should be brokered time and time again.”

The reclaimed structural beams will be used throughout TBC London, and visibly on display in some parts of the building in order to educate occupiers and the wider public about the benefits of applying circular economy principles.

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