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Client Project: Bathhouse Lofts by Hollybrook Ltd

A magnificent building both inside and out, Bathhouse Lofts conversion into 41 loft style apartments extends over 45,000 square feet. Built in 1928, this period property was originally Southwark Council’s offices. As you walk in, the grandeur of the entrance hall with its large sweeping staircase, marble floors and domed roof is overwhelming. Each apartment is finished to a high standard and are light and airy, making the most of the high ceilings and large windows.

We have caught up with Hollybrook to find out how the build went. 

How did the Grade II listing status affect the build?

The facades required extensive non-invasive cleaning due to their listing status. This required a large scaffold for access to all areas and due to the slow nature of the process, this frustrated the installation of the drainage through traditional means. Moling and boring techniques were used to remove the scaffold strike from the critical path.

We employed a cleaning regime were only clean water, tooth brushes and a lot patience were required!

When we commenced the drainage installation inside the footprint of the building it became apparent that what was once the public bath pool had been filled with 1800mm of flint based concrete.

This pool covered ¾ of the drainage area, traditional excavation methods were abandoned and we employed 8 diamond drilling teams for 9 weeks to stitch drill the drainage runs throughout the basement so as not to damage the facades caused by vibration.

Due to the nature of the facades the co-ordination of services distribution was extremely detailed as no penetrations were allowed to the facades. All services (gas and ventilation) were brought directly to the roof and terminated there. With the use of extensive amounts of PV’s to the roof areas for our BREAAM requirements, no room was left for error and this was managed extremely efficiently.

This was a huge undertaking when you consider that there are 14 individual roofs on the scheme, cross overs in common areas and back falls required to boilers etc.

How did you find the overall project?

This was an extremely challenging scheme as people will find with most refurbishments. It is a case of the unknown and not being able to plan for these events. However, the finished product is magnificent and is a reflection of all the hard work that the team put into it, it’s very pleasing to rejuvenate such a beautiful building. The beauty was always there, it just need to be uncovered.

A very controlled and considered approach was needed and we had the right people on the job to manage this process.

What was it like working with our Surveyor?

The Premier Guarantee Surveyor was a pleasure to work with. His knowledge and open, pro-active personality made it much easier to decide on the best course of action for certain issues and this assisted us in maintaining excellent standards and a very tight construction programme.

How do you feel about the finished apartments?

The apartments look excellent. The design and specification process was interrogated to the last degree and that has provided not only beautiful units but also fantastic homes for the purchasers.

The end product speaks for itself having won the Premier Guarantee Awards 2014 for best refurbishment/conversion in the UK. It has also won The Evening Standards New Homes Awards 2015 for conversions in London.

Have you got any advice for other developers thinking about doing refurbishments/conversions?

The devil is in the detail.

Refurbishments and conversions by their nature are very difficult and should not be approached lightly. As mentioned, it is a case of not being able to plan for the unknown. You must be flexible and proactive but also reactive if you wish to maintain a sensible yet aggressive construction programme. Your team needs to be calm and level headed with good decision making skills.

Helping things run smoothly

Your design team need to be locally placed and in a position to attend site quickly if something unexpected is encountered otherwise a particular issue could take 2 weeks to decide. You can never carry out enough surveys of the existing structure if it is possible to gain access before vacant possession. Involve building control and your warranty provider as early as possible and get clearly defined conditions to enable this process to start as soon as possible.

Control client expectations

The popular misconception is that a refurbishment is the same as new build, however this is not the case and it is an ever changing site; the health and safety approach, fire plan, evacuation strategy etc during the course of the works will change on a daily basis and you must keep on top of that.

Keeping your neighbours informed at every stage is also essential so they are aware of everything you are doing especially key events.

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