Project: Sea Life Centre, Brighton

Client: Merlin Attractions Operations

Sea Life Centre was built in 1872 as Brighton Aquarium, the building was designed by Eugenius Birch, the architect responsible for the West Pier. It was extensively reconstructed between 1927 and 1929. The new design was produced by David Edwards, the Borough Engineer. The Italianate features of Birch’s design were replaced by a neoclassical style. White Empire stonework was applied to the exterior walls. The clock tower was demolished and replaced by two square kiosks. During the Second World War the building was requisitioned by the RAF. 

Barwin were appointed to carry out testing and analysis of over 1500 sq m of concrete soffit using a Schmidt hammer test for rebound along with cover metre, chloride and carbonation tests.  After reporting the test results to the engineer, we were instructed to cut back 1230 sq m of concrete soffit and remove all the original reinforcement and replace it with resin bonded new reinforcement.  The concrete soffits were reinstated using Sika Gunite system sprayed onto the soffits and finished by hand with a trowel, this method was adopted only where access was available. In some areas the access was so restricted that hand placing of the repair mortar was the only option. All the new concrete was then coated with a FerroGuard, anti-carbonation migrating system to protect the new reinforcement. Under the engineer’s instruction sacrificial anodes were fixed in place. The soffits were covered further with an anti-carbonation three coat paint system.

In conjunction with the concrete repair works, Barwin undertook the delicate paint stripping to the stone and brick work within the Victorian arcade removing several layers of paint to the ornate capitals by a method of poultice and DOFF system. After the removal of the paint the stone and brickwork were surveyed and in accordance with the local conservation officer’s recommendations, repairs to the stone and brickwork carefully took place. In order to preserve the steel frame of the structure, the steel beams were grit blasted and treated with a specialist Leighs paint system. With the marine tank still in place, the project required intense management and coordination with the client and the engineer to achieve the desired result, which included maintaining the wellbeing of the marine life. 

Scope of works:
  • Removal of paint from ornate stone and brickwork
  • Stone consolidation and repairs
  • Concrete testing and surveys
  • Removal of carbonated concrete soffits and reinforcement
  • Replacement of reinforcement and concrete soffit
  • Grit blasting of steel frames insitu
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