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Integrated temporary support solutions support historic gallery refurbishment

Scottish Galleries at the National, Edinburgh

When new and improved access routes, linking existing and new spaces, were to be installed underneath the National in Edinburgh, as part of a wider £38.2m investment, it was critical that the building was kept structurally safe and fully open to visitors during the works. As a result, contractor Tilbury Douglas turned to us and our range of monitoring solutions and temporary works equipment for support. 


Major works being carried out under the Scottish Galleries at the National
Critical that building kept structurally safe and fully open to visitors
Monitoring and temporary support package provided

Products used on this project

The challenge

The new Scottish galleries at the National, located on The Mound in the centre of Edinburgh, was built in 1859 and boasts a collection of works from across Scotland and Europe. With breath-taking works of art from many of Scotland’s finest artists, the gallery is home to a range of priceless paintings and artifacts. However, as part of a new investment into the gallery, National galleries of Scotland looked to improve ease of access through the gallery spaces by means of a tunnel, staircase and lift beneath the building’s listed façade. 

Speaking about the project, Stuart Burgess, Project Manager, at Tilbury Douglas, said: “The primary aim of the project was threefold: to create new world-class gallery spaces, improve access to the building and streamline the flow of visitors through the various parts of the gallery. To achieve this, significant structural alterations were required, as well as issues with asbestos, damp and unchartered obstructions. 

“One of the elements designed to improve visitor flow was the creation of a tunnel underneath the 19th century Grade A-listed portico, six metres below ground, creating a link between the original 1850s section of the building and the newer 1970s parts.” 

With the gallery still remaining fully open during these works, there were strict restrictions and regulations in place, as Stuart explained: “Due to the fragility and historical importance of the buildings listed porticos, any small movement could result in damage being done to them. To ensure this didn’t happen, there was a contractual agreement in place that meant we were only permitted 6mm of differential movement and 12mm of overall movement when undertaking the tunnelling works. Additionally, with the building still open to the public, we had to ensure that noise, dust and vibrations were carefully monitored so as not to impact on visitors. 

“With this in mind, it was vital that we were monitoring the effect the works were having on the building throughout the whole project. This included when the weight of the building was transferred onto the temporary works, including a complex jacking system, and again at the completion of the tunnel, when the loads would be shifted back again.”

The team at Tilbury Douglas also had to tackle poor ground conditions, a result of the original construction of Edinburgh’s ‘New Town’ and the use of excavated material and building waste that was used in the formation of The Mound. This ground created further geotechnical challenges, with limited stability for the works taking place.

Our solution

As a result, Tilbury Douglas turned to us and our range of temporary works and monitoring solutions. Stuart explained: “Mabey Hire provided us with a bespoke real-time monitoring and hydraulic jacking system measuring load and displacement, as well as a range of standard props and bracing. They also provided monitoring support across the construction of this new tunnel, with the team regularly onsite to ensure we weren’t breaching the pre-agreed tolerances. 

“Mabey Hire’s monitoring team worked directly with Arup, a sub-contractor to Tilbury Douglas, to come up with the methodology for the monitoring system. There were a variety of sensors installed on each portico outside the building, measuring allowable noise, movement of the building, load and displacement. This system was then used to pre-load the other temporary works, with a zero-movement hydraulic propping and jacking system used to fully secure the building.”

Available space posed another challenge on the project, as Stuart commented: “A major challenge we faced during the course of these works was the space in which we were working in. Due to the confined conditions, any equipment that we used had to be manually handled or lifted in with small machinery.

“This was another reason why Mabey Hire was chosen as the temporary works provider for this project, with its propping and jacking equipment able to be easily assembled and moved into place by hand. Likewise, its monitoring equipment isn’t invasive or heavy and can be carried around in a small handheld box, ensuring it wasn’t getting in the way of our other works.”

Stuart concluded: “Working with Mabey Hire made our role on the project that much easier, with its knowledgeable and helpful team always on hand to help with any issues we encountered. It was particularly valuable that Mabey Hire was able to provide all the equipment to support our works, from the propping and jacking to the structural monitoring support.” 

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