In pictures | Pre-war steel beams reused in new London office building

Pre-war steel beams
(Image: TBC.London)

Twenty tonnes of 1930s steel beams salvaged from the former House of Fraser building in London’s Oxford Street are being reused in a new office development.

The initiative is believed to be a first of its kind and a breakthrough in ‘urban mining’, according to FORE Partnership, the developer behind the new office block in Tower Bridge Court, known as TBC.London.

Although protocols exist for the reuse of steel manufactured from 1970, there is still lack of clarity around steel produced before then.

Pre-war steel beams
FORE plans to save at least 100 tonnes of steel from the department store refurbishment (Image: TBC.London)

The project to reuse the steel from the old department store was planned between FORE and Civic Engineers. The latter, in turn, worked with McLaren, the contractor responsible for the House of Fraser refurbishment, to support the proposal.

Webb Yates, the engineer appointed to TBC.London, ensured there was a smooth transition for using the recycled materials in the office development design.

The incorporation of the beams will be executed by Willmott Dixon, TBC.London’s contractor.

Civic Engineers’ director, Gareth Atkinson, said: “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.”

Showcasing the benefits of the circular economy

TBC.London claims that reusing the beams will save an estimated 48 tonnes of carbon dioxide compared to using new steelwork. This is equivalent to driving a car around the earth 50 times, or the annual carbon absorbed by 20 acres of trees, it says.

Pre-war steel beams
The re-use of pre-war steel beams is believed to be the first of its kind (Image: TBC.London)

Following the first 20 tonnes, FORE plans to save at least 100 tonnes of steel from the department store refurbishment. This will make up 20% of the total steel to be used at TBC.London. The remaining steel framing at TBC.London will contain at least 56% recycled content.

Street view of a big grey department store.
The pre-war steel beams come from the former House of Fraser building in 318 Oxford St, London (Image: TBC.London)

“We have been able to overcome many false assumptions and perceived barriers to re-using the steel”, said Basil Demeroutis, FORE’s managing partner, referring to the steel being riveted and encased in concrete – an outdated method of fireproofing.

“We think it will represent the largest percentage of a London office development made using reclaimed steel, and we are unaware of any other commercial project where the structure is made reusing 100-year-old steel.”

The reclaimed structural beams will be used throughout TBC.London and will be visibly on display in some parts of the building. This will done to show the building’s users and the public the benefits of applying circular economy principles.

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