Dermot Keyes
The piles supporting the entirety of the existing North Wharf will be fully removed and replaced as part of Falcon Real Estate Development’s North Quay project.
Speaking to The Munster Express, Falcon Director Rob Cass said that a massive investment “will be made below the Quays” to support the load bearing that will be created by the €350 million development. It’s believed it will take 15 months to completely remove the existing piles. “It’s a little like a tiered birthday cake: you’ve got to build one foundation after the other,” said Mr Cass. “If you move something at the top, then you’ve got to take the base and podium into account as well. The entire North Quay has to be stabilised and it’s a very complex piece of the work, all the more so when you’re taking marina access and boats into account. And then of course you have the deep drilling that’s required for this project, something that has to be 100-year-proof; this has to be built to last.”
Mr Cass added: “It’s a new form of Quay to support the new podium, with new pilings in place below it and, of course, all the buildings above it. So everything that’s in the riverbank now has to come out. It’s a huge but necessary job. The function of the future North Quay will be altogether different from what it was originally built for – grain, cattle, sheep and so on. We made some assumptions that some of what is there would be recoverable but once we spent some money evaluating them, we established that 90 per cent of (the pilings) had to be replaced to justify the stability and safety required for the next 100 years. It’s quite a large investment but it’s been factored into our numbers and it’s testament to our engineering team, Punch Consulting and Carron + Walsh, the way they came up with a solution for this element of the project, they’ve probably stripped back the cost because of their clever design. We’ve got the very best from Ireland and the UK into this design team and the work they did at Drogheda Quays is testament to their talents. They’ve already done a lot of good work in Dublin and if we hadn’t got that work right, then the project could well have proven unviable. So the investment we’re making below the line of the Suir will be quite sizeable.”
According to a structural report compiled for the Office of Public Works International Architectural and Urban Design Competition, the existing wharves are piled to bedrock. The piles have been braced laterally via three means: the provision of raking piles, the restraining effect of the main slab “anchored back over the original quay wall” and an in situ bracing frame which is monolithically connected to the pile.
“The wharf slab itself is typically of the order of 450mm in depth spanning to downstand reinforced concrete beams which are supported directly by piles,” the OPW report reads.
Fast forwarding to 2019, Rob Cass told this newspaper: “The environmental assessment is already happening on The Quay at the moment and that’s another sign of progress. The Council and ourselves are busy with that at present so there’s stuff happening; in fact there’s stuff going on in and around the site on a continuous basis, but a great deal of that isn’t necessarily percolating.” He added: “The timeline by Irish standards is tight but it’s pretty normal in international terms. We’re following the best international standards here. This will be a 24 to 30-monthp phased build and once the cranes come in, I’ll think everyone will breathe a sigh of relief that things are happening, and it’s then that the public buzz will really kick in.”