In the coming months our new stadium build at Bramley-Moore Dock is about to take on its next shape-shifting change.
Thus far, all the focus has been on filling in the dock to provide firm foundations and preparing the ground works, which have progressed to the stage that we’ve seen the concrete cores emerge in the four corners and grow in size every day.
However, next month, the first deliveries of steelwork that form the skeletal structure are expected to arrive on site.
While there is always a lot of talk in media about steel, I can confirm that through advance pre-ordering, we have been able to secure cost clarity while mitigating any delays in the production and delivery of our steelwork.
To check on progress, I recently visited Severfield steel fabricators in Bolton, along with senior project leaders from Laing O’Rourke and other key members of the project team from the Club. I can report on how everything remains firmly on track and how fascinating it was to visit one of Laing O’Rourke’s key supply chain partners here in the North West.
Well over 1,000 tonnes of steel has been manufactured in readiness for the next key stage of the build, and we are on schedule to start erecting steel in June.
Like with many stadia, the majority of the build is precast concrete, which is located in the west and east stands.
The steel that we are having produced at the minute is mainly for the north stand, and also raking columns for the south stand, which will eventually appear externally in the final build.
The manufacturing and installation of this steelwork is a huge, complex job and one that requires an astonishing level of detail and co-ordination.
Intricate columns and beams all require individual identification to slot into the overall scheme, and all the items being manufactured are marked with a three-dimensional coordinate, so we know precisely where they fit into the 3D model.
Essentially it’s a huge engineering jigsaw puzzle, where pin-point planning, precision and accuracy is essential.
Steel reacts differently to concrete and will expand and contract, and some of the other components that hang off the steel, such as aluminium curtain walling and glazing, have different tolerance levels, so all of the design components require well-engineered and meticulously designed junctions and connections that allow them to flex, without compromising how they perform in the overall structure.
There is some particularly complex geometry in those areas, where roof trusses are supported by raking beams, so the level of detail that goes into designing those junctions, and where services such as water and power pass through voids, is simply incredible.
The items are also pre-painted, either with fire coatings, or a marine environment protection coat. This is because some of these pieces of steel are hard to reach; we don’t want to be sending people up to paint them in situ, so they are pre-treated in safe factory conditions.
The sacrificial lifting positions are pre-manufactured and attached to the steelwork, ensuring the paintwork doesn’t get damaged during the lifting operation, so everything we are doing is about mitigating risk to people – both now and in the future - as well as certainty of fit and making sure it all comes together as planned.
The Design for Manufacture and Assembly methodology means that the majority of the stadium will be built in the controlled environment of factories, which will provide certainty around our programme, quality and costs.
We’ve now seen the first stairwells fitted into some of the corner structures. Lifting these stairwells into place has been complicated, as they have to be lifted in at certain angles.
But they are important as the staircases provide permanent access to the labour force for the fit-out work streams we have coming up. It negates the need for temporary access stairs and scaffolding, so seeing these stairs installed, well in advance of the operatives needing to get to the concourse or terraced areas, is really useful.
In the coming weeks we will also start seeing tower cranes arriving on site. These tall cranes will start to be erected in preparation for the arrival of the steelwork.
While we appreciate there is a lot of interest in people flying drones to capture what is happening on-site, this could become dangerous to the operatives we will have working at height in the cranes.
As a result there is currently a “no-fly zone” in operation over the site. The Club’s Engagement team will be in touch with supporters and organisations who wish to fly drones to discuss an amicable arrangement that ensures the safety of everyone working on-site and allow them the opportunity to share and embrace the incredible work taking place at Bramley-Moore Dock.
Finally, for those interested in future milestones, following the installation of the steelworks, our next major milestone will be the delivery of the precast terraces. At that point our new home really will begin to take shape.
I look forward to providing an update on the terracing manufacture and installation in coming months. In the meantime, thank you for your continued support of what is an incredible project.