Primark plan to demolish and rebuild Bank Buildings structures stone-by-stone

Conservation engineers could use lasers and cameras to record “each individual stone” before removing the upper floors of the fire-damaged Primark before rebuilding.

The remarkable plan is contained in a document submitted alongside a planning application by Primark to restore the historic former Bank Buildings that was badly damaged by fire more than a month ago.

Image credit: Hall Black Douglas architects with Johnston Sinclair structural engineers

Image credit: Hall Black Douglas architects with Johnston Sinclair structural engineers

The document, prepared by Hall Black Douglas Architects and engineering consultants Sinclair Johnston, was submitted alongside the planning application on Monday.

It outlines the extent of the damage caused by the fire on August 28.

“In its present condition, the building’s physical fabric remains vulnerable and a thorough and coherent conservation strategy is urgently required to ensure its future as part of Belfast’s rich architectural heritage,” the report states.

It adds: “Structural damage caused by the fire has been severe with the loss of a significant portion of the internal parts of the building. The area most badly affected is the original timber floors and steel flitch beam construction which has been completely destroyed. What remains of the internal structure is the more modern steel and concrete elements completed in the late 1970s, and as part of the recent refurbishment works by Primark.”

Image credit: Hall Black Douglas architects with Johnston Sinclair structural engineers

Image credit: Hall Black Douglas architects with Johnston Sinclair structural engineers

In terms of mitigation work to reduce the damage, a section of the report prepared by structural engineers outlines a plan to document each stone above the fourth floor before demolition work takes place.

The document proposes identifying, labelling and systematically removing mortar, “allowing all brick and stonework to be retained and the fabric preserved” for reinstatement.

The clock face will also be removed for repair before being put back, while a plaster cast of decorative stonework will be made to allow a replica to be constructed.

Meanwhile, small businesses impacted by the Bank Buildings fire will be able to apply for funding of up to £19,000 to aid their financial recovery Belfast City Council has confirmed. The payments will come from the £500,000 offered by Primark in the wake of the fire that gutted the store at the end of August.

Image credit: Hall Black Douglas architects with Johnston Sinclair structural engineers

Image credit: Hall Black Douglas architects with Johnston Sinclair structural engineers

Primark also moved last week to assure traders around its Belfast City Centre store that it is doing everything it can to resolve the problem of an exclusion zone which was placed around it after it was destroyed by fire.

The cordon around the damaged building has caused serious disruption to nearby traders, some of whom have been unable to reopen.