Royal Albert Hall, London

“When you are working on a national monument like the Royal Albert Hall the sense of responsibility becomes more acute. Quality assurance, mix design, and precise delivery and installation of the concrete were all pivotal to a satisfactory conclusion to this job as a whole. We were assured by the presence of the admixture specialist’s inspectors during and after the installation.”

Peter Goring, Technical Director, John Doyle Construction

Waterproof performance at Royal Albert Hall

The Hall is a Grade I Listed building; and has been in continuous use since it was opened in March 1871. It was always conceived as a multipurpose building to host not only concerts of music but exhibitions and award ceremonies.

PUDLO concrete additive has played a vital waterproofing role in the major extension and refurbishment programme at London’s Royal Albert Hall, which was completed in 2004.

The terrace of steps leading from the Albert Hall to Prince Consort Road was excavated to provide an underground car park, storage and air handling equipment and offloading facilities with direct access through a tunnel, to the performing arena within the Albert Hall.

The scheme comprised a contiguous bored pile wall tight to Imperial College and Albert Court on either side of the excavation and load bearing piles within the basement structure.

A significant portion of the work was on the underground construction – three storeys below the building and extending out beneath the southern landscaped area. This massive undercroft houses the boiler house, loading bays, lifts, plant, ancillary accommodation, service routes and storage facilities, as well as extensive private car parking for the neighbouring residents.

To create the links with the existing building, the 1m-thick hall walls have had to be underpinned with piled, steel and concrete goalposts to allow the original concrete foundations to be cut away. This 150-year-old concrete looked in very good condition and has been left visible as a piece of living archaeology in the depths of the service areas.

During the 24 month Royal Albert Hall contract, over 1000m3 of ready mixed concrete, modified with integral waterproofer PUDLO CWP, was used by specialist frame and underground works contractors John Doyle Construction to ensure the waterproofing of perimeter walls, capping beams, lift shafts and floors.

PUDLO modified concrete carries a 20 year completed project warranty, effectively assuring performance and workmanship for the same period.

They also provided advice at the Battersea production plant of ready mix supplier London Concrete. Designed to the specification of consultants, Building Design Partnership, the watertight concrete was required to meet stringent standards. Of the products then available that satisfied these conditions, PUDLO CWP was the material of choice.

According to John Doyle Construction’s Technical Director, Peter Goring says: “Very close attention is always given to the construction materials in use and the test procedures that prove their reliability and performance.

But when you are working on a national monument like the Royal Albert Hall the sense of responsibility becomes more acute. That was certainly the case with this very high profile  contract. The required watertight performance of the raft, perimeter walls and slab edges of the five underground storeys that formed the bulk of our work behind and below the level of the hall’s impressive South Steps, took on added significance. Quality assurance, mix design and precise delivery and installation of the concrete were all pivotal to a satisfactory conclusion to the job as a whole. We were also assured by the presence of the PUDLO site inspectors during and after installation.”

PUDLO also supplied Instacem Primer Latex as a bond coat and Instalastic as a sumpsealant to the PUDLO-modified concrete used in the building’s drainage system and elsewhere.

The formal landscaping to the south elevation, by Colvin & Moggridge, gives no indication of the massive spaces and complexity of services below; the only exception being the refurbished Memorial to the Exhibition of 1851, which now houses a ventilation and fire fighting shaft expressed by a doorway in the raised and refurbished plinth.

Client: Royal Albert Hall Trustees

Consultant: Building Design Partnership

Main Contractor: Taylor Woodrow