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Challenges of redeveloping Fulham's Thames-side stadium

Populous' Riverside Stand for Fulham FC

WSP has revealed the difficulties in tackling the redevelopment Fulham FC’s Craven Cottage stadium.

In particular, the firm behind the Thames-side stand recevelopment has revealed the challenges of working so closely to the river.

The new Riverside Stand is set to have a basement level and five floor levels as well as a small lower-tier and a larger upper-tier. The length of the stand is set to be 120m.

As part of the project, WSP is undertaking engineering design including structural and geotechnical engineering, building services, façade and fire engineering, environmental, security, transport planning and acoustics.

Stadium capacity at Craven Cottage is expected to increase by 4,500 seats and reach up to 29,600, as a result of the plans.

Speaking of the work that will take place as part of the project, WSP head of structures Jane Richards said: “At the moment there is a river walkway by the Thames that stops and starts at either end of the ground and part of this redevelopment of the stand is creating a new river walkway that goes out partially into the river and it allows that river walkway to continue past the back of the stand, and that will stay open all the time.

She added: “We have to get some marine piles in the river to support the edge of the stand and the edge of the river walkway. To do that, obviously we have to really careful with the environmental impacts of what we are doing.”

One of the most unique challenges presented by the redevelopment is the fact the site is positioned by the riverside, according to Richards.

Richards said: “It is by the riverside, so it is quite a constrained site and you cannot easily get vehicles down to the stand. So, a lot of the construction supplies and also material going offsite is going to be done by the river.”

WSP has previously worked on other stadia, including Levi’s stadium in California and BC Place Stadium in Vancouver. The firm has also worked with Chelsea FC on its plans construct a new, larger stadium on its historic Stamford Bridge site in London - which were put on hold by club owner Roman Abramovich earlier this year.

Richards added: “Stamford Bridge was quite constrained as a site because you had railway lines down two sides and obviously you are in the middle of a city centre again. Fulham is sort of similar as it is very heavily constrained by what is going on around it, but also, it is that riverside location as well.

“That meant that during the planning stage when we were looking at all the impacts, it just had some unique things there as well. The Thames at that location gets used by sailors so it is really important with the wind testing that RWDI undertook brought in Southampton University and combined what the wind implications were with what the sailing implications would be in those different wind conditions.”

WSP has also confirmed that it has plans to replace an existing river wall at the site with a sheet-pile wall. “We will do that by installing the sheet piles slightly in front of the existing river wall and then removing that river wall behind,” Richards explained.

All the steel work for the project is going to be fabricated off-site and then brought to site on barges, Richards also revealed.

Works onsite are set to begin March next year and are expected to be completed in 2021. Construction will be phased to allow Fulham FC to use Craven Cottage while the project is under way.

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