Adam Czarnecki's letter in December's Ground Engineering ('Hotel on sticky ground') raised a number of interesting points, however it must be remembered that on this particular project the overriding constraint was the target opening date of the hotel, June 1998. A deadline set so that it could be available for the European Community con- ference.
Buro Happold was appointed as structural engineer for the project and designed the ground investigation in conjunction with the client's environmental consultant, who had already carried out a desk study of the site in January 1997 which indicated the potential for contamination to be present on the site. During the ground investigation in March 1997, it very rapidly became clear that contaminants were in fact present and included asbestos, gas-works wastes and oils.
As noted by Czarnecki, none of these contaminants are insurmountable for a 'hard-end' use such as a hotel, given sufficient time, but it must also be remembered that the very 'soft target' of the local surface water environment was potentially at risk through contaminant disturbance during development.
The decision to relocate the hotel was taken on 24 March 1997 and simply came down to compliance with the construction programme. The proposed hotel had a basement and also required piled foundations; these activities would have necessitated handling and disposal of special wastes. There was insufficient time in the programme to enable the required approvals and licenses to be put in place, whilst the relocation option only added 2-3 weeks to the programme. Time which could be made up later.
The geotechnical constraints associated with the relocation mainly related to temporary construction conditions. The piled solution for the hotel remained unchanged. The decision to relocate the hotel, therefore, was the more practical solution when viewed in terms of the ability to meet the client's programme.
Buro Happold, Camden Mill,
Lower Bristol Road, Bath BA2 3DQ.