Merrion upgrade underway

Published:  29 September, 2014

Leeds city centre parking facility’s transformation on target for completion in November 2014 

Forming part of a £11.9m upgrade of Leeds’ Merrion Centre, its 950 space multi-storey car park is undergoing a major and much-needed refurbishment after fifty years of exposure to water, de-icing salts, airborne contaminants and the constant wear and tear of traffic.

In a bid to modernise and upgrade the facility, owner Town Centre Securities has embarked on a comprehensive 48-week refurbishment programme - due to be complete in November this year - that involves structural repairs, new waterproof decking, improved signage and bay markings, LED lighting and improved security and ticketing systems as well as new diagrid façade treatment with feature lighting. The transformation will also include ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition), contactless payment pay stations, new lifts, customer only pedestrian access gates and wider parking bays. 

It is hoped the new and improved parking facility will be the most modern and technologically advanced in Leeds and a more stylish and welcoming environment for visitors to the centre and to Leeds Arena opposite.  

“The Merrion Centre car park is also the main car park for visitors to the Leeds Arena across the road and it was absolutely vital that the car park was there to serve the Arena visitors as well as visitors to the centre throughout the project,” says Ben Ziff, managing director at operator Town Centre Car Parks. 

And he adds: “The car park was in dire need of structural strengthening and an overall facelift and we had to find a method of refurbishing the car park rather than knocking it down and starting again, keeping it operational and maintaining income.” 

With a long track record of success in concrete repairs and strengthening, Makers Construction was appointed by consulting engineers Curtins Consulting and main contractor GMI Construction Group to carry out the repairs, while Sika – which was approached early in the design process – carried out on-site testing of the reinforced concrete structure in order to provide an appraisal of the extent of corrosion and come up with a cost-effective and technically viable ways of mitigating corrosion.  

The phased refurbishment of the ageing concrete structure included a series of major concrete and structural repairs, new expansion joints and new anti-carbonation and waterproof coatings.

And the statistics are phenomenal. The project has involved repairs to 32,000 sq m of soffits, columns and beams – the size of four football pitches - and over 20,000 sq m of parking decks and ramps across eight levels. Makers used 20 cubic meters of repair mortar, applied 21km of carbon fibre plate and drilled 37,000 holes to put in new anchors.  

“The car park was old and it was in a ropey state,” explains Graeme Middleton, regional business development manager at Makers Construction. “The project had been on the board for 10 years and originally demolition and re-building had been recommended. In the end, after further surveys, it was decided that the car park could be made safe and modern with major refurbishment.”  

Owing to the necessity of keeping this key city centre car park operational throughout the 48-week refurbishment programme, work was carried out one level at a time in order to minimise disruption to both tenants and shoppers. 

A wide range of products were used to meet the different needs of each level in order to make them durable and resistant to chemicals and abrasion. The top deck, which is open to the elements, had to have crack bridging properties to accommodate freeze-thawing and exposure to UV. 

In order to strengthen the structure of the car park, Sika proposed the use of a carbon fibre system using SikaWrap Anchors and SikaWrap 300, a reinforced carbon fibre fabric – the refurbishment is thought to be the largest carbon fibre project in Europe - while Sika CarboDur Plates were used to strengthen the reinforced concrete beams on the car park structure.  

“There was a mixture of pre-cast and in-situ elements and what had happened was that the decking which had been laid in-situ had delineated from the pre-cast concrete underneath meaning that you could feel the whole car park shake; a worry when the car park holds in excess of 900 cars,” explains Middleton. “A major part of the project was to tie the pre-cast and in-situ elements together to stop the vibration. We did that using carbon fibre – a new innovative technique and the first of its kind in the UK.” 

An effective corrosion management system was required due to high chlorides levels with Sika Galvashield Sacrificial Anodes applied to the concrete patch repairs to protect against corrosion. Sika Ferrogard 903+ was spray applied to the remaining areas of the concrete slab to protect against further corrosion occurring to the steel reinforcement due to the presence of chlorides and carbonation.  

And Sika Rapid Repair Mortar was used for the smaller concrete deck repairs due to its fast application process, level of adhesion and long term performance, while Sika Armorex Armorcrete was used for deeper and large volume surface repairs. 

A mixture of Sikafloor products were used for the middle decks including a moisture resistant primer, a membrane with crack bridging properties and a seal coating with anti-slip qualities and resistance to abrasion. 

For the top decks, which were exposing the deck to water ingress in large areas, a fast-drying Sika waterproof decking system was applied. 

Once the structural strengthening was complete and coatings applied to the decks, the team focused on enhancing the aesthetics: “The soffits have been painted white and the lighting has been fully upgraded so that what was a dark and dingy car park is now light and bright,” says Middleton. “There are also colour-coded decks in blue and grey with one colour for bays and another for pedestrian walkways and high quality directional signage for wayfinding.” 

Efforts have also been made to make the car park as green as possible. LED lights have been fitted with sensors so they’re only on when people are there, there are electric vehicle charging points for customers and brand new lifts that run twice as fast as the old ones as well as being energy efficient, charging themselves on the way down with enough power to send them back up. 

“Town Centre Securities’ aim has been to create a pleasant environment for users and to improve the shopper experience – they have been progressive and refreshing,” says Middleton. “The tenants want to maximise footfall and creating a state-of-the-art car park that is safe, light and easy to navigate makes it as easy as possible for people to park so they’re not tempted to go to a competitor.” 

“Previously it was a dump – it’s a 52 year old car park and it has been a big job to overhaul it, to improve the aesthetics and to make it futureproof,” concludes Ziff. “We wanted to create an environment that was spotless, very well lit, well maintained and convenient with integrated technologies like ANPR and I know we’ll have achieved that when the work’s complete.

“The focus then will be on constant ad-hoc maintenance to keep it looking its best.”

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