A project delivered by engineering specialist Spencer Group to safeguard the structural integrity of the Humber Bridge has been shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Better Public Building Award.
The complex scheme to replace load-bearing “A-frames” connecting the main span bridge deck to the towers at either end of the bridge is in contention for the accolade, which is the pinnacle of the British Construction Industry Awards 2015.
The Humber Bridge scheme is the only one from the Yorkshire and Humber region vying for the award, which is open to construction projects commissioned by or on behalf of central or local government or by a grant-aided organisation.
Hull-based Spencer worked with global engineering and design consultancy Arup on the £4m project for the Humber Bridge Board, which was completed in April this year. Arup developed the design solution for Spencer to implement.
The Humber Bridge remained open throughout the project, even during critical periods when the bridge loads were transferred to temporary and then permanent new supports.
Spencer’s project manager for the contract, Daniel Smith, said: “We are very pleased to be nominated for this award and delighted to be in such good company alongside some enormous schemes, such as Crossrail.
“In terms of the contract value, the Humber Bridge project is relatively small compared to others in contention, but this award is more about the quality of the engineering and innovation involved, rather than the scale or cost of the schemes.
“The benefits of the project to the local community are clear, as it involved the successful replacement of critical parts of an iconic structure of huge importance to the economy across the Humber and the people of the region.
“We were able to complete the project without the need for the bridge to close at any time, which was a major achievement and a significant benefit for the client, the Humber Bridge Board, and the thousands of drivers who use the bridge every day.”
The four solid steel A-frames sited below the bridge’s 1,410-metre main span had to be replaced because the A-frame bearings, which allow them to move as the bridge contracts and expands due to the weather and traffic movements, had become worn over time.
Spencer replaced the A-frames and bearings with a more robust system of “pendels” – load-bearing arms – and “wind shoes”, which absorb wind loading on the bridge deck and reduce the associated loads on the new bearing system. Spencer also carried out strengthening work on the bridge.
Richard Burges, managing director of Spencer Engineering, said: “The delivery of this project was due largely to excellent collaboration between us, Arup and the Humber Bridge Board. A number of significant technical and logistical challenges occurred during the project, which could only be solved by all parties working closely together.
“The deep engineering understanding within the Spencer business was also a key factor, as it enabled us to work with Arup and the client to deploy innovative solutions to the challenges we faced.
“Complex, multi-disciplinary projects involving collaboration both at high level and, critically, on the ground between the teams delivering the works really hit the sweet spot for Spencer. The Humber Bridge works demonstrated our capability in delivering such challenging schemes.
“The Humber Bridge is an architecturally astounding structure and we are very proud that we have carried out a number of projects on the crossing. This scheme will enable the bridge to continue to carry traffic for many years into the future as a vitally important part of the region’s transport infrastructure.”
Arup’s project manager for the works Richard Hornby said: “We are delighted that the project has been recognised with this prestigious award nomination.
“Arup undertook detailed design of a novel replacement of the bridge’s main span A-frame bearing rockers and subsequently provided project management and supervision during Spencer’s site works.
“These were the most challenging structural works undertaken to the Humber Bridge since its opening in 1981 and Spencer delivered many difficult tasks with exacting precision.”
The Humber Bridge project has already been recognised at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) annual Yorkshire and Humber Awards, taking the Smeaton Award for projects worth between £500,000 and £5m.
The scheme has also been nominated in the Civil Engineering Project of the Year (up to £10m) category at the British Construction Industry Awards, which will be presented at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel on October 14.
Acclaim for the project reinforces Spencer’s reputation for delivering successfully complex, high-level bridge works. It has used its trademarked gantry system, the Cable Crawler, to enable vital dehumidification work to prevent corrosion of cables on several suspension bridges, including the Humber Bridge.
A Spencer team is also close to completing work on the largest retro-fitted bridge dehumidification project ever undertaken worldwide – on the East Bridge in Denmark, the third largest suspension bridge in the world.