On the most recent visit on November 27th we were met again by a small team from Chatsworth Homes.
This included the site manager and Kevin Batt the managing director. Kevin greeted us with the statement that they were still at the stage of “cracking the eggs to make the omelette”. Old asbestos has been removed and ‘pigeon problems’ solved’. New window openings all around the outer walls that match the upper floor windows have now been cut through, ready for later completion. However, the company is well on schedule. The pool is now filled in so that there is a continuous basic working surface over the whole of the ground floor, making it look much larger than it did when the empty pool took up so much of this area. The cavity of the planned small hydrotherapy pool in what was the shallow end of the old swimming pool has been temporarily covered over to allow for the erection of the framework to support the first floor. The huge steel girders making up this skeletal structure have now all been put in place. This was achieved with hoists called ‘genie lifts’ which looked far too insubstantial to raise the massive weight of the girders. In particular, the thin cables of these lifts used to pull up the girders seemed quite beyond that task, but they are apparently tested to weight limits several times those needed for the present job.
The next step will be to construct the floor area for the upper floor. This will take about another 3 weeks to a month. The wooden joists, in total around 3000 linear metres, will be bolted to the framework of girders and then 250 sheets of chipboard will be laid over the joists. The final surface that is placed over the chipboard is still to be decided. It will have to conform to strict medical regulations that ensure it can be easily and safely cleaned, thereby avoiding any risk of infection or contamination by disease-causing bacteria or other micro-organisms.
After the first floor is completed, work will then start on removing the old false ceiling, and repairing, restoring and restructuring the original roof and skylight.
As we walked around the rest of the building, it was apparent that the other vital areas of the health centre such as the waiting room, recovery room and doctor’s surgeries and offices are still in a state of total disrepair and will be one of the last jobs to be completed. However, the floor for plant that will run the heating, air conditioning and other basic services has now been constructed. It will be very interesting to see how the conversion project has progressed when we next visit early in the New Year.
I would like to thank Kevin Batt, managing director of Chatsworth Homes for organising these visits and also thank him and his staff for taking the time to show us around and answer all our questions so expertly.
Photos showing the internal appearance of the Baths on an earlier visit as well as on this more recent one can be seen at: http://designbristol.ning.com/photo/albums/conversion-of-bristol-north-baths-project