The Royal Opera Arcade 5 April 2014

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Client royal opera arcade

The Challenge

The Royal Opera Arcade dates from 1818 and is the world's oldest existing shopping arcade. It is located between Pall Mall and Charles II Street, whilst also being adjacent to Royal Opera Theatre and New Zealand House, which is accessible from within the arcade itself.

Designed by John Nash The Royal Opera Arcade was ahead of its time, dramatically increasing retail frontage and it remains the forerunner of modern day shopping centres.

As a a specialist Mechanical and Electrical engineering consultancy, FHP ESS (Engineering Services Solutions), hold a number of historical sites amongst their client portfolio including the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare's Globe.

FHP ESS have been asked to assist the Royal Opera Arcade in replacing the water main, believed to be an old style Victorian lead pipe, which runs through the passage of the arcade, as it is believed to be damaged in places.

The Solution

As such, an Underground Mapping Survey was required to locate and map the position and depth of the water main, as well as any other services that were located within the arcade walk-way.

Due to the level of pedestrian traffic and the level of vehicle movement in Pall Mall and Charles II Street anticipated during daytime hours, GEOTEC Surveys demonstrated flexibility in working during evening/ night time hours and were able to carry out survey activities around a function taking place in the galleries occupying the front of the arcade and the wine bar in the middle.

An opera was also taking place in the adjacent Royal Opera Theatre, for which the stage doors back onto the survey area, which also required consideration with regards to noise.

There were a number of water valves within the arcade itself which required investigation, as well as manhole covers in Pall Mall and Charles II Street, which were lifted, the ducts threaded and then traced, which had to be completed when the area was at its quietest.

In order to display our results accurately and to scale, our survey team also collected the necessary topographical survey data relating to above ground features to allow our results to be presented in 2D plan view format, whilst also displaying the depths of buried services, where possible.

Whilst on-site, our two man survey team utilised our well established methodology for a survey of this nature, employing a selection and combination of techniques including ground penetrating radar, cover lifting, threading, induction, use of radio-frequency detection (active and passive), sondes and dyes as well as using any available undertakers statutory records and local site knowledge, in conjunction with the physical detection activities.

"The survey was carried out very professionally and was well co-ordinated and caused no disruption to the arcade tenants. I was very pleased with the final result"

Mechanical engineer, FHP EES

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Methods & Techniques

  • Radio Frequency
  • GPR
  • Resistivity / Imaging
  • Electro Magnetics
  • Micro-Gravity

The Result

The objective to locate the water, specifically, was made more complex by the presence of lighting, power, telecommunications and gas services also being present, which were also located and mapped onto the accompanying drawing extract.

Our results therefore indicated far more services below ground than the above ground clues could allude to and the drawings produced have allowed FHP ESS to produce a feasibility report for their client, indicating the best achievable route for a new water main, whilst causing as little disruption and the least amount of excavations as possible within this historical site.