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Building the Brighton i360
The stages of construction
17 October 2014

The construction site of the Brighton i360 is always going to entice attention. Not only is it slap bang in the middle of the city’s most popular destination, the beach, the design is so different to anything else out there that people need to see it to believe it.

But what can you see? What will you see? How will it appear? What have we been doing so far? What needs to be done? The construction of the i360 is a complex procedure with many, many elements involved and an expert heading each part up.

We have spoken to all the relevant folk and worked out a basic timeline that will help you understand more about the build: where we have been, where we are now and where we are going.

June 2014: Let the works commence!

Although the project was launched in 2006, we did not reach financial close until June 2014 as there were delays getting the finance agreed. You can read more about how we have financed the project in an informative blog we wrote back in July. It gives a great insight into why Brighton and Hove Council stepped in and how the loan they have provided is part of a greater strategy to create income for the city.

Around 100 contracts were signed and the project officially started.

Summer 2014

On Site: The first spade in the ground event coincided with the launch of the West Pier Arches businesses.

The first major works on any site involve clearing and preparing the ground. For the i360 this meant a focus on services and sewer diversions. We knew there would be 8 electrical cables and a Victorian sewer beneath us, but we were not exactly sure where! Planning the work and excavating the site has been a painstakingly delicate procedure and we are still working hard to build the 120 metres of sewer pipe and the concrete tunnel that will house the new cables. You can read more about this stage on our earlier blog: What lies beneath.

The Tower: Over in Southern Holland, the 17 separate ‘cans’ have already arrived. Each can started as a flat piece of steel before spending a few weeks in a massive roller. Once tubular, they were machine-welded together and re-rolled to make sure they were completely smooth.

To allow us to bolt together the tubes, we need each can to have a lip. These are called flanges and because of the very precise nature of our cans, they are being forged in a specialist factory in Spain before being shipped over to Southern Holland.

The Pod: In France, Poma have started manufacture of the bull wheels that fit inside the tower and will be used in the drive system to move the pod.

Winter 2014 /15:

On Site: Once we have managed the services, we start getting the site ready for the build. This all begins with piling: the process in which you drill the deep foundations needed for any construction work. We need to create 11m tall concrete piles in the shingle ground, which means that we need a 30m high piling rig. The ground needs to be perfectly level for the rig, so whilst we are drilling there will be no other major works taking place.

The Tower: The flanges arrive in South Holland and work begins welding them to the cans. Once complete, they are shipped to Rotterdam. Work then commences on the secondary steelwork, including ladders and platforms that sit inside each can.

Spring 2015:

On Site: With the piling in place we can start to excavate the basement. We are removing more weight than we are putting back, so we know the ground beneath the shingle can support the tower. There is more information about the science behind the tower in last weeks blog.

There will be an enormous concrete pour once the basement has been excavated. Over 4000 tonnes will be poured in a continuous 30 hour operation. That is the same as 14,000 baths or 5,600,000 cups of tea!

The Tower: The completed cans will be blast-cleaned, hot-metal sprayed and painted so that they are protected from corrosion.

The Pod: Manufacture of the component parts of the pod begins. It will be created in segments – like an orange – and will fit together perfectly around the tower.

Spring / Summer 2015

On Site / The Tower: The most economical way to transport 17 steel tubes with a combined weight of 1000 tonnes, is sea freight. This is not unusual, most heavy freight travels by sea. What is different about the i360 is the destination of the shipment. Shoreham Port would be the obvious choice, with lorries to move each piece to the Brighton site. Why involve the lorries though when we are a site next to the sea? That’s right! We shall be bringing our freight via sea barge directly to the site. It is going to be fascinating seeing the huge tubes arrive; the long-awaited beach-landings!

Summer 2015

On Site / The Tower: Those who read the blog last week will know that we are defying the laws of gravity and building the tower from the top down. Well, it’s not really defying gravity – instead of using a crane, we are going to do it with a huge jacking machine that is 20 storeys high! Parts 17,16 and 15 (the bottom segments) will all go into place and then the jack will be built around them. Part 1 will then be shunted along on specially designed rails to sit above part 15, then we press lift. Part 1 goes up and part 2 gets shunted along to sit beneath it. Each new connection requires 2 days to lift and bolt together. We use bolts as it is going to be impossible to weld on the seafront.

While the tower is constructed, the team will get the final bits of concrete frame in place for base building and complete the site drainage.

The Pod: The Poma team assemble the completed pod in France to test it, then dismantle it for the journey to Brighton by road.

Autumn / Winter 2015

On Site / The Pod: In she comes via Eurotunnel: our segments of  glass pod. Hollandia, our main contractor, hands over to Poma to begin the assembly on-site. It is at this point that people will start to get a sense of how big our pod will be. Although we are going to open it to 200 people at a time, it can actually take a lot more.

Spring / Summer 2016

On Site: The pod is completed and the drive system is installed and tested. While everyone watches our glass pod take shape around our magnificent tower, the team below will be hard at work on the base building. This is the last part of the build to take place and will see our tower turn into an attraction. The Victorian toll booths will be put back in place as ticket booths, the West Pier columns will go in, the restaurant and conference rooms will be created and our visitor shop will appear.

All that’s left is to open our doors!

 

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