Historic buildings and sustainable design

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Historic Buildings

Historic admin buildingThe Bornabreenan reservoirs in South County Dublin are a lovely peaceful area to go walking or fishing. While I was there recently, I was pleased to find a delightful cut stone administration building on the grounds. The building dates from the construction of the reservoirs in the 1880’s and it is still used as an administration building today. 

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War Bunkers: Part of The Atlantic Wall

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Historic Buildings

Model of H667 bunker
Model of H667 bunker

I recently spent a lovely two weeks in South West France, in Gironde. Its a lovely part of France with long sandy beaches and great weather. A short walk along the beach from where we were staying was an old Second World War German defence complex. Readers will know that I have an interest investigating how old reinforced concrete ages (click here) and also looking at historic bunkers (click here).

The complex is located on the slopes of the sand dunes on the beach. Wind blown sand has covered a lot of it. But three reinforced concrete bunkers remain exposed. Two of these are large H667 bunkers, one of which still contains a 5cm anti-tank gun, while a toburk without armament is also present.

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Skew arch canal bridges in County Kildare

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Historic Buildings

Naas Canal Bridge
Naas Canal Bridge

A skew arch bridge is one where the bridge deck is at an angle to the obstacle it is crossing. In the case of a straight canal a skew bridge would be one which is not at right angles to the canal it is crossing.

Skew stone arch bridges are extremely difficult to construct as the joints between the cut stone blocks are not at right angles and every block used is uniquely shaped. Skew arches were in fact first designed and constructed during Roman times. They were rarely used, if at all, between the end of the Roman empire and the start of the canal and railway building boom 250 years ago.

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U-Boat base in Saint Nazaire: Too big to knock

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Historic Buildings

U-boats in the base during the war

I discussed buildings and roads as tourist attractions before, here. But traveling through France some years ago, I came across the ugly U-boat base in Saint Nazaire, which is an unlikely tourist attraction but one I was fascinated by. I was shocked by the vast size of this building. These U-boat bases were built during the Second World War to protect submarines while they were being serviced and prepared for their next trip. This huge structure in Saint Nazaire is only one of the many located throughout Europe. The majority are located in France where there are five in total. These are located in Brest, Lorient, Saint Nazaire, La Rochelle and Bordeaux. Others are located in Norway, Germany and I think Italy.

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What if an earthquake hit the UK & Ireland?

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Historic Buildings

The pictures of the devastation from the recent earthquake in Christchurch are truly shocking. It will be a long time before the city and the residents recover. Britain and Ireland are lucky to be located on a relatively stable part of the earth’s crust and rarely experience anything more than a light tremor.  If there was a small earthquake here, which is possible although unlikely, how much damage would it cause to our building stock?

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Sallins Sugar Factory: Ireland’s first reinforced concrete building….or is it?

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Historic Buildings

One of the first reinforced concrete buildings built in Ireland was Sallins Sugar Factory, according to the website Kildare.ie. It was built on the banks of the Grand Canal about 1km to the East of Sallins village in County Kildare by a German man around the time of the First World War.

Sallins Sugar Factory

Reinforced concrete is now the most widely used building material and is made by pouring concrete around steel reinforcement. The addition of steel reinforcement transforms the concrete into a much stronger material. The actual quotation from Kildare.ie is below;

On the north bank shortly after passing under the rail bridge you will see a concrete shell which is all that remains of an attempt by a German national to build a sugar – factory about the time of the First World War. The enterprise failed but the building is noted as one of the first to use reinforced concrete. Sallins is a gem of a canal-side village………….

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