How we did it: West Ham Bus Garage

A new home for an east London bus operator aims be the largest, greenest garage of its kind in the UK

West Ham Bus Garage: roof design picked to contain noise
West Ham Bus Garage: roof design picked to contain noise

Project: The £50 million West Ham Bus Garage, capable of accommodating 320 buses. It boasts significant green features and can generate some of its own electricity through a wind turbine.

Background: The East London Bus Group's garage near Hackney Marshes had to close to make way for the new Olympic Park. A new site in Canning Town was found.

Who is behind it? The Olympic Delivery Authority, Transport for London, Pringle Richards Sharratt Architects, engineers Arup, Capital Project Consultancy, NTR Planning and Mansell Construction Services.

Project aims: To provide a new home for the bus operator central to the routes it would serve and which could be called the UK's largest, greenest bus garage.

Skills involved: Planning, design, engineering and transport expertise

The task was to find a site suitable for building a huge bus garage in a densely populated part of London within a short timescale.

Construction of the Olympic Park for the London 2012 games forced the move from the old garage in Waterden Road, close to Hackney Marshes. The London Development Agency (LDA) obtained a compulsory purchase order to ensure that the site would be available for the Olympic Delivery Authority.

So there was a pressing need to identify a new location for the garage within easy reach of the bus routes.Two sites in Canning Town were identified, but one would have required a compulsory purchase order. The other, in Stephenson Street, was already owned by the LDA, so that one was chosen.

Preparing the new site was not easy, however, because it was partially occupied by Parcelforce. A new location for the service was found at Lakeside in Essex, but this requi-red planning permission. So while the process was playing out, a temporary garage was needed and the permanent garage had to be built in two phases.

"It was a logistical nightmare," declares Transport for London strategic projects manager Paul Ross. It was made worse by the fact that the local authority, the London Borough of Newham, had not earmarked a site for a bus garage in its masterplan. The alternative location it suggested was contaminated.

However, Newham was not the planning authority for the chosen site, which came under the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation. The corporation granted planning approval but bowed to Newham's wishes by allowing for a large residential development on the same site.

This meant that designs for the garage had to be sympathetic to the planned homes and soundproofing requirements formed a major part of the brief. This effectively ruled out the "tin shed" construction of many bus garages.

Much of the work of washing and refuelling buses occurs late at night and services start early in the morning, which would disturb nearby residents. A half-barrel roof design was settled on to help contain noise.

Another major aim was to achieve 20 per cent renewable energy use in the building. A wind turbine capable of generating 100kW of electricity was planned, which amounted to ten per cent of the garage's needs. Other green features include a sedum roof, rainwater harvesting, natural ventilation, biomass boilers and combined heat and power units. Skylights reduce the need for artificial lighting and recycled water is used for washing buses.

The bus company had to start the move to the new site in 2008 and began operating its services even before designs were finalised. Because there were no facilities on site, vehicles had to be taken to Rainham, 20km away, for maintenance during this period.

The need for a soundproof design and the drive for sustainability added about 50 per cent to the overall cost of £50 million. The project was completed in June and West Ham Bus Garage officially opened a month later.

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