When the tall ships arrived last September, Wood Wharf was a wonderful sight, full of ships and people. Fast forward, nearly a year later and we have a very different site. Construction has started on the development to broaden and extend the Canary Wharf Estate. The masterplan is to create a development with a mix of uses, providing over 3,200 new homes, nearly 2 million sq ft of commercial office space, and a further 335,000 sq ft of shops, restaurants and community uses.
However this is no ordinary site because part of the plans is to reclaiming part of the dock area by constructing a cofferdam. It is expected that 9000sqm of land will be reclaimed from West India Dock South, but this will only achieved by some major work on the cofferdam which will make it watertight to be drained and then filled in.
The cofferdam design features 160 tubular piles 1220mm in diameter socketed 10m into the dock bed. The tubular piles are up to 21m long and each pile is cased, drilled then installed into place below the water. In between the tubular piles sheet piles are installed to create a watertight retaining structure for the 10m head of water being held back.
This work has already began and the sight of large cranes on pontoons being transported around have become commonplace. Although The Wood Wharf project is a large project it does face a number of difficulties that makes it not one of the easiest development. For example access to the site is limited especially for lorries, therefore the constructors are bringing in materials by river where possible. There is also the problem of operating within a dock area which needs testing of dock walls and of silt in the dock. Lack of access means that cranes are taken around the site on large pontoons.The dock is still in use with shipping, so movement of equipment and barges and other marine vessels has to be cordinated with other users.
Sometimes we are so used to developments that we underestimate the difficulties that they sometimes have to overcome. The Wood Wharf project is a good opportunity to watch the different stages of development at close quaters, so if you are in the area over the next few months why not take a look.