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Union Street Aberdeen

Cleaning Granite Facades in Northeast Scotland – Revitalising Shopping Area

1 Mar 2018

The Secret to Cleaning Up Aberdeen’s Union Street Starts with a Sponge, says Presserv’s Allan Durham

Where once the main thoroughfares of Scotland’s cities stood proudly amongst the best shopping streets in the world, they are now the domain of the fast-food restaurant, pound shop and bookie.

Union Street Aberdeen Granite Facades

Once important shopping streets like Aberdeen’s Union Street with their historic buildings are no longer the vibrant and bustling hubs of activity that they once were, as retailers continue to fall prey to the shiny allure of the shopping centre and consumers cement their relationship with online shopping.

With almost £2.5 million worth of funding earmarked for the rejuvenation of Aberdeen’s Union Street over the next five years, there is much work to be done to improve the north east’s premier shopping street to its former glory – and Aberdeen-based surface preparation specialist Presserv Ltd has the solution to return the sparkle to the city centre’s granite.

Allan Durham, managing director of Presserv, says, “There are many aspects to revitalising main shopping streets like Union Street, but one of the easiest to tackle first is to freshen up what is already there. Granite in the sunlight sparkles, but years of pollution can dull its sheen.

“Traditional blasting methods, which may be used to clean up the exterior of a building, utilise water, grit or acidic materials to clean off contaminants and ingrained dirt. However, using such methods can seriously damage the granite beneath the layers of dirt and present environmental problems to both people and surrounding areas.

“It’s well known that if you look up while walking down Union Street you’ll see some incredible architecture, so measures should be set in place to prevent any damage to this. Rather than using traditional cleaning methods, we believe the council should utilise Sponge-Jet – an innovative blasting technology which uses small pieces of sponge as its abrasive substance. Highly recyclable, the technology is extremely environmentally-friendly and causes very little dust, meaning everyday life can continue on the street below any blasting work.”

It was reported in September 2015 that Aberdeen City Council planned to sandblast the buildings on Union Street, similar to the work undertaken on Marischal College in 2010 – a move which held widespread support from councillors and the public. The project, however, stalled the following year and was not pursued to completion. Presserv’s environmentally-friendly and cost-effective method of cleaning granite provides a viable alternative for a project that already has public backing.

The Union Street Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme, which forms part of Aberdeen City Council’s 25-year City Centre Masterplan, was launched last year and has the backing of Historic Environment Scotland, Aberdeen City Heritage Trust and Aberdeen Inspired. The project aims to provide funding to repair and enhance the physical fabric of properties in the conservation area, ensuring that Union Street’s architectural and historic significance is protected.

“It is important that councils, institutions, architects and engineers up and down the country are aware and familiar with the latest technologies capable of preserving our heritage and bringing our historic buildings back to their original splendour,” Allan continues. “We are passionate about successful restoration of these great buildings and landmarks.

“In geographical areas where softer building materials, such as sandstone & brick are the norm, conventional blasting techniques and chemical cleaning methods can cause irreparable damage to the fine detailing and substrate, Sponge-Jet blasting can be the answer.

“Sponge-Jet has already been used successfully around the world in a number of high-profile restoration projects. The concrete exterior of New York’s Guggenheim, the cast iron dome on top of the US Capitol building, and a bronze statue at the US Marine Corps memorial have all benefitted from the less-corrosive cleaning process.

“In 2014, Sponge-Jet was used to restore Longfellow Bridge in Massachusetts to great result – a project which bears many similarities to the work required on Union Street.

“Over the 110 years since the granite bridge was set in place, its facing had become covered in graffiti, dirt, efflorescence – a layer of salt built up from contact with saltwater – and environmental contaminants. The once-sparkling silver bridge had become a dull grey colour.

“By using Sponge-Jet materials, the bridge was able to be restored to its original condition at a fraction of the cost of traditional blast cleaning. The sponges used in blasting are easily collected following use and can be used up to 10 times – meaning abrasive requirements are reduced by up to 90%.

“Sponge-Jet also produces very low levels of dust meaning that large areas do not need to be closed off while it is in use, meaning Union Street could continue to function both as a work destination and traffic thoroughfare – a win-win situation for all involved.”

Presserv holds the exclusive rights to Sponge-Jet application in Scotland, and is a global leader in preservation, surface preparation and specialist coatings with over 20 years’ experience in the United Kingdom. Specialists in asset integrity protection, management and supervision, Presserv utilises leading technologies to provide unparalleled service to a range of industries.

Presserv’s portfolio of services includes development of preservation procedures for assets, equipment and spares utilising vapour corrosion technology from Cortec; surface preparation from Sponge-Jet, Bristle Blast and Clean Bore; surface coatings from Stopaq and Jotun; and above-ground storage tank preservation from Corrologic.

To find out more about Presserv visit www.presserv.com or email [email protected]

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Location: Union Street, Aberdeen, Northeast Scotland

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