The condition of the five buildings comprising the Grand Hotel, shops and offices is superficially poor yet structurally sound. The notable exception is the Colmore Row and Church Street elevations of the Plevins building (completed in 1879). Built as a stone building, its street elevations are now painted. Behind the paint, the stone is now much decayed and this has led to the building being added to the English Heritage Priority Heritage at Risk list.

In order to re-use of the buildings for hotel use extensive works of alteration, reinstatement, refurbishment and upgrading are required – not only to meet the normal functional, operational and commercial needs of today, but also to meet significantly more demanding regulatory requirements (such as improved fire protection, and renewal of mechanical and electrical services).

General Condition Comments

The shops along Colmore Row at street level and the offices at first and second floor levels on the same frontage are in reasonably sound condition.

The remainder of the frontage block (Building 1) and Buildings 2A, 2B, 3 and 4 fronting Church Street and Barwick Street, in which the hotel was located, are showing the consequences of lack of occupation and use over a number years.

Hortons’ Estate have kept the building wind and water tight since the hotels closure in 2002 at considerable expense, during which time the roofs of Martin and Chamberlain’s Building 4 have been renewed.

Many parts of the interiors of the former hotel, although considerably and adversely altered over many years, are generally in sound structural condition, although the majority of the late 19th and early 20th century interior decorations have been lost or damaged.

Internally the existing bedrooms are not currently of the standard to meet modern hotel requirements and require considerable refurbishment and alteration to meet the necessary 4 star standards. The public spaces in the building require modernisation and are currently in a poor state of disrepair. The Grosvenor Suite (which includes the grand ballroom) is in good condition but will also require costly and sensitive refurbishment.

Plevins Painted Stone Facades (Colmore Row and Church Street return)

  • Condition: Large areas of the two main façades are now recognised as being in a state of severe disrepair.
  • Considerable decay and loss of material has resulted in inclusion on English Heritage Priority Heritage at Risk list.
  • Problems with the Colmore Row façade are not new and have been identified on many occasions over the last hundred years.
  • Cause: constructed from a relatively low-durability stone; poor detailing; incorrectly bedded stones; pollution; masonry repaired in 1978 using materials now considered inappropriate.
  • Following a fall of masonry from the upper levels in 2003, the facades have been shrouded in scaffolding.

Hortons’ Estate is confident that the inherent quality of the building and the quality of the proposed scheme will set it apart from its competitors and restore a much loved iconic building to the forefront of Birmingham’s architectural, civic, and commercial life.

Research and investigation into the Grand Hotel

Birmingham City Council and English Heritage understand that radical intervention is required to redevelop the Grand Hotel. Since 2002, Hortons’ Estate have spent over £1.5m in fees endeavouring to find a sustainable viable solution for the Grand – including that of the facades. The current scheme is the result of a heritage focused strategy following the advice of the Drivers Jonas Deloitte strategy review of 2008.

Arup Facade Engineering were appointed in 2010 to find a definitive answer regarding the conservation and remediation of the facade.

AFE were to establish if a suitable treatment method exists to restore the structural integrity and durability of the stonework, in order to achieve a long term service life.

A detailed four stage report culminating in a prototype trial sample and technical evaluation study (on part of the Church Street elevation) was completed in October 2011. (Permission was given by Birmingham City Council and English Heritage to undertake trial works in February 2011).

The findings of the trial have been presented to Birmingham City Council, English Heritage and relevant stakeholders.

The solution must have the agreement of the Stakeholders, be worthy of a the regenerated Grand Hotel as part of a £30m scheme and will require the granting of listed building consent in order to be implemented.

Findings of Trial Works to the Plevins Facade

The stone facade is coated with a cementitious layer of render and paint. The best way of testing and removing loose render and granulated stone has been identified.

The extent of decayed stone is worse at higher levels – some areas requiring complete replacement.

All elements should be sound, some repaired and some replaced with either stone, cast stone or pre-cast concrete and then repainted. (EH recommended the selective use of cast stone in 2004).

Paint

The facade is listed as a painted stone facade. It is not viable to return the facade to un-coated natural stone. The facade has numerous historic cementitious repairs, staining from a previously used sealant, and will benefit visually and structurally from the paint.

The paint that Arup have specified is in accordance with EH guidance – it is a tried and tested type of breathable exterior mineral paint that forms a permanent chemical bond to mineral substrates, is breathable, and has a durable/long service life.

The colour has been carefully selected with the assistance of the Stakeholders.

Asbestos Removal and Soft Strip-out

In February 2011, a scope of works was prepared for the building to undertake the removal of asbestos in the building. It was confirmed that throughout the works to remove any elements of asbestos, there would be no removal of historic material in the building, and no works would effect the Grosvenor Suite ballroom. This was agreed as acceptable by Birmingham City Council. Works to remove asbestos commenced in February 2011 and have now been completed.

Apart from removing the asbestos, the strip-out included the removal of much of the 1970’s fit out which had, in the main, dramatically reduced the ceiling heights and obscured period details. The Victorian grandeur that has been revealed has given a very different perspective on the quality of space and has significantly aided the design process.

Summary

The general condition of the Grand Hotel block is poor. It is understood by the Stakeholders that major intervention is required to bring the building back into viable use and re-establish the Grand Hotel. Hortons’ Estate understand that this must be done with careful regard to the Grade II* listed status of the building – not only so as to be in accordance with strict conservation policy and guidance but also because Hortons recognise that the significance of the building is key to its own sustainable success.

Hortons’ Estate is confident that the inherent quality of the building and the quality of the proposed scheme will set it apart from its competitors and restore a much loved iconic building to the forefront of Birmingham’s architectural, civic, and commercial life.

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