The Bentall Centre

When The Bentall Centre in Kingston Upon Thames was due for redecoration, the job called for a team with stamina, specialist training ….and most important of all, a head for heights.

The four storey shopping centre features a vast open gallery covered with a glazed barrel vault. At its centre is a spectacular atrium, large enough at 38 metres high, to accommodate the nave of Westminster Abbey or the dome of St Paul’s. The lofty, airy architecture is stunning to look at by day, and more so by night, when an award winning lighting scheme takes over from natural daylight.

Having been involved with The Bentall Centre since it opened to the public back in 1992, Michael Spencer, Operations Manager, was well aware that the ‘palatial’ building was not going to be the easiest of buildings to redecorate.

“We needed tradesmen fully trained in the use of specialist access equipment, and to make things even more challenging, all the work had to be carried out at night. Customers were to be kept blissfully unaware that a major redecoration project was underway. We weren’t prepared to tolerate wet paint, lingering paint odours and visible signs of work going on while the Centre was open, and, no matter what equipment had to be rigged up for the contractors to work at heights throughout the night, it was all to be completely derigged at daybreak and cleared away before we reopened our doors to the public each morning.”

The Commercial Painting Division of Roy Hankinson (West Midlands) Ltd was one of a handful of contractors judged to be capable of completing the demanding programme of work and the company secured the contract through a single stage competitive tendering process.

With dedicated maintenance and painting & decorating teams comprising directly employed and fully trained CSCS registered tradesmen, the company already provides out of hours/night time service all across the Country and is experienced in handling large commercial and retail projects.

The painting contract entailed the redecoration of all the plaster walls, columns, soffits and suspended ceilings throughout the Centre. White Acrylic Eggshell was specified for a number of reasons as Michael Spencer explained: “I wanted the contractors to use a really low odour paint that wouldn’t alert the shoppers to the fact that redecoration work was going on. We obviously wanted quick drying paint so that we could be sure surfaces would be touch dry each morning. We’ve also found Eggshell durable and easy to keep clean in the past.”

The atmospheric lighting system at The Bentall Centre also meant that the paint finish achieved was particularly important. “We’ve won a number of awards for the way we illuminate the Centre,“ said Michael, “With our intricate system of suspended ceiling lights, ‘wall wash’ lights and 2000 fibre optic ‘stars’ in the roof, the reflectivity and brilliance of the painted surfaces clearly has a direct impact on the ambience.”

The Hankinson decorating team was selected and six directly employed operatives, fully trained in the use of mobile elevated plant, began work at the centre. Existing fixed gantries, installed when the Centre was built, proved invaluable for many of the hard to reach areas. Mobile elevated work platforms and scissor lifts were hired to provide safe and stable access where the floor layout of the Centre allowed the equipment to be used. High-level cradles were provided for the Hankinson team so they could reach the highest elevations.

Even with all this access equipment, there remained several sections of the building beyond reach. To ensure the job was completed safely Hankinson drafted in a team of specialist industrial abseilers to apply the paint in the most inaccessible areas.

Six weeks later the redecoration was complete. Some 1190 litres of Crown Trade Acrylic Eggshell had been applied by brush and roller to every last inch of previously painted wall, soffit and ceiling and The Bentall Centre was once again looking in pristine condition.

Michael Spencer was very impressed by the way Hankinson had tackled the project saying “The team did a superb job and were very flexible to meet the needs of the Centre, working extremely unsociable hours and fitting round all our demands”.