Three National Grid representatives looking at the visitor experience walls in GNCC

Competition: can you break new ground on gasholder void conundrum?

National Grid is challenging the UK’s architects to come up with innovative ideas to fill giant gasholder voids in a new design competition.

The business’s Property division, which manages surplus land, has a large number of former gasholders to dismantle over the next five years.

These have historically stored coal, gas and, later, natural gas for the UK’s urban areas, but most are no longer needed. Gasholders are best known for the large metal frames that dominate the skyline. But it’s what goes on beneath the ground that this competition is focusing on.

Laura Watson, Gasholder Demolition Manager, explains: “About half the gasholders managed by National Grid Property consist of large underground tanks measuring up to 15m deep. They have the capacity to hold enough water to fill 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

High price of infilling

Infilling these tanks is an expensive part of the site regeneration process. In fact, almost half the budget is set aside to infill the tanks once we have taken down the structure. If we can find a better and more innovative way to deal with these holes in the ground, the costs we save could be significant. So we’ve launched a competition to capture fresh new ideas.

- Laura Watson, Gasholder Demolition Manager

The competition, which sees National Grid Property team up with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), sets the UK’s development and architectural communities the challenge of coming up with innovative ways to fill or redevelop these spaces.

The challenge isn’t a new one for National Grid Property. It has a good track record finding efficient solutions to fill these vast voids.

In the past, they’ve been filled with material sourced from major infrastructure projects, such as clay from the London Power Tunnels project. Plans are also in place to create basements in some of these spaces. But, with almost 80 still to dismantle, the need for alternative, cost-effective solutions remains significant.

Do you have an innovative idea for how these voids can be transformed? To find out more about the competition – and to submit suggestions – visit the dedicated competition website. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday 10 October, with the winner to be announced at the end of the year.