Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Remote-operated digger hunting heritage fabric in Christchurch cathedral

In a world first, a remote-operated digger is working inside Christchurch’s Christ Church Cathedral to clear out debris, masonry and guano, a significant biohazard, and retrieve heritage fabric.

The cathedral was severely damaged in the devastating Canterbury earthquakes that struck the region in September 2010 and February 2011.

The project marks the start of the major interior clean up and is another milestone in the Cathedral’s reinstatement journey, Christchurch City Council said in a statement today.

Controlled from an operations centre outside the Cathedral using specially-fitted cameras with livestream capability, Council says the remote-operated digger is an innovative digital solution to keep workers safe.

It has also permitted the Cathedral’s interior clean up to begin early, allowing the project’s critical work plan to gain about three months.

 “Introducing a remote-operated digger is a safety-first approach that solves health and safety issues by keeping personnel out of the building while still getting the work done,” says project director, Keith Paterson.

“A manned digger would be at risk of falling debris or building collapse were an earthquake to occur at this stage of the project.”

With the safe retrieval of heritage fabric a top priority for the Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Project, the digger is carefully focusing on specific areas of the church.

“We know there are several items of interest inside the nave, such as the old font,” says Mr Paterson.

“The digger will move carefully through the areas we think these items might be located in the hope we can retrieve them.

Our heritage professional will then sift through everything collected to find any precious items before the rest is disposed of,” he said.

A special enclosure has been built on the Cathedral worksite to provide a wash down area for the digger and to allow skips to be removed and re introduced.

The remote-operated digger is expected to be working in the Cathedral for the next six weeks.

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