by Jez Bond

We started the day with a site meeting. Unfortunately a certain structural engineer had forgotten all about it (oops Paul!) – but when he finally arrived all was well. Martin walked through the building with him, chatting over the plans, while – for the most part – I gave an impromptu tour to a group led by our writer in residence, Sarah Rutherford.

Paul seemed confident that the final tweaks to the scheme would take but a few days. These included rectifying various coordination issues, re-examining the structural support to the cantilevered bay window and eliminating a column on the upper ground floor (enabling us to chop a corner out of the rectangular auditorium exterior in order to increase circulation space).

While Paul was late this morning – and already owed a generous portion of cake as a forfeit for previous tardiness – I do but pull his leg. We are very grateful to Paul and his team for their forward thinking approach that follows our brief of “cheap please” without compromise to any of our many architectural elements. Paul’s clever structural design employs every technique available to offset weight so that the cost of steel is kept to a minimum and so that we are not required to perform vast amounts of expensive groundworks. An example of his approach is this:

We are raising the roof of the back building by approximately 1.5 metres, adding weight to it in the form of increased wall heights and a heavier acoustic ceiling/roof. Firstly Paul stipulated a timber roof. In order to achieve its acoustic buffering this is considerably thicker than a concrete roof, yet most importantly it is also considerably lighter. Secondly Paul asked that the heavy screed (an additional layer of non structural concrete) be broken off the upper ground floor slab in order to reduce the loading of the floor. In his calculations he can then use the reduction here to offset the new load that will be imposed above, almost negating any increase. The end result? No expensive ground works for new beams and foundations. Sound simple? Yes, but a previous engineer did not pick this up. We love you Paul!

All that’s left is the cake…!

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