How We Help Architects Add Value To Their Projects and When Things Go Wrong! 

Historically we have been instructed on projects post planning phase. Usually it is at the point when the scheme has been agreed with the Client and planning permission has been granted.

The Structural Engineer comes to the table too late to influence the design in any meaningful way – why should this matter?

Your Client Wants an economic, buildable design and not be forced into a complicated structure

Complexity = Cost

Over the last few years we have worked with Architects who can clearly see real value with early structural input in the design process.

Case Studies – When Things Can Go Wrong

A previous project was a mixed use development – a large open plan restaurant at ground floor with flats above.

We were appointed by the Architect at the detailed design phase.

No Clear Load Paths

For the restaurant to be workable the Client required a large, open plan floor space at ground level.  At first floor the requirement was for modular flats.

Space planning had been considered on a floor by floor basis. No consideration had been given to the key structural elements; load paths and stability provision.

Complicated Design = Additional Cost

To create the open plan space at ground floor the design became more complicated and “heavy”. What the Client had budgeted for (approx.. £2,000 per sq metre) was now £4,000 per sq metre.

Clients Decision

If the Structural Engineer had been appointed at concept stage, the Client could have had the option of having columns in his/her restaurant, leading to a simpler design (less cost).

A conversation with the Client would have given them the option to decide their priorities.

How important was it to be completely open plan at ground level? Would columns in strategic areas have made any difference to the viability of the project?

If the dimensions could have been tweaked just 200mm would this have been acceptable to the Client? (they would have ended up with a much simpler design – less cost)

Because the Structural Engineer came late to the process (after planning permission had been obtained) the dimensions were fixed. No adjustment in the footprint of the building was possible, unless the Client went through the Planning process again.

Depth of Floor – Services

Similarly, an early design meeting with the services provider would have opened up discussion about depth of floor and how the services were going to run.

For example, sometimes it is more cost efficient to design larger “I” beams and run the services through cut out holes in the web, rather than creating a shallower structure and have the services running underneath.

In both these examples, early input from the Structural Engineer would have addressed these issues and saved the Client thousands of pounds.

Flood Risk Assessment and SuDS – When Things Go Right

Often this Civil engineering element is included within our scope of works.

This case was a new block of flats on a tight footprint of land. We were appointed at Planning stage to advise on the flood risk assessment and SuDS.

As the attenuation was quite large, the Architect had to space plan for a tank to retain the water.

Due to the limited space, the best option was a blue roof.

Designing A Blue Roof

A blue roof is where water is designed to be retained above the waterproofing membrane. Attenuation calculations were completed to ensure that we made reasonable design for water storage and flow from the roof.

Due to the retention of water, we had to make provision for additional loading on the roof. We were fully involved in the process with loading based upon the worst case overflow event.

Involve the Structural Engineer Early in the Design Process

This was a great example of appointing a Structural Engineer at the right point in the project.

·        Highlighting the attenuation issues early in the project supported the Architects design. Planning issues were addressed at concept stage

·        Understanding the impact that the Blue Roof had on the loading on the structure meant that the design (and costs) were known to the Client from the outset.

·        It was more likely that the project would proceed to build as Planning permission was granted and the Client had full visibility of the costs.

You need to think about the impact on the structure at the planning stage, otherwise your Client could are going to have a fantastic project, but no provision for storing the water possibly with planning but not feasible to build.

You need to think about the impact on the structure at the planning stage, otherwise your Client could have a fantastic project, possibly with planning permission, but not feasible to build!

Planning a project?  We’d like to help you.

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