“Ask An Expert” @ Grand Designs Live!

Ask and expert Grand designs

Having attended the event as visitors for many years, we were thrilled when we were selected to appear on the ‘Ask An Expert’ panel at this year’s Grand Designs Live show.

The event was held over 9 days at the impressively large north stand at ExCel in London’s docklands and covered over 5,000 sq foot with 600+ exhibitors.

Structural Engineering is often seen as a distress purchase as we are often appointed after the Architect has completed their design,  so it was a great opportunity for us to get in early and talk to people about their “Grand Design” and give advice about the structural implications of what they wanted to build.

Talking about the event John Staves said,

“This is the first year that Structural Engineers were invited to attend the event, previously supported by Architects and Architectural technicians, we attended Friday 8 May and Saturday 9 May and were fully booked 10am-6pm!”

What Types Of Projects Did You See?

“There were a complete range of projects from genuine “Grand Designs” for replacement dwellings and new dwellings through to minor internal alterations. Most people wanted help with feasibility – and the most common questions were;

       Was their project practical and was their project financially feasible?

Lots of the conversations were around practicality and feasibility, most structural problems can be solved, it’s just how much it’s going to cost.”

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What Did You Enjoy The Most About The Event?

“Helping people move forwards in their own project. The variety of projects day to day is what I enjoy about the job anyway. The challenges weren’t so much the permanent building structure, it was the buildability that would massively impact on the cost.

For example, one project was a new build, replacement dwelling down a small lane that was only 2m wide, so you would have to think not only how am I going to get components, materials in, but also how am I going to lift them into place? There will be big clear spans and you have to think how are you going to achieve that with small components. You’re not going to swing in quarter tonne 10m long beams, it’s not practical. We had a discussion in that meeting about BIM (Building Information Modelling).”

How BIM Could Help

“We discussed how the whole process could be planned and thought through well in advance so things would run smoothly with those site constraints – over and above building a house in a field.

BIM would help them with the sequencing of the build, make sure that things fitted together, we could break the building down into small enough components that would actually work with the access constraints, but lifted into place by smaller equipment, we could test that things would work before the project even gets to site. BIM would also offer them more certainty about the cost of the project as it could be built in a virtual world before any work started on site.”

Would You Be On “Ask An Expert” Again?

“Absolutely! It was hard work, fairly intense, with people arriving with no advance knowledge of their project to advise them on the spot. But at the end of the day it’s quite rewarding to know that you’ve helped 15 + people get on the way with their project.”

Around The Exhibition

“We were working for two days and on the third day had the opportunity to go around the exhibition and meet up with Architects who were exhibitors at the event and talk to them about how they interacted with the Structural Engineer. It was a great opportunity to understand their problems and how they work so we could better design our own services to work with them.

John and Kevin McCloud

Attending the Grand Theatre to listen to Professor Hazim Awbi and Kevin McCloud talk about Toxic Home Syndrome was really interesting. The main message was for designers to not only think about airtightness of our buildings, but also consider proper mechanical ventilation. Other tips for a healthy home included using ecofriendly cleaning and beauty products, consider wood flooring and switching off technological devices at the plug.”

If you missed the event you can see more at http://www.granddesignslive.com/

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