Category Archives: The Built Environment

Structural Awards 2017 – 50th Year!

John Staves Structural Awards 2017

Structural Awards 2017 – a fantastic night celebrating the extraordinary work of Structural Engineers across the world!

structural awards 2017

The winners and commended projects were announced during The Structural Awards ceremony, held at The Brewery, London on Friday 17 November.

The evening culminated in the presentation of The Supreme Award for Structural Engineering Excellence which was awarded to the British Airways i360 (Brighton) by Jacobs

Structural Awards 2017

Addressing the audience, current President Ian Firth said

“Now in its 50th year, the awards once again celebrate the world’s most outstanding structural engineering achievements. 

Showcasing exemplary engineering, creativity and innovation, the 14 ground-breaking winners were chosen from a shortlist of 45 projects, in turn selected from 119 entries. 

The reach of the institution all over the world and the absolutely crucial role that structural engineers play in designing safe and elegant structures everywhere

Entries were received from 22 countries and after careful evaluation the judging panel shortlisted 45 impressive projects from Europe, North America, Australasia, South America and Asia

Every year the judges are impressed by the consistently high standard of the entries – this year is no exception

I know such is the strength of the entries that reviewing the entries challenged and tested the judging panel. An excellent short list that we are about to see and we are all eager to discover which projects were chosen as winners.

The judging panel were delighted to see such a positive response, especially as this year when we unveiling our new awards categories. These new categories places a stronger emphasis than before on the structural characteristics of a project rather than the type of building and therefore it represented a reflection of the engineers skills and technical accomplishments involved.

We have before us tonight an excellent international and exciting shortlist, reflecting the full spectrum of our professions work

Thank you to the judges for their diligence and care in evaluating every entry and selecting the winners

In this 50th year of the awards we have a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the remarkable achievements of our profession over the last half century and consider the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for us in the next

My year as president has shown me the remarkable drive and ability of our membership and has filled me with huge confidence for the coming year.”

The Winners

Tall or Slender Structures

Winner :- British Airways i360 at Brighton 

Long Span Structures

Winner:- San Mames Football Stadium, Cable roof extension IDOM

Structural Awards 2017

Vehicle Bridges

Winner:- Destructor Bridge, COWI Bath

Pedestrian Bridges

Winner:- The new mobile walkway of Geneva’s Jet d’Eau INGENI SA Geneva, Switzerland

Small Projects (under 1 million)

Winner:- The Pump House, Webb Yates Engineers, London

Structural awards 2017

Small Projects (between 1-3 million)

Winner:- Adele 25 stage

Structural Awards 2017

Structures in Extreme Conditions

Winner:- MeyGen Phase 1A – Tidal turbine support structures

Structural Awards 2017

Structural Heritage

Winner:- Rejuvenation of Makatote Rail viaduct

Opus international consultants

Structural Transformation

Winner:- The Design Museum, Arup, London

Construction Innovation

Winner:- Tallwood house at Brock Commons

Fast + Epp Vancover, Canada

structural awards 2017

Construction Integration

National Taichung Theater

Arup, Taichung, Taiwan

structural awards 2017

Structural Artistry

Winner:- Baha’i Temple of South America

Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Patricio Bertholt M halcrow and Josef Gartner

structural awards 2017

Outstanding Value

Winner:- ElevArch (UK) Freyssinet and BHA

Structural awards 2017


Winner:- The Enterprise Centre, BDP Norwich

To read more about this amazing night, please click here

Were you at the awards? Do any of the winners stand out to you as your personal favourite?

We’d love to hear from you

Cheap Structural Calculations On Line – Everyone’s A Winner Right?

Good work Aint Cheap

Today I’m talking to John Staves, Chartered Structural Engineer who is deeply concerned about the increasing number of web based structural engineering companies who are offering “innovative web-based services” that are claiming to “improve the value and service” offered to customers.

John Staves

John, do you want to start by explaining what prompted this blog post and why you felt you had to speak out.

Potentially Dangerous

Being from up north, I’m going to be blunt.

I feel this way of working is potentially dangerous and is bringing the profession of Structural Engineering into disrepute.

Over the past few weeks we have had a number of Clients coming to us after their Architect had used an on line structural engineering service to produce “structural designs” – primarily so that they could obtain a cheaper price.

I use the term “structural designs” loosely.

At best you’ll obtain a cheap price, Building Regulations approval and an experienced contractor who will undertake the works.

At worst, your Client will have a poorly thought out design, from an engineer who has never visited the site and knows nothing about the existing structure.

It has been overdesigned to reduce the engineer’s liability and the Client has incurred excessive costs in construction.

Case Study – Extension and Loft Conversion

This is a small job but it highlights the problem when instructing an engineer who is not visiting the site, so can’t assess the existing structure.

A Client came to us recently – she was in the middle of an extension on her property.

There was a crack in her wall just above where the builder had installed a beam.

She was very anxious and wanted reassurance that the contractor had installed the beam correctly – she thought her house was about to fall down.

cracked wall

When our engineer went to the site it was clear that the contractor had “dropped” the wall when he was installing the beam. Part of the problem was that contractor had turned up to site not prepared for what he had found.

The joists were running parallel to the wall rather than running into the wall as you would normally expect. The structural engineer had made an assumption, provided inaccurate information and the contractor was unprepared for what he found as a result. A simple site visit would have made this obvious.

The Contractor couldn’t easily prop the inner leaf of the wall, so this caused difficulties when he installed the beam and he dropped it.

Taking No Responsibility

As the engineer hadn’t visited the site, the calculations were filled with so many caveats “we can’t possibly be responsible for this, we can’t possibly be responsible for that, if in doubt ask”.

The steelwork was marked up on the drawings in red pen with a note of the beam size. However, there were no sections, or construction details.

The structural calculations were worthless, as they did not take any liability for the design.

Cheap Engineering Quote, Big Build Cost

Initially to the Client the structural engineering design looked like a cheap quote.

What the Client didn’t realise was that as the engineer hadn’t visited the site to assess the existing structure, they couldn’t work out accurate load paths.

The engineers had to make assumptions about the existing construction (which were incorrect).

In this example, the engineer had overdesigned the steel so the Client was paying for far more steel than was needed.

There were no details in the information from the structural engineer about how the proposed beam B3 was connected to the existing beam.

On line structural engineer

Structural Engineers At Their Worst

This Client got a cheap design that the Architect found on line and ultimately it has ended up costing the Client more;

  • She has had to pay for a competent engineer to come to site and assess the existing structure and make recommendations
  • Extra cost for steelwork – it was overdesigned in the first place
  • Emotional stress – she thought her house was falling down
  • Extra costs because the contractor is arguing about who is responsible for making good the cracked wall because the details were inaccurate. 

Giving Structural Engineers A Bad Name

When a structural engineer provides such a poor service it’s giving the whole of structural engineering a bad name.

It brings the profession into disrepute.

Makes people think that structural engineers don’t add value, where as in fact we add a lot of value – if it’s done properly.

Clients Want Good Value, Not Cheap Prices

But there are structural engineers out there taking short cuts to offer a cheap price because that’s what they think Clients want.

The Client doesn’t want that, the Client wants a good job. The client wants value, not a cheap job.

The sooner the structural engineering profession learns that the better we will all be.

Good Practice

Questions To Ask Yourself

  • Will your structural engineer be visiting site so that s(he) can fully understand the existing structure?
  • Do they offer support during build if something out of the ordinary is found?
  • How long will it take for them to get to site and respond?
  • Will your builder be charging for his wasted time whilst he waits for an answer?
  • Is it worth taking that chance? In the long run it may end up costing you more.

Are you an Architect? Have you used on line structural engineering services? What worked well / didn’t work well?

Please get in touch, I’d like to hear your experiences.


Can Architects and Engineers Work Together?

Returning from a very busy week on the “Ask an Expert” panel at Grand Designs Live I was going to write a blog post about the seminars that we attended and the insightful debates that emerged. I was planning to talk about the new products that were on show and some of the new construction techniques that are reducing carbon wastage and making construction methods safer and more efficient.

However, I came away with a much more important message to share, as it kept occurring time and time again.

Setting the Scene

Let me set the scene.

Grand Designs NEC 2015 ASk an expert

Over the period of four days we had appointments with over forty individuals. Mainly home owners excited about the prospect of their very own “Grand Design”.  They ranged from removing a single beam in a house to new build “Grand Designs” in France and Tuscany.

People bounced up to our desk, wide eyed and happy as they eagerly showed us their plans. So much time and thought had got them to this point.

As far as they were concerned they just had a few structural issues that they wanted to discuss before work could start on site (in some cases they wanted a second opinion about a structural solution that had already been proposed).

We sat and listened as they told us how they were so pleased that they now had obtained Planning Permission, they were one step closer to their dream home, just some structural issues to sort out.


We let them talk .. we listened.

Time and time again we saw their faces drop as we calmly explained that

Yes –  the designs were amazing

Yes – the designer had obviously listened very carefully to what they wanted from the design.

But ….. and it was a big “but”.

The designs weren’t buildable ..

Well what we actually said was;

anything can be built structurally, but it will cost you a lot of money”

To give you just one example. A young couple had appointed an Architect to design them a new build, detached five bedroomed, three storey house. It looked amazing!

Listened to Their Brief

The Architect had clearly listened to their brief and they were very pleased with the design that had gone through Planning and had obtained full Planning Approval without too many problems.

They had booked an appointment to see us to find out what they needed to do to obtain Building Regulations Approval.

When we looked at the drawings, there were no internal load paths. The walls at first floor did not line up with any load bearing walls, a similar situation on the second floor. There were a few lines where beams needed to be “designed to engineers calculations” however, some were missing altogether.

The design was buildable, but at what cost?

Unfortunately, this seemed to be a common reply to a high number of visitors to our sessions.

So What’s The Answer?

We know this doesn’t apply to all designers, but time and time again this is an issue that we are experiencing.

The Structural Engineer comes to the party too late.

Imagine if the engineer was involved at an earlier stage .. to work up the design with the Architect .. possibly even “collaborating” with them …..

I’ve had this discussion with many Architects and I get the same response

the Client doesn’t want to pay for the full design at the initial stage as they might not obtain Planning permission

I make the point that the designer should have a fairly good idea whether or not Planning permission would be granted.

We are not suggesting a full detailed design at an early stage, just some conceptual ideas that would make the design buildable at a later stage.

Collaboration and Communication

The designer’s focus is on;

      function and the aesthetic of the project – how it looks, how the users experience it, how it feels to         be in the space.

Engineers are looking for;

      the most cost effective solution that is the most functional.

I believe that Clients ultimately benefit from a well thought through scheme. What’s s the point of getting planning permission for something that is disproportionately expensive to build?

By working together at an early stage, Architects and Engineers can apply their specialist knowledge and experience to deliver a cost effective solution which meets the Clients brief.

Would your Clients benefit from engaging a Structural Engineer at concept stage? When do you typically engage a Structural Engineer? Would be very interested to hear your thoughts …

Team Day Out At BRE Innovation Park

Inspirational day out with our brilliant team at the BRE’s “Innovation Centre” in Watford. The BRE not only fund research and academic training for PhD students, but they also train and inspire others to get involved in the construction industry. Well worth a visit for anyone involved in the construction industry.

Free Draining Permeable Path

BRE Innovation Park

View Across The Park

Our Brilliant Team!

The Cub House

The Prince’s Natural House

Showing How To Achieve Low Energy

FSC Timber Staircase in the Barratt Green House

Energy Solutions

SUDS Compliant Buildup Storm Water Drainage

Inside The Hanson EcoHouse

Barratt Green House