Structural engineers reach new heights

Birmingham New Street Station and Manchester City Football Club’s Etihad Stadium have been named among the winners at this year’s Structural Awards.

A team from Atkins/AKTII were awarded this year’s Structural Award for Infrastructure or Transportation Structure for their work in transforming Birmingham’s largest and busiest station, whilst BuroHappold Engineering took the Award for Sport or Leisure Structures for their development of a new South Stand at MCFC’s stadium.

The Institution of Structural Engineers presented the Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre in Surrey, Canada with The Supreme Award for Structural Engineering Excellence.

Engineered by Fast + Epp, the Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre houses the world’s most slender, long span timber catenary roof. The undulating roof shape reduces the amount of air to be heated and de-humidified, cutting operational costs. The steel tube columns in the façade resist wind loads and act as ventilator ducts.

Highlights from The Structural Awards 2016:

Award for Sustainability: 5 Broadgate – London, UK


Engineered by: BuroHappold

Description: This 13-storey building is the largest single let office space in Europe. The structure is a steel frame with concrete floors on profiled metal decking, founded on a 1.75m thick reinforced concrete raft.

Judges’ comments: The designers have shown how a seemingly conventional solution can be modified to embody the principles of sustainable construction.

Award for Education or Healthcare Structures: Blavatnik School of Government – Oxford, UK

Credit: Eddie Jump
Credit: Eddie Jump

Engineered by: Pell Frischmann

Description: The new home for Oxford University’s School of Government features high quality exposed concrete throughout. Its unusual form, established through a series of stacked, off-set cylindrical and square volumes, creates a variety of different spaces.

Judges’ comments: The building’s form, overlaying off-set rectangular and circular floor plates, required some imaginative structural engineering. The execution makes it look effortless.

Award for Pedestrian Bridges: Elizabeth Quay Bridge – Perth, Australia

Credit: Arup
Credit: Arup

Engineered by: Arup

Project Description: Elizabeth Quay is part of a plan to revitalise central Perth. This 22m high cable-stayed bridge is the project’s centrepiece feature. Judges’ comments: Successfully overcoming a number of technical challenges, the bridge will serve as a landmark for the community.

Award for Sport or Leisure Structures: Etihad Stadium Expansion – Manchester, UK


Engineered by: BuroHappold Engineering

Description: The project to expand MCFC’s stadium with a new South Stand required engineers to modify an existing cable-net roof with complex geometry and load-paths while providing continued rain protection to fans.

Judges’ comments: A most impressive response to tricky engineering challenges.

Award for Small Projects: Formby Helical Stair – Formby, UK


Engineered by: Webb Yates Engineers

Description: A two-storey stone staircase that springs from one landing and sweeps unsupported through 320 degrees to the next. The total weight of French Combe Brune limestone making up the stairs is approximately 6.6 tonnes.

Judges’ comments: The judges were amazed by the grace and audacity of this post-tensioned stone stair, which twists through space from floor to floor. The engineer has fully understood and exploited the limited tensile capacity of stone by augmenting it with just enough steel to form a wonderful hybrid.

Award for Small Practices: Expo2015 Hive – Milan, Italy + London, UK

Credit: Hufton+Crow

Engineered by: Simmonds Studio

Description: The Hive consists of 60,000 unique aluminium parts, formed in a structural system of 31 stacked layers of alternating radial and circumferential trusses.

Judges’ Comments: The judges were highly impressed by the way in which specialist material knowledge of glass and aluminium, combined with digital coding expertise, enabled a dramatic aesthetic vision to be converted into reality.

Award for Infrastructure or Transportation Structures: Transformation of Birmingham New Street Station


Engineered by: Atkins/AKTII

Description: Birmingham New Street Station was officially re-opened by the Queen in November 2015 after a five-year, £750m transformation. The new roof comprises an EFTE inflated cushion system supported off curved steel tubular arch beams, which in turn are supported off two wishbone truss arches.

Judges’ comments: Transforming the station into a dynamic modern transportation hub with a concourse five times the size of Euston was a huge challenge. On any other site this would have been a difficult building to design and construct, but to do so within the confines of a busy active station makes this a very considerable achievement.

Supreme Award for Structural Engineering Excellence AND Award for Community or Residential Structures: Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre – Surrey, Canada

Credit: Ema Peter
Credit: Ema Peter

Engineered by: Fast + Epp

Described above, the judges said that the adoption of timber in catenary permitted a structural depth of just 300mm for a 55m span – a design which defies convention and demanded design excellence.