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Consulting Engineers

How did a revolving bridge save a previously doomed project?

Business owners are often keen to give something back to society at large, or to their local community. It can be hard to carve out the resources for this when you’re first starting out in business but in an established business with a team behind it, it becomes easier. This is especially true where a business chooses to donate time and expertise, rather than make a financial contribution.

I don’t tend to talk about the work we do in this area very often, but someone I work with persuaded me that it could inspire others to give their time too.

So for that reason, I’m sharing a recent project with you, where I donated my time to help solve an engineering conundrum at a community hospital.

The care facility I worked with – in Haslemere, Surrey – looks after a number of patients, some of whom are former professional sports people. The last place they want to be is stuck inside in wheelchairs, so the families of these patients got together a plan to build an outside raised walkway terrace, to go through woodland on the site in a U-shape. There would be an area at the end of the walkway where patients could sit and read, or listen to the birds.

However, initial investigations revealed a problem. A mains cable goes through the site, so a permanent walkway covering this cable would not be allowed.

They appealed for a structural engineer to help them, and to see if the problem could be solved, and we answered their plea.

We presented a number of different solutions – doing several thousand pounds worth of work gratis – and the solution being used in the project is the following one.

Since you can’t have a permanent structure over the cable, we came up with the idea of a rotating bridge. The walkway is divided into sections, and the two sections that cross the cable are rotating bridges. So if workers need access to the cable, the walkway can be moved to make access possible.

This means the project can now go ahead and, from our point of view, we relished the opportunity to bring innovative ideas to the table to help solve difficult issues.

Since then the project has hit financial hurdles and I have encouraged the hospital to keep going. They have raised funds through charitable events including a bike ride to Paris, and they’ve also applied for lottery funding. It is now looking likely that work on the walkway will begin this autumn.

I’d be interested to hear what charitable or pro bono work you’re doing too – why not reply and tell me about it? Or perhaps if you haven’t had the time or resources to do this yet, it’s something you could think about doing in the future.

In the meantime, if you need assistance with the structural elements of an upcoming project, please do get in touch.

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