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Consulting Engineers


The site for this inspirational nursing home project was essentially a marsh, with more flooded areas than land, meaning the bearing capacity of the soil was very low. It was so low, in fact, that everything that was going to be constructed on the site was to be piled; the buildings, the roads, parking areas and even the manholes.

The BIG issues and challenges 1. Getting the piling rig onto site 2. Making massive savings in the large suspended concrete areas

So how do you support a 72-tonne piling rig on a boggy marsh?

A ‘normal’ piling platform design to support the piling rig would never be feasible with the soil subgrade for this site - the rig would simply sink. We knew a different approach was needed. We knew the piling platform had to be able to take loads of up to 200 kN/m2 at the surface of the supporting layer; so we developed a solution where the area was filled with layers of imported material to give a minimum thickness of approximately 700mm of crushed material.

This was made up of; 300mm of 80-40mm no-fines crushed hardcore installed on a geotextile fabric at the bottom; 400mm of 6F2 material; and two layers of Tensar TX 160 triaxial geogrid. This formed a relatively rigid layer of compacted material that allowed any water to pass through it as it was compacted.

We were also concerned about the possibility of ‘punching’ through the granular piling platform layer whilst the rig was in operation, as this is when there are the highest pressures exerted on the support layers.

The solution to this was to use TuffTrack Heavy Duty Road Mats that are mats manufactured from high density polyethylene and are each approximately 3m long x 2.5m wide and 38mm thick. These mats have been tested for pressures in excess of 297 kN/m2, so they would assist in preventing the punching through of the granular support layer.

This ‘rigid’ granular support layer was classed as temporary works and was installed for the installation of the piles only; it was not to be relied upon for any other purpose and not to support any elements on a permanent basis.

This solution proved to be a big success and all the piles were successfully installed as required in a safe and practical way to meet the required specifications and loads.

The Challenge: How can a contractor replace the roof covering to the roof of a tower block in London when there is a 5-tonne shipping container containing mobile mast technology and electrical equipment supported 500mm above the roof?

The Solution: The conventional solution would have been to disconnect all of the equipment and remove the shipping container from the roof using a very large crane. The roof covering could then be replaced and then the shipping container lifted back on to the roof with the very large crane, reconnected to the supporting structure and all the equipment reconnected. However, due to the height of the building and the close proximity of other buildings, the crane option was not really a feasible and cost-effective solution. Access for the crane would have been difficult and the mobile company would not have been pleased with the possibility of their equipment being disconnected for several weeks while this was done, and the roof covering was replaced.

Super Structures Associates (SSA), were employed to come up with an alternative temporary works solution. SSA visited site and inspected the existing installation, which was a shipping container of approximately 2.8m high, 3.7m long and 2.5m wide that weighed approx. 5 tonne with the equipment inside, which was supported on a steel sub-frame that was in turn supported on certain existing elements of the roof supporting structure such as the parapet walls and an adjacent brick structure that extended above the roof level. The requirement was that the cabin was to be lifted by approximately 1.0m above the existing support level, on a temporary basis so that the roof waterproofing material could be replaced below this in a safe manner.

The final solution involved the installation of a series of temporary support structures or brackets connected to the existing roof structure or adjacent brickwork walls that formed lifting points for the temporary works. The electrical supply and other incoming services etc. were slackened off as they had sufficient length of cable to allow the lift of 1.0m without being disconnected. These lifting points were then used in a particular sequence, together with lifting equipment such as block and tackle in some positions and lifting jacks in others, to raise the cabin in a series of co-ordinated lifts to enable short stub-columns of approximately 300mm height to be inserted at the support points. This enabled the cabin to be lifted in three lift sequences, by installing a total of three of the stub-columns in each position to achieve the required height. Temporary bracing was installed where required in accordance with the SSA drawings and the whole arrangement checked to ensure everything had been installed as per the SSA drawings and method statements.

This innovative temporary works solution allowed the roof covering to be installed at a much-reduced cost, saving time and money, compared to the conventional solution of removing the shipping container completely by crane and the SSA temporary works solution allowed the continuous operation of the mobile mast technology throughout the installation process.

In 2017 it was our privilege to be a part of the design team working on St. Luke’s Church in Kew. As with any project, there were several challenges. The most obvious was we were designing a building that would be constructed right next to a church. This meant that the aesthetics of the structure were extremely important as they had to fit in with the church’s architecture.

The original church was built in 1889, making it a Victorian era church. During this period, a style known as ‘gothic revival’ was very popular. One example is the tall and narrow ‘lancet’ windows at the front of the building. It was important to everyone involved that this character should be retained as much as possible.

The site at the time was being used as a gardening area and for external storage. There was also a set of metal stairs that acted as a fire escape from the main building. The aim of the project was to turn this space into something more usable. The church community requested more storage space and a modern, open-plan room that could be used to host various functions and events throughout the year.

The final design was a two-storey timber and concrete structure. This combination of exposed concrete and timber helped to give the building a modern look. Additionally, the insulating properties of the chosen materials meant that the building can be used any time of the year.

Structurally, the challenges that we had to overcome included the cantilevered section at the front of the building, providing support for the roof while still leaving space for skylights and creating an aesthetically pleasing but structurally sound first floor.

One of the architects later suggested that we should submit an application for the Structural Timber Awards. We decided that the project would fit in best with the Engineer of the Year category.

Last year there were ten finalists in this category and the winner was Engenuiti with their incredible project on the Essex University Business School.

This year the number of finalists in the Engineer of the Year category dropped to only five. We would like to think that this meant it was twice as competitive to be a finalist because we were nominated! We are officially finalists in the Structural Timber Awards for the engineer of the year.

A huge 4-storey Victorian semi situated in Northwest London. The property has been split into four separate flats over the years, with the most significant works taking place at the lower ground floor. This includes removing portions of the two spine walls at this level, a new rear extension, as well as lowering the entire floor level (internal & external) by approximately 800mm in order to maximise ceiling height in the flat. All this whilst supporting around 50 tonnes worth of house above!

The key works included a significant amount of underpinning to the inside of the house, in order to safely lower the floor without undermining the existing foundations. These also helped to act as supports to the supporting steelwork frame inside the property, which replaced the portions of the spine walls that were removed from the house.

A retaining wall was also required around the new rear extension with steps leading up to the raised garden area. One of the criteria for the extension is that it was also to be designed for scaffold support, for any future remedial works which may be required to the upper levels of the property.

The works have helped to create a large and open feel to the property, with new ceiling heights of around 3m, and the removal of walls to allow views of the whole flat without feeling separated from the other rooms of the flat. The underpinning works have also help to improve the current foundations to the property which were likely designed under less stringent engineering criteria many years ago.

Due to be completed Autumn 2016/Winter 2017.

The Criteria

Create more residential leisure space in this country detached house in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Due to planning constraints, part of the development was a basement adjacent to the house to accommodate the new leisure space.

The Solution

This development consisted of a new breakfast room that was constructed of an oak timber frame and roof trusses with traditional joints and enclosed with generous windows and brickwork and roof tiles to match those of the existing house, to blend in with the existing house.

The main part of the development was the construction of a basement with an internal area in excess of 420m2 adjacent to the main house, with a planted area over the majority of the basement roof slab to conceal the basement. There is an internal staircase that joins the new basement to the existing house.

The basement includes areas for a swimming pool, change rooms with a steam room, hot tub, cinema, games room and a gym. The basement is constructed of reinforced concrete with a waterproofing additive and was constructed in two phases, to enable the temporary works to support the sheet piling that was supporting the edge adjacent to the existing house, while the last half of the basement was constructed. The top of the basement walls is propped by the basement roof slab in the final condition.

3D Modelling and Design

The precision and detail in our drawings is brought to life with 3D Revit Modelling, so it is easier for the architect and client to visualize the end result. The Finite Element Analysis (FEA) for the design resulted in a more economic and bespoke design for the basement.

The Criteria:

Create more space and make better use of the existing space was the requirement for this typical semi-detached family house.

The Solution:

The architect designed a large rear extension that required the removal of some internal load-bearing walls. SSA consulting engineers designed a structural steel frame and beams, to create a new load path that would replace the internal walls.

The structural frame supports the upper levels of the external wall which was removed for the full width of the property to give column-free space. This opened up the ground floor, enabling a large space to be converted into a bright, spacious kitchen and adjoining dining area.

The rear extension opens onto a timber decked area that further gives additional useable space and leads to the rear garden.

Further space was created upstairs by converting and enlarging the loft space into a spacious and bright master bedroom and en-suite bathroom. We designed the new support structure for the loft conversion that enabled the old trusses to be removed to allow maximum use of the space within the loft.

3D Modelling and Design

The precision and detail in our drawings is brought to life with 3D Modelling and Design, so it is easier for the architect and client to visualize the end result.

The Criteria

A new-build single storey modern house, built over two levels, with high ceilings that wanted to use lots of glass to allow the maximum amount of natural light. The site had a lot of mature trees on it; some were removed for the development, and the effect of the trees had to be taken into account in the design of the foundations

The Solution

The main living area is a large open-plan space which required large clear spans. The external glass area consists of a large span beam supporting glass sliding panels to allow flexibility with the space. SSA consulting engineers designed the steel frames and beams to support this structure.

The main bedroom has an interesting feature in that there is not a column in the corner where the glass sliding doors meet. The architect wanted to achieve this without a column, so we designed a double cantilever support structure to give the required effect.

The sliding doors open onto paved areas that give additional useable space. A water feature is adjacent to the main entrance for added effect.

3D Modelling and Design

The precision and detail in our drawings is brought to life with 3D Modelling and Design, so it is easier for the architect and client to visualize the end result.

The Criteria

Create more space and make better use of the existing space to accommodate family life was the specification for this typical semi-detached house in Richmond.

The Solution

The architect designed a solution where the rear elevation was opened up by removing the entire rear external wall. They required the expertise of SSA consulting engineers to see how the load path could be changed to fit the design.

We designed two structural steel frames, and beams to replace the internal load-bearing walls.

One structural frame supports the upper levels of the external wall which was removed for the full width of the property to give column-free space for large sliding doors.

The second structural frame supports the upper levels which allowed the removal of the internal load-bearing walls and chimney at ground level. This opened up the space at ground floor level that enabled a large space to be converted into a bright, spacious open plan kitchen and dining area. The rear elevation opens onto a paved area that gives additional useable space and leads to the rear garden.

Further space was created upstairs by converting and enlarging the loft space. We designed the new support structure for the loft conversion that enabled the old trusses to be removed to allow maximum use of the space within the loft. This resulted in a spacious and bright master bedroom and en-suite bathroom with additional storage space in the adjoining roof areas.

3D Modelling and Design

The precision and detail in our drawings is brought to life with 3D Modelling and Design, so it is easier for the architect and client to visualize the end result.

The Criteria

The owner of this typical old, farm house in Middlesex wanted more space and to make better use of the existing space whilst keeping to the character of the property.

The Solution

The architect designed a solution where a new floor level was added over the majority of the building which was single storey originally. SSA consulting engineers helped achieve this vision by designing bespoke portal frames on beams that spanned from the outer walls and were shaped to form the mansard roof, with timber joists spanning between the steel frames and beams.

This enabled the internal walls at ground floor to be reconfigured to provide better use of the space. A garage extension was also built adjacent to the house to add further useable space.

3D Modelling and Design

The precision and detail in our drawings is brought to life with 3D Modelling and Design, so it is easier for the architect and client to visualize the end result.

The Criteria

Create an immediate impact of light & space that would be the focal point for a new contemporary development of eight flats in SW London.

The Solution:

The architect commissioned SSA consulting engineers to develop and design ways to create space whilst minimising the use of columns. Innovative techniques were applied to the construction, using reinforced concrete flat slabs supported by ‘blade’ columns positioned within the walls. This created large open spaces with a generous floor to ceiling height, which further enhanced the spaciousness.

Natural light was maximised by including large glazed areas, with the building stepping back as it increased in height to allow more light to penetrate the building.

Modern clean lines and luxury finishes further enhanced the standard of the accommodation.

3D Modelling and Design

The precision and detail in our drawings is brought to life with 3D Modelling and Design, so it is easier for the architect and client to visualize the end result.

Considerable extensions to a detached house in Surrey. A double storey wing was added to both sides of the house, and a new rear extension houses large open living space under the existing walls at first floor.

The floor area of the house has doubled. The internal layout of the ground floor is architecturally ambitious, with large open spans, and only one visible column. The internal column will be hidden within the construction of a modern fireplace in the centre of the living room. Full architectural freedom of geometry beneath an existing building can only come to life with close collaboration between engineers and architects, and only with the use of modern engineering analysis software.

Due for completion Summer/Autumn 2016

A large modern house on the river Thames in Berkshire. Features include a large panoramic double storey bay window facing the river, feature concrete spiral staircase, cantilevered decked terrace, firts floor mezzanine hallway, double height central living space and beautiful location. The house is in a sleek, modern architectural style, which requires equally sleek and modern engineering.

The house is built on a raised platform as it is in a flood-zone which has been devastated in recent years. Hidden beams in the corners of the platform grillage allow the platform to seemingly float, while the piles supporting the house are obscured in the shadows below it. One day, when the flood-zone threatens again, the house will ride above the level of a 100-year flood - and then some - and really will appear to float! In the meantime, our client can enjoy the beautiful scenery in peace, assured by the knowledge that his home won’t be damaged by a flood.

The massive bay windows will ensure river views will be the centrepiece attraction of this house. Similarly to all the other features, this is enabled by slim and elegantly engineered structure which is hidden away, almost unnoticed in the finished building.

Completed Summer/Autumn 2016.

A new, modern, luxury two-storey house, in a historic woodland setting. A slender steel frame construction enables modern cantilever corners & sleek lines with lightweight construction. The complex geometry is respected but also rationalised to significantly simplify construction, over 50 steel beams and columns, but only 3 steel section sizes and 4 basic steel connections. All columns are hidden within walls and beams within floors & ceilings. Lateral stability is provided by each of the many hidden columns, removing the need for cross bracing. Minimal structural weight reduces the foundation requirements and impact on the surrounding trees.

The whole structure is modelled in one 3D analysis model, including the steel frame, timber joisting, concrete ground slab and concrete ground beams. A frame of this complexity simply wouldn’t be possible without the latest analysis software, let alone rationalising and simplifying this complexity. Modern engineering for a modern home.

A new 420m2 basement adjacent to an existing large country house in a mock-Tudor style, to house a gym, home cinema, games room, sauna and swimming pool. To be finished in summer/autumn 2016, the roof will be covered over and planted, so that only the central courtyard will be seen from above. Inside, the large open space will be flooded with light from 3 full size sliding window-doors along the courtyard walls.

The construction was innovatively sequenced, using the far half of the basement to prop the house while the near half of the basement was constructed. Four large props were used, each with a capacity of 150 tonnes, these prevented the weight of the house pushing the soil and sheet piles out sideways.

There is a high water table at the site, as it is directly beside a large pond. A basement like this with a high water table is like pushing down an empty bottle with the lid on in a bath – the air inside wants to push the whole thing up. Instead of making the basement incredibly heavy (with a base slab approximately 1.6m thick!), SSA designed a toe which protrudes into the soil around the bottom perimeter – this recruits the weight of the surrounding soil to stop the basement being lifted. This method saved an approximate 1000 tonnes of concrete – saving an estimated £150,000. Innovative engineering and temporary works design saved the client a lot of time and money for this basement project.

A loft conversion & internal alterations to a large Victorian detached house in Twickenham. Before work started, the building was left without due attention for approximately 30 years. Besides dated décor, it had alarmingly bouncy floors, some of the joists had split in two, the roof and second floor ceiling were sagging noticeably and the chimneys were leaning precariously.

Due to the loft floor level being above eaves level (half-way up the rafters) the loft had to be supported with columns onto steel beams at the second floor. This approach allowed the existing rafters to be retained, while the roof was made stronger by the new central support. The second floor joists were also strengthened and stiffened by the new steel beams, significantly reducing the bounciness of the floor. A steel beam was also used to strengthen the 1st floor, as it was similarly bouncy. At the same time, the second floor beams act as props to the chimneys – now perfectly vertical -, preventing them from leaning in again.

All hidden away within walls and floors, with just enough modern structure as is required, the creaking bones of an old house are brought back to life, to live another 100 years in good health.

Due for completion autumn 2016, with potential basement and rear extension to follow.


Steel frame in a terraced house opening into a rear extension

Chimney support up close

Steel frame supporting a chimney to create extra space in a loft conversion

Steel frame in a rear wall of a Victorian terraced house in Notting Hill

Steel portal frame bending moment diagram

Steel portal frame deflected shape - exaggerated

Steel portal frame with ceiling ties for strengthening

Steel portal frame 3D analysis model

Timber roof truss 3D analysis model