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SSA shortlisted for the national Structural Timber Awards

Structural Timber Awards

It was recently our privilege to be a part of the design team working on St. Luke’s Church in Kew. As with any project, there were a number of challenges involved. The most obvious of which was that 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. Influences of this gothic revival style can be seen all over the church. One example is the tall and narrow ‘lancet’ windows at the front of the building.

These unusual touches give the building what we in the construction industry give the highly technical term of ‘character’ and it was important to everyone involved that this character should be retained as much as possible.

This delicate and challenging task of creating a modern structure that would complement the existing building was taken on by the architects at Somorjay & Talliss, whom we worked closely with throughout the project.

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. Concrete was chosen to provide an outer shell which would blend in with the original church and also provide lateral stability to the new building. Inside this shell is a timber truss to support a roof which is also made entirely out of timber. This combination of concrete and timber helps to give the building a modern look. Additionally, the insulating properties of the chosen materials mean that the building can be used any time of the year.

Within the building there are several storage rooms, a large multi-purpose room and a staircase to replace the previous fire escape. The staircase also provides access to the roof.

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 gaps for windows and creating an aesthetically pleasing but structurally sound first floor.

To achieve the cantilevered section, the most practical solution was to create a large back-span by running the joists parallel to the church. Timber beams were used to break up the span so that the roof joists stayed at a reasonable size. These beams were positioned over the masonry piers of the existing church.

To support the other end of the beams, a timber truss was used. This was because it provided the necessary structural strength and could be used as an architectural feature. As can be seen in the pictures, gaps were left between the tops of the diagonal members. This meant that tall windows could be installed to allow more natural light into the building. The tall windows also help the building to match the existing church.

In order to connect the first floor to the original fire escape, the floor level had to be raised beyond the top of the roof. This meant that the entire floor was highly visible and so any potential solution had to look good. To match the style of the ground floor, a combination of timber trusses was used.

One of the architects later suggested that we should submit an application for the Structural Timber Awards. After reviewing the available categories, 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. With this project, they beat competition from Arup, BuroHappold Engineering and WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, among others.

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.

We have been placed alongside Arup, Booth King and Webb Yates. With this stiff competition, we are keeping our fingers crossed and are looking forward to the awards ceremony in October, when the winners will be announced.


The Structural Timber Awards is a celebration of innovation, best practice and expertise in timber technology. Taking place on 10 October 2017 at the National Conference Centre, Birmingham, the Awards will showcase innovative solutions and ground-breaking developments from across the UK timber industry.

With over 200 exemplary entries packed full of outstanding, pioneering projects, products and people received, this year’s Structural Timber Award judges have had an onerous job of shortlisting entries into each category. The judges have been overwhelmed with the high standard and variety within every category.

Super Structures Associates Ltd have been shortlisted for the Engineer of the Year category alongside a fantastic list of high-profile companies and projects.

View the full list of finalists for this year’s Structural Timber Awards.

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