Lyons O'Neill

Focus on: How access affects build sequence

Each and every stage of the building process requires careful planning in order to make the project a success. Site accessibility, the project location and the position of building sites on it are just as vital to success as any other element. If engineers were to neglect this process, the time taken to draw up intricate and detailed designs could be in vain, particularly if the necessary materials and construction workers could not easily be transported across the site to carry them out. Not to mention the impact these accessibility issues could have on project costs and deadlines.

These are considerations all building workers must take before carrying out any project and yet access often remains one of the biggest challenges we encounter in our work. To avoid project overruns and the subsequent costs this could incur, we rely heavily on the smart thinking and technical ability of our engineers to overcome these challenges.

For example, at Manresa Road, the project concerned the development of a single storey steel frame structure above a three storey basement. The site was very tight, had poor access and a high water table. In conjunction with these constraints, the site was surrounded by trees and residential properties on all sides; meaning disruption to the surrounding area had to be kept to an absolute minimum. On this project, a thorough understanding of the entire build sequence was needed to mitigate the possibility of our works having a negative knock-on, or domino effect on other elements of the build.

By incorporating the work of other stakeholders into our thinking, we were able to come up with a scheme which provided the architects at TDO Architecture an opportunity to form striking atriums through the building – right from the basement to ground level. These atriums allowed natural light to flood through parts of the building and opened up more internal space for the client. Our thinking also allowed for the majority of building work to be kept within the structure, causing minimal disruption to the external environment.

In other cases, accessibility issues go beyond disruption to the environment, and without intervention, can often restrict operations entirely. For example, at Red Bridge House, our work to provide our client with a unique woodland retreat meant that access was so limited, we were unable to get a significant crane to site. To address this setback, and ensure that the project was delivered within the desired timescale, we closely analysed the entire construction sequence to seek solutions.

Our approach focused on a standardised element, with a standardised connection detail, which allowed us to create a striking Vierendeel truss, which comfortably slotted into the exposed structure. The ambitious solution meant that the structure allowed for small elements to form part of the entire build, which, without a crane large enough to help, was crucial to our success in delivering the project.

These solutions are reflective of the innovative thinking amongst our team. Without an engineers’ ability to think on their feet, all stakeholders, involved at various stages of the sequence, could be negatively impacted.

Engineering requires a collaborative effort, and by considering the entire build sequence at every stage of a project, we continue to gain a better understanding and appreciation of how each element of the sequence works in harmony with one another.