Engitect Issue 1

The Nelson Monument - Hurst Peirce & Malcolm - Historic Concrete - The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 1994 - Emergency Call-Out - Partnership News


Issue One - Summer 1997


Welcome to the first Hurst, Peirce & Malcolm newsletter. The practice, which operates as a partnership, has provided structural and civil engineering consultancy services for many years. We have enjoyed and continue to maintain long standing relationships with clients which extend back in some cases to the 1920's. Even so, we sometimes find that our clients are not always aware of the breadth and depth of the services we provide. Hence the idea for the newsletter, which we hope you will find interesting and informative. We aim to issue it on a regular basis.

The Nelson Monument - Trafalgar SquareThe Nelson Monument - Trafalgar Square

One of our recent projects received wide media coverage. We were asked to report and advise upon repairs to the fabric of Trafalgar Square and the Nelson Monument.

The works were carried out in conjunction with Donald Insall & Partners and included a study of the history of the monument. Through this study, we learned that a National Memorial Committee was formed in 1838 to organise the building of an outstanding replacement for Flaxman's modest monument to Lord Nelson that stood in St. Paul's Cathedral.

William Railton's Corinthian column, modelled on those of the Temple of Mars in the Forum of Augustus in Rome was selected from a competition in which 124 schemes were entered. E.H.Bailey's statue of Nelson which stands atop the column was also chosen by competition.

At first the final design was not very popular, the Art Union expressing the hope that a strong wind might topple it onto the recently completed National Gallery, which it also did not like. The then Prime-minister, Sir Robert Peel was concerned about the design, warning the Commons that it would be "extremely inconvenient" should the monument fall in that part of the crowded metropolis, something of an understatement for anyone unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end! Such disquiet came to the notice of the Office of Works who, on the advice of experts, recommended that the proposed height of the monument be reduced by 33 feet, the column be in solid stone, not hollow as originally intended and that the diameter of the base of the column should be increased.

Our inspections of the monument, initially from steeple jack's ladders and bosun's chair and later in more detail from the scaffolding erected for cleaning and repairs, found the monument to be in surprisingly good condition. However, the repairs to the statue carried out to remedy damage caused by a lightning strike in 1896, principally on Nelson's left shoulder joint and left arm, were found to need stabilising and consolidating by low pressure injection of cementitious grout and synthetic resin.

There were a number of other lesser cracks, small areas of erosion and past repairs requiring attention but the right foot of the statue and the top part of the bell on which it stands were severely cracked. Repairs to this damage were made by the use of advanced techniques in low head resin injection which ensured that the interstices were completely filled. This operation was featured on the Tomorrow's World television programme. The bell beneath the statue had serious cracking which had been bound with bronze bands. It seemed likely that this cracking happened during the original working of the stone, following the line of a natural flaw in the block of masonry. To prevent this damage from becoming worse, resin was injected into the fractures by the same method used to repair the right foot.

Minor repairs were carried out to the base and plinth to the column as well as extensive repointing. The column was also checked for plumbness and a policy of regular monitoring was established to detect any trend that might be developing.

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Hurst Peirce & Malcolm  

Hurst Peirce and Malcolm is one of the longer established structural and civil engineering practices in London, having been founded by in 1910 by B. L. Hurst.

The practice provides a wide range of design and advisory services to clients from the private and public sectors. As a conscious policy the partners have maintained the size of the firm at a level large enough to undertake major projects yet sufficiently compact for the partners to give a personal service and for the firm to undertake smaller schemes economically. Current project schemes range in value from a few thousand pounds to one of nearly �50m

The partners are active engineers taking personal responsibility for each project throughout its course to provide clients with continuity, consistency and direct accountability. We believe that this philosophy is no less important today than when it was when the firm was founded: that some clients have continued to appoint HP&M for over half a century further encourages this outlook.

We undertake structural and civil engineering work of all forms with an emphasis on new construction and refurbishment schemes. We have recently offered clients the service of planning supervisor under the CDM Regulations enacted in March 1995.

About half of our commissions are located in the London area and we have wide experience of the restraints imposed by confined sites, deep excavations and retained facades. Outside the London area we have completed projects as widely placed as Aberdeen, Plymouth and the Channel Islands; overseas work has been carried out in Belgium, France, Greece, West Africa and Mauritius.

In addition to our design services we provide a range of supporting advisory services including feasibility studies, structural assessments, design appraisal and monitoring, party wall and expert witness advice.

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Historic Concrete

Lawrance Hurst has recently played a major part in the preparation of papers and an exhibition designed to increase understanding among people of the past use of concrete, particularly reinforced and pre-stressed concrete.

Reinforced concrete, as engineers working today understand it is about 100 years old, and the buildings and structures which have survived represent the achievements of more than four generations of engineers and architects.

The design methods and construction systems of the first 50 years or more are outside the personal working experience of today�s professionals. The aim of the exhibition, which was organised under the umbrella of the Institution of Civil Engineers Archives Panel, was to deal with the questions today�s architects and engineers might pose about older concrete structures-How was this built? What standards were used? What was this system?

Unfortunately there are not always easy answers to these questions and there is no British history of reinforced concrete to which one can refer. Civil engineering codes of practice are largely a post-World War II development, and there were only a handful of British standards relative to reinforced concrete before 1940.

Lawrance has been able to draw upon his considerable knowledge of historic structures and HP&M�s archive for the benefit of the exhibition. The exhibition is now over but the material is to be held as the Concrete Archive at the Institution of Civil Engineers.

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The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 1994

"Ah! But we do not need to comply with these regulations". So said a client recently and brandished a letter from the Health & Safety Executive to 'prove' that the regulations, apparently, did not apply. The letter referred to a project of a similar nature in the same road as the premises owned by our client. However, the advice given seemed at odds with guidance given by HSE officers at recent seminars. So, as non-compliance with the regulations can become an offence in criminal law, it was agreed to seek further advice from the HSE.

"Ah! Yes! We'll get back to you". They did, and they made it clear that the regulations did apply in this case.

We also understand that they re-established contact with the owner of the neighbouring building to re-examine the merits of his case. Our client joined the 16 or so clients we already have where we act as Planning Supervisor.

Projects where we have appointments to act in the P. S. role range in value from underpinning works of less than �10,000 to multi-million pound building refurbishment projects at Ascot race course, Australia House and buildings on the Grosvenor Estate.

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Emergency Call Out

Question (from Loss Adjuster): "Can you quickly visit a building which has been partially demolished under a dangerous structures notice and ascertain whether or not demolition was really necessary."

Answer: "Yes, but if defective areas have already been demolished, it will depend upon what we can reconstruct from photographs and written statements. This was the request by telephone at 5.30 p.m. on a Thursday. I visited property that evening and, despite one third of the building having been demolished, I was able to conclude that the building was unnecessarily demolished."

I was able to come to this conclusion because what had been assumed to be load bearing brickwork which had been badly cracked by vehicle impact was, in fact, brick cladding around a steel column.

However, at the time the cracking was observed and, bearing in mind that it was considered dangerous to get too close, was it reasonable to expect that the steel column should have been anticipated? This is the question currently being considered by those involved.

Meanwhile, my preliminary report was faxed to my client by 9.00 am on the Friday morning.

Andrew Dutton

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Partnership News

We would like to welcome three new members to our technical staff. Philip Hurst who joins us as Senior Engineer from Knapp Hicks and Partners, Brian Cochrane who joins us from Sinclair Johnson as Senior Engineer and James Schofield who has just graduated from Manchester University as a Graduate Engineer.