Engitect Issue 5

Waitrose Surbiton - Obituary: James Graham Malcolm - CDM and All That - Your Feedback - Partnership News - And Finally...


Issue Five -  Winter 1999


Welcome to the fifth edition of Engitect.  Regular readers will recall that the last issue, back in March, celebrated our 90th year in practice.  This was marked by a reception held in the Great Hall of the Institution of Civil Engineers in Great George Street, Westminster.  Nearly 300 clients and friends attended the event and we were honoured that Sir Stuart Hampson, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, agreed to say a few words.

Sir Stuart spoke of our work for The John Lewis Partnership over the last seventy years.  He recalled  a passage in a letter written in 1942 by Spedan Lewis to our founding partner's widow describing Bertram Hurst as his 'Engineer for Strength', which is an interesting way of describing a structural engineer!

In view of the historical theme of our last newsletter we have endeavoured to review current projects in this edition.

Waitrose Surbiton

The days when members of the design team can leave parts of a building unresolved, on the basis that 'the contractor will not be working in that area for some time', are fast disappearing, particularly for steel framed buildings.

Waitrose Surbiton is a building fully framed in structural steel where a full package of design information was passed to the steel fabricator.  This new development comprises a supermarket with a 1917m2 (20,630sq ft) sales floor suspended over a six metre deep basement.  The basement accommodates warehouse storage including an unloading bay for heavy goods vehicles and is reached via a ramp down from street level.  There is a 15 metre diameter turntable at basement level to assist the heavy goods vehicle movements.

Staff accommodation is provided in a two-storey block over part of the sales floor with mechanical plant housed in a three-storey area to the rear.  The roof spans over the column-free sales floor are up to 37 metres.  Spans of up to 25 metres are needed where the sales floor is above the basement and loading bay.

Over the last 12 years and in recognition of the need to improve the competitiveness of the European constructional steelwork industry, the steel industry, including suppliers and fabricators, has developed a process known as CIMsteel (computer integrated manufacturing in constructional steelwork).  The concept involves the introduction of techniques similar to those adopted in manufacturing industries such as automobile and aerospace.

A construction project is a large and complex one-off product which is not easily broken down into component parts that can be repeated on other projects as is the practice in the manufacturing industries.

The steel industry has carried out much research into items that can be repeated, such as end connections, and the process has developed to the extent where many steel fabricators offer computer software drawing packages, which have a dedicated link to a computerised manufacturing operation.  The process involves the creation of a three dimensional computer generated model of the steel frame.  The individual element assemblies are then generated using a library of standard details adn the project specific requirements such as connection loads etc.  The erection sequence is then established and after comment has been made on the details by the design team the data is down-loaded into the computerised manufacturing shop and fabrication commences. 

The implications for the design team of such a process are far reaching.  One obvious requirement is that the dimensional requirements of the full steel frame must be established before the computer model can be finalised.  Any subsequent changes, even minor dimensional alterations, risk disrupting the manufacturing process.  Thus the task imposed upon the design team is exacting.  At the moment most fabricators develop the computer model from two-dimensional drawings.  We are now looking at being able to provide the fabricator with three dimensional drawings

The development team included Waitrose Architects supported by DMWR, Hurst Peirce & Malcolm as structural engineers, quantity surveyors E C Harris, main contractor Wates and steel fabricator Quantrills.

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James Graham Malcolm  1928-1999

James Graham Malcolm, who died on the 5th of July, which was his 71st birthday, and who was known to all of us as Jimmy, was the son of my senior partner at Hurst, Peirce & Malcolm and I had known him for almost the whole of his life.

Jimmy went to Merchant Taylors' School where he did well in the academic field and also became a keen sportsman; the love of sport and particularly cricket and rugby then formed was to continue for the rest of his life.  He was a member of the MCC and regularly attended Lords as well as Twickenham; I am sure many people will remember with considerable pleasure being amongst his guests on these occasions.

I am not knowledgeable in these matters and my wedding was unwittingly arranged on the day of an important fixture at Twickenham; I well remember his wry and somewhat pithy coments on having to miss Twickenham that day - it took me several years to live that down!

Jimmy at an early age chose to follow in his father's footsteps as a civil and structural engineer.

After National Service in The Army he worked on the design and construction of Clifton Bridge in Nottingham.  He continued to work on bridges and was Deputy Resident Engineer on the building of Nasiriyah bridge in Iraq.

We engineers, as the years go by, get used to seeing our early efforts demolished.  However Jimmy saw this with a vengeance on television when the RAF bombed and blew up his Nasiriyah bridge during the Gulf War.

Jimmy had a taste of the work of Hurst Peirce & Malcolm when he worked as a junior member of staff for a short while in the early 1950s, and liking it he was happy to return in 1963 when he became a partner.  He was to remain a partner for the next 29 years including a four-year stint as senior partner.

  During that long time he became expert in many branches of our work and his advice was eagerly sought, not only for the normal construction and troubleshooting work of an engineer, but in particular on strong rooms and security work, explosion resistance and bomb damage; also bell towers and the hanging of peals of bells became his speciality.  The bell frames for the new ring of bells in Washington Cathedral I know gave him particular satisfaction

He was a most sagacious man who had a way of listening to a problem, going rather quiet for a few moments and then responding with a brilliant and succinct solution - or perhaps suggesting an absolutely crushing rejoinder.

I will miss those discussions we used to have on technical and all sorts of other matters, which I very much valued.  He had a marvellous; way of discarding irrelevancies and cutting through to the heart of a problem; even though he could sometimes be a little intolerant of others and perhaps a touch irascible, but all that he did he did in the most gentlemanly way.  He had the ability to make occasions special.

Jimmy was closely involved with the Star & Garter Home at Richmond where he was a Governor for several years, and he also served as a Governor of Bickley Park School.  I am sure his wise counsel in these activities as well as in many other connections will be long remembered.

He was a family man and enjoyed the company of young people to whom he was a kind and generous mentor.  He will be sorely missed by all who knew him and in particular by Adam, Sarah and the Children, as well as by his wife Margaret.

Michael Hurst, July 1999

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CDM And All That

Regular readers will recall the picture of a recently cast reinforced wall in Crete with Wellngton boots jutting from it.  We invited readers to submit captions for a conversation between the site agent and formwork foreman and were pleased to receive a number of entries including the following:-

'Was the foldaway bed your idea?'
Richard Thelwell

'Giovanni, when I said 'give him concrete boots' I meant get rid of the whole body, you know, in foundations or something.  How the hell are we going to explain this to the boss?'
Michael Ney

However, the judges decided that the entry: 'Michael Hurst has hung up his boots at last' by Michael Hurst was the most appropriate.

For those readers who do not know us very well, Michael joined the practice in 1959 and was Senior Partner from 1969-1987 and attended the office as our Consultant until March of this year when he retired from all consultancy work.

Perhaps you would like to put your mind to the next caption competition.  This view was recently taken somewhere in central London by Lawrance Hurst on a party wall job.

What might Lawrance's instructing Surveyor have said upon encountering this reinforcement in the wall's footing?

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Your Feedback

The back page article of our last issue, which showed a soil pipe beneath a domestic residence terminated abruptly against a mass of solid rock, prompted a number of comments from our readers.

We received this from Michael Ney:-

"Turning to the back page, this sort of scamped work, is regrettably, not just in the past.  I have been involved in a public building, recently refurbished.  We found that the main, fan-assisted flue from the Stelrad Modular boilers was of stainless steel at the bottom, stainless steel at the top and reportedly of stainless steel up the builders' work shaft.

After complaints of headaches, 'gassy smells' and nausea from occupants of a public assembly area, we dropped a CCTV drain camera down the flue.  We found the middle section was of galvanised steel that had rotted away in the aggressive flue gas.  Products of combustion were being pumped up the brick shaft by the flue dilution fan and were seeping through cracks in the old brickwork structure under the increased pressure.

The clerk of works, for there was an M & E one and a B & CE one, had been duped into thinking that the whole of the flue was of stainless steel and properly installed.  With a proper stainless steel flue now installed in the whole length, the complaints have gone completely.

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Partnership News

We announce two retirements from the firm since our last edition.  John Levy retires at the end of the year and Peter Bucher who retired in October have been with us for twelve years and eighteen months respectively.  Before joining us, both had long careers in Building Control, John as Deputy District Surveyor in Greenwich then Senior Assistant District Surveyor in Islington and Woolwich and Peter who worked in Chelsea.  Their knowledge of the Building Regulations has been widely appreciated by our clients when checking licenses and alterations for a number of major estates in London, including the Crown Commissioners and the Grosvenor Estates.  All the staff here wish them both long and happy retirements.

(P.S. - all rumours that they are being replaced because they are not Millennium compliant are completely unfounded.)

We would like to welcome Andrew Wan who joins us straight from Heriot Watt University as graduate engineer and also Yan Naung who joins us from Kvaerner on a years job exchange.

In return Michael Chung has joined Kvaerner to gain some valuable site experience.

And finally we would like to congratulate Phil Hurst and his wife Hilary on becoming parents for the first time.  Oliver Hurst was born on 14th April 1999 and all are doing well, especially Phil who has also recently been made an associate of the practice.

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And Finally...

A further entry in our series from the 19th Century building practices and hazards to health, here is one that readers may relate to, particularly given the current vogue for garden make-overs.

The article is taken from 'The Complete Builder by J. F. Sullivan published in 1880.  Things are better now, aren't they?  Answers on a postcard to the editor please.