Architectural Technology by Stephen Emmitt

I recently bought this new book about Architectural Technology written by Stephen Emmitt. It is currently in it's second edition and it has been released in 2012 (first edition was released in 2002).

What makes this book great is that it's supported and promoted from the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT), which I think that whatever you are going to read in this book is not just an opinion of Stephen Emmitt but they are also facts that will enhance your knowledge on what Architectural Technology is.

In the book says that 'This core textbook on translating creative designs into functional buildings is written for undergraduates in architectural technology, architectural engineering, architecture and building surveying'.

The author also highlights in the introduction: 'The book is not designed to give answers but to highlight some of the challenges and opportunities that make architectural technology such an interesting and engaging subject'. And in fact, this book is not a guide to teach you how to be a technician or how to design, but will help you understand what is Architectural Technology in a greater depth.

I highly recommend this book to be part of your collection, especially for students, as we are the ones who need to understand the meaning of Architectural Technology in a greater depth in order to be part of it, and this book is one step to that point.

The Technical Mistake of Walkie Talkie Building.

Walkie Talkie is a new 37-storey skyscraper recently erected, yet to be completed in a year in London (specifically at 20 Fenchurch Street) with lightweight glass cladding.

The problem about this building is that the glass used for the façade is highly reflective to the point that some describe it as a magnifying glass above ants.

Even though a lot of people could predict this hazard - one of them a CGI artist - it is recently that this technical problem was taken in account where the reflection of the sun from the building literally melted a car. (Check out article in the link: http://goo.gl/1i26Ml)

The architect of this building admits that he realised that the cladding would cause problems by reflecting the sun, but he also admits that he didn't realise it would be that hot. "We made a lot of mistake with this building and we will take care of it", he said.

To solve this hazard, the owners erect a temporary scaffold shield to protect the street from the heat waves reflected. This will keep the streets from heating up for the next two or three weeks, after that the phenomenon is expected to disappear, however, the engineer's job does not end here, they are still continuing the evaluation for long-term solution to prevent this issue from happening in the future.

For this technical mistake the building gains a nickname and from Walkie Talkie, now is being called the Walkie Scorchie.

Le Corbusier

Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris or as he is known 'Le Corbusier' was born in October 6 in 1887and died in August 27 in 1965. Le Corbusier was mostly known as an architect and was one of the pioneers of modern architecture, but he was also a designer, painter, urban planner and a writer. Generally put, an artist.

Le Corbusier lived in a rapidly industrializing world and the ideas of functionality, standardization and mass production became key concepts on his architectural designs. Like other architects working at the time he made use of newly developed materials like reinforced concrete and sheet glass in his buildings.

Le Corbusier developed five points of architectural design. These were:

  • Raising the building from the ground and supporting the structure on 'pilotes' (reinforced concrete columns) around the perimeter of the building footprints
  • Open internal floor-plans achieved by removal of the necessity to have load bearing internal walls.
  • The creation of a free façade also achieved by the removal of the need for bearing walls
  • The use of elongated horizontal windows to maximise views and natural light
  • The creation of roof gardens to replace the green area taken up by the footprint of the building.

These points are best illustrated in the design of his Maison Citrohan.

In this picture you can see 3D sketches of the Maison Citrohan building design of Le Corbusier from two different angles where you can see some of the principles described above such as the roof garden, the big windows, the horizontal windows etc. And the open internal floor-plans are shown in the sketch below.

The pictures that will follow is the Redbridge Welcome Centre building in London designed by Peter Barber Architects. A building that is inspired by Le Corbusier's design and uses his principles:

Building Information Modelling Protocol (Feb 2013)

Construction Industry Council (CIC) has published in February of 2013 the BIM protocol which refers to rules and laws regarding Building Information Modelling.

According to AT Magazine, the Government Construction Strategy gave a command that for all government construction projects will be used Level 2 BIM*. 

*According to out-law.com Level 2 BIM is A managed 3D environment held in separate discipline 'BIM' tools with data attached. Commercial data will be managed by enterprise resource planning software and integrated by proprietary interfaces or bespoke middleware. This level of BIM may utilise 4D construction sequencing and/or 5D cost information.

In the words of Simon Rawlinson (Chair of the Legal, Contracts and Insurance Working Group of the BIM Task Group and CIC Executive Board Member):

'CIC's suite of documentation represents a major step forward for the implementation of BIM in the UK. The Protocol provides a generally applicable contractual framework for the use of BIM on projects, representing the interests of the employer and model originators. We have also taken steps to define the scope of the role of Information Management and have addressed some common concerns in connection with the insurance industry. From my perspective, the great step forward has been to unify these documents around PAS 1192-2 and the information flows that are crucial to the BIM value proposition. I would like to congratulate the team for their excellent work in bringing the suite together.'

The protocol can be downloaded from the official website of the Construction Industry Council (http://cic.org.uk/publications/).

Several Changes on Building Regulations in England (2013)

According to the AT magazine, a magazine exclusively for the subject of Architectural Technology, in April and July of 2013 there have been the latest changes in the Building Regulations, intending to reduce the burden of regulation in the construction industry, and includes changes to Parts B, K, M and P.

The changes to the Approved Documents to Part B and M are minor, however the changes for the Approved Documents Parts K and P and to Regulation 7 are extent enough to the point that they require new editions of the documents. Approved Documents K, P and Regulation 7 are completely re-written to  conform to English standards only, to improve readability and remove duplicate information.

Even thought the Approved Documents are simplified there is a downside to this change. Each document is divided in three types of buildings: Buildings other than dwelling and common access areas in buildings that contain flats and do not have passenger lifts, Building other than dwellings and Dwellings. This is a downside as all the regulations have to be read carefully to determine which is for what type of buildings.

Part B:

Approved Document B Volume 2: Buildings other than dwelling houses' has two minor changes in the guidance to Requirement B2 Internal fire spread:

-A new footnote to Table 10 permits decorative wall coverings which achieve European Class C-s3,d2 to be used in circulation spaces, provided they are bonded to Class A2-s3,d2 substrates, The change is intended is to remove a barrier to the adoption of the European classification systems.

-The limitations on the use of type TP(b) thermoplastic diffuses and roof lights have been relaxed to allow smaller units to be used closer together: the revised limits are in table 11 and diagram 27A. It is anticipated that will facilitate energy efficiency lighting layouts.

Part K:

Part K and N are addressed to protection against falling, collision and impact with glazing, while in Part M (Access to and use of Buildings) is referring to some of the same issues, however with conflicting guidance. In the new updated version they avoid the repetitive information by transposing all the Requirements from Part N into Part K and avoiding the overlapping guidance from Part M.

This table illustrates the structure of Part K, together with the previous location of the Requirements.
The new Approved Document is not intended to provide new technical requirements, but only some minor changes in the guidance.

-Stairs are now defined as:
Private: intended to be used only for one dwelling.
General access: the normal route between levels for all building users. 
Utility: used for escape, maintenance or other purposes, but not as a normal route

-The guidance on rise and going has been simplified and, as a result, there are difference in allowable dimensions.

-Approved Document K now contains minimum stair widths for buildings other than dwellings, of 1200 mm between enclosing walls or upstands, and 1000 mm between handrails.

-References to standards have been updated, so, for example, loading on guarding is now circulated to BS EN 1991-1-1 (with UK National Annex) and BD 6688-1-1.

Part M:

The most significant change that was made for Part M is referred mainly to Access Statements for building control purposes.

The Building Control Bodies (BCB) did not find Access Statements very useful, and the preparation of Access Statements did not sit easily the design process, therefore it has been abolished. Instead the applicants must communicate the access strategy, which means BCB requires to receive the strategy clearly how the approach chosen for the project demonstrates compliance with Part M.

The access strategy should focus on points where they drift apart from the Approved Document. For smaller project it can also be suggested to have a conversation to review the proposals and record the outcome by correspondence. For larger works it may be required to be provided with written documents accompanied by annotated drawings.

Part P:

The intention of this part is to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities caused by poor quality electrical installation work in dwellings. Part P has been introduced since 2005 which improved the electrical safety, but there have been concerns that the range of notifiable work is too extensive and the cost of inspection for unregistered installers is too high. In these issues is where the changes are focused.

All electrical installations in dwellings should be carried out to BS 7671 (incorporating amendment 1:20011), but only the following work is notifiable:

  • Installation of a new circuit
  • Replacement of consumer unit
  • Addition or alternation to existing circuits
Where work is notifiable, a registered competent person can self-certify the wok. Non-registered installeds can either have the Building Control Body certify the work, or they can arrange for third party certification by a registered third-arty certifier, which should be more cost effective.

Regulation 7:

Regulation 7 mainly addresses the suitability of materials and standards of workmanship. The most significant change is in the acceptable methods for demonstrating a material or product's fitness for purpose:

  • CE marking under the CPR to a harmonised European Standard or European Technical Approval.
  • CE making under other European legislation, such as the Gas Appliances Directive.
  • Assessment to a British Standard or to another national or international technical standard
  • Independent certification schemes
  • Tests and calculations
  • Past experience
These markings will make it easier for designers to demonstrate the suitability of a product. The changes to Approved Document 7 also require corresponding changes to the guidance on materials and workmanship, independent certification schemes and technical specifications in all other Approved Documents (A,C, D, E, F, G, H, J and L)

The Italian fonts indicate the changes that have been made to the Approved Documents.

The Structure of 1 Embankment Place, London

One Embankment Place is a high-rise steel framed building built on the air rights above the rail platforms of Charing Cross station in London, which for anyone who doesn't know is located right at the Thames River.

1 Embankment Place Building, London
The architects wanted to find a way to develop the space above the platforms of the rail station to create an office building that would be acceptable to the planning authorities and of quality to compete with other major developments.

The key problems with designing this building was that the engineers were not allowed to place foundations under that building as they would penetrate the platforms of that station.

The solution to this problem was to look in the back side of the site where the rails were coming to an end, where they also positioned an entrance connected with a bridge that allows access to the opposite side of the river.

To make the structure of this challenging design work, they placed a steel arch (supported on two steel columns at its edge) constructed of plate box sections tied with steel stressing bars. Steel columns, beams metal decking is suspended from the arch. The chosen material was steel, as they needed to make this building as lighter as possible and because of the long span the were required to achieve. The steel arch that is positioned with columns is significant to the design as the whole office development is hung by it, which makes it more complex to detail and construct than the ordinary frame.

1 Embankment Place building during it's construction

Zaha Hadid and the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre

Zaha Hadid is a famous Iraqi-British architect. She was the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture  Prize in 2004.

When she won the Pritzker Prize the New York Times wrote 'Ms. Hadid's personal charisma has also helped to publicise her work, though to mixed effect. Beloved by journalists and members of her own profession for what is frequently described as her diva presence, Ms. Hadid has only recently found the clients willing to look beyond her reputation for being difficult.

Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center, Baku, Azerbaijan
Beko Masterplan, Belgrade, Serbia
Changsha Maixihu International Culture & Arts Centre, Changsha, China
Hadid's designs are known for their multiple perspective points and fragment geometry, a technique she uses to evoke the chaos of modern life. She designs this solid element in her designs to gain space. Even though, Hadid, talks a little about how her buildings are inspired and lets her buildings speak for themselves, her designs are rooted in Islamic architectural tradition.

My personal favourite design of Zaha Hadid is the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center. The glass façade of the Haydar Aliyev allows more light to enter the building and its wavy solid shape achieves a very urban design.

There are three facilities under this fascinating roof. A museum, which is positioned in the left side of the building and a massive library which is in the centre tall curvy part of the building, where inside it there is a concrete core (as shown in the last picture below during its construction) and is supported with columns. And  it also includes an auditorium that can host 1,200 audience, positioned in the right side of the building (according to the image below). 

The odd thing about the facilities is that there is a concert hall, which is a loud facility next to a library that requires silence. To block the loud sounds reaching the library the constructors built six soundproof concrete walls around the auditorium with thickness of 63.5 cm (25 inches) preventing the sound from reaching the library, otherwise called a 'box-in-box' construction. The interior cladding of the concert hall required 280 interlocking panels making it the first concert hall to be covered entirely in wood.

The Auditorium, hosting over 1,200 audience
The first question I raised in my head about this building is, what material is used to achieve that solid wavy curves that makes the Heydar Aliyev Centre so original. At first I thought it would be concrete as concrete can be shaped very easily, however I couldn't be more wrong.

The façade of the building is surprisingly supported with a steel structure called 'space frame', a truss-like, lightweight, rigid structure constructed from interlocking struts in a geometric pattern. They can span large areas with few interior support. To waterproof the roof is not easy at all, as 360 individually-cut panels are required to render it which makes it the most complex roofing projects ever attempted.

The interior façade of this building is established with a materials called 'flex-board', which can be bend to the desired curve, to cover the whole area, they needed over 19,000 pieces of flex-board to cover the whole interior area (which is around 28 miles).

On top of the waterproofing material (external façade) and the flex-board (internal façade) they used Glass Fibre Reinforced Polyester (GFRP) for both indoor and outdoor cladding material.

Inside of the Heydar Aliyev Centre

Structures for High-rise Buildings

In high-rise buildings there is always the issue of the structure that is going to be used to support the building without affecting it's design and it's usage by the occupants. The first thing that needs to be determined is wether the building should be a concrete frame building of a steel-framed building.

There are times where concrete should be used and some other occasions that concrete cannot be used and that's where steel comes in the design, to establish the best possible structure for the building.

Concrete is a heavy material, much heavier than steel and therefore if it's a building which is really tall, most times steel is used to reduce the weight of the building (although it is not set on stone), however, steel cannot take the shape that concrete can and in some designs, even if it's a really tall building, concrete must be used.

If a building is to be built but it is very restricted on it's foundation design or the load that is going to have, sometimes steel must be used. Let's take for example the Bush Lane House building in London. It's a steel-framed building, not because it is too tall to be concrete or it's shape but because under it the underground rails pass from there, therefore a pile foundation system could not be used, for an alternative strategy, the architects used vertical steel piles which can hold all the floors and penetrate the ground only from one of the side to avoid penetrating the underground station and transfer the loads under the underground station.

Another important reason why not simple structures can be used in high rise buildings is because of the wind load. Wind load can affect the buildings as if additional load is added on it, therefore the structure has to resists as much wind load as possible and be able to carry the rest from it's structure to the foundation, and from the foundation system to the ground.

Generally, there are five types of structures that are used to resist wind loads:
  • Rigid Frame Structures
  • Core Type Structures
  • Share Wall Systems
  • Braced Structures
  • Tube Buildings

Rigid Frame Structures:

A Rigid structure is considered to be the structure that has more rigid connections to be able to hold the building together when it drifts from the wind load.

There are two types of connections between the beams and the columns that are used:

Example of a Rigid Frame Structure: Centre Point building in London

Core Type Structures:

A core type structure is when in the centre of the structure of the building they place a thick concrete core and the floors are connected on that core. In that way all the load is applied on the concrete core and then is transmitted to the ground. A symmetrical core must be designed or else the building will suffer high torsional forces that can be very destructive.

Example of a Core Type Structure is the London Shard Tower.

Note: The maximum storeys that can be achieved with the core type structure are 65 storeys. If the building is higher than 65 storeys then additional technology must be added. For example, the London Shard has total of 72 floors. At the 66th floor they used diagonal steel struts rising from the perimeter columns of the building to the central core. This technique is known as 'hat truss'.

Share Wall Systems:

In the picture above you can see a typical arrangement of the share wall systems. With this arrangement the share wall resist bending in one plane while frame actions takes place in the other plane. This provides good torsional stiffness.

Braced Structures:

Example of a Braced Structure: The Wellcome Trust Gibbs Building, London

Braced structure is a systems which is designed primarily to resist wind loads and earthquake forces. It is designed to work in tension and compression. Braced structural building are mainly steel framed buildings.

Another example of a braced structure is the First Wisconsin Centre in Milwaukee in America. As seen in the picture below, on the top top, middle and bottom floor there is a braced structure supporting the building, on those floors the building can support greater loads.

Tube Buildings:

The principal design for this structure is that the structure is placed in the external of the building instead of having it going through the building or placed inside of the building. 

A typical example of this kind of structure is the John Hancock Insurance Company Building in Chicago.

As you can see from the picture in the right, the braces that were used for this buildings to hold resist wind load are visible and they are part of the façade of the building.

These are the main structural systems that are used to support high-rise buildings and to resist wind load and earthquake forces.

*Some information where extracted from lectures of different universities