Department of Engineering / News / Constructionarium

Department of Engineering



Constructionarium is a hands-on construction experience for third-year Engineering students, held over 6 days at the National Construction College in Norfolk. Two teams of 18 to 20 students construct scaled-down versions of bridges, buildings, dams and other civil engineering projects. The projects are sufficiently large to require heavy machinery and to use real construction materials such as structural steel and reinforced concrete. The students are assessed on the final day in terms of construction methodology, scheduling and budgetary control.

This year's challenge was a scaled-down version of the canopy roof of Naples Airport Underground Station. Richard Rogers, Expedition Engineering and Italian Engineers developed the design for a new transport interchange at Naples Airport. The structure has 46 main radial ribs which spring from the top of the station shaft giving a canopy area of 4,600m². It is a partial elliptical torroid reduced by engineers to a mere 18 elements without sacrifice of architectural integrity.

The students built a canopy of 23 main radial ribs, the longest of which are 6m span. The access shaft is 4.5m diameter. The students took the shaft down to tunnel access level and submitted a method statement for opening up access to the tunnels. The challenge was mass fabrication early in the project, whilst completing the concrete lining. This is the first timber Constructionarium project. Removal of the temporary supports was a critical moment.

Our students took on the role of main contractor and site operatives, supported by Laing O’Rourke who took the role of specialist sub-contractor and Ramboll who acted as the resident engineer and client representative. From 2012, the Constructionarium will be run by the Laing O’Rourke Centre for Construction Engineering and Technology, a new partnership involving the Engineering Dept, JBS and Laing O’Rourke.

In 2010 the goal was a mini version of The Gherkin, 30 St Mary Axe, London. This landmark 180m tall 40 storey office building in the heart of London’s financial area was developed by Swiss Re. Foster and Partners with Ove Arup as the engineers who designed it. Its piles have a depth of 27m and the floor area is over 46,000m². The skeleton is made from 10,000 tonnes of steel with 760 tonnes of aluminium profiles supporting 46,000m² of glass and 34,000m² of aluminium sheeting.

The students built a three storey, 12m tall version using pre fabricated steel elements and tied in on-site precast floor elements. Completion of the structure was achieved by lifting the dome into place.

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