Having taken a course on interdisciplinary design in the environment and writing her thesis on the adaptability of buildings for the future, she was approached to lead the rollout of Future Ready for the UK structures business. Six months into the program, she tells us how it’s progressing.

“ The plan is to make Future Ready part of our everyday project delivery process just like Health & Safety or sustainability. But for us in structures the initial challenge was that, unlike for MEP, it wasn’t immediately obvious what aspects of our work actually meet the Future Ready criteria, other than designing for longevity.

So we started to think about what we were already doing that could be considered to be Future Ready practice and to work out how we could communicate the concept to our people and get them to embrace it and proactively incorporate it in their day-to-day activities. Equally important was to work out how we were going to introduce and sell the concept in to our clients. Following a number of brainstorming sessions, three groups were set up to develop our best ideas.

Audrey McIver

Virtual Future Ready Building

One of our first deductions was that structures can’t work on Future Ready in isolation – we have to work with the other disciplines. So our first proposal was to develop a virtual, interactive building, working with colleagues from Energy and MEP to ensure we capture the essentials in terms of climate change and adaptability for the future. The idea is that you will be able to hover over a part of the building – say a window or the façade – to find out how it has been designed with the future in mind. This would allow us to demonstrate to clients that we have made all the considerations; because Future Ready design is always a compromise – you might have a solution for maximum efficiency now, but it could provide less adaptability for the future. The model will be one way of showing that we’ve already done this type of thinking and we have some of the answers. Creating the model is going to be quite a challenge for the group in charge of this project, as we haven’t done anything like it before, so we’re looking for colleagues around the business who can help us with it.

Technical Reference Manual

The second group is developing a Technical Reference Manual (TRM) to capture all the research that we have on the Future Ready concepts and practices, as well as to document what we have already done, and publish it internally. We thought the best way to achieve this was to engage as many people as possible to look into their specialist fields, since they are more likely to embrace something they are already interested in. As an example, we might have a section on designing for a specific building life-span. Do we need to design a structure that will last for 200 years if the building is only going to be needed for 15? By doing the research and having the facts and figures at our fingertips, when we propose Future Ready solutions to our clients, we’ll already know the outcome.

Part of standard reporting

The third group is working on embedding Future Ready into our standard reports in the same way as we always have a Health & Safety section. It could also appear in project reviews and in the Risks and Opportunities section, where we could highlight opportunities for designing for change of use as an option for clients to make their buildings Future Ready.

Poster projects

These ideas will take some time to develop. In the meantime, we wanted to do something that was immediately visible. So we decided to look at our existing projects and what we are already doing to adapt them for use in the future.

One of our senior engineers, Nicoletta Galuzzi, is coordinating a series of case studies to collect ideas and raise awareness across the business. These are being turned into posters for distribution throughout our offices. So far the posters we’ve produced are based on the work of our London office, and now the regional offices are starting to offer their ideas. We started with Principal Tower, a fifty-storey residential development positioned over an 8-track expansion corridor for Network Rail (who are also preparing for the future). Our Future Ready designs included:

  • Forming a concrete shell in the tower’s substructure to avoid clash with future railway expansion
  • Designing the superstructure to span the width of the future 8-track railway to enable future construction of a tunnel with no impacts to the building’s structure
  • Providing acoustic isolation on the elements in contact with the tunnel to avoid impact of future rail activities to the building acoustics 

Another poster illustrates how the major commercial and residential development, Southbank Place, is designed to allow change of use, taking into account densification. Each new building will be able to be demolished to foundation level and redeveloped independently in the future, without affecting the other buildings.

All the information that we gather as we prepare more case studies will be fed into the work of our three groups on the interactive building, the TRMs and our standard reports.

These case studies have helped us realise how much of what we already do is actually Future Ready and how we, as structural engineers, can ensure it’s embedded into the design of all our projects to the point where it’s automatically considered as part and parcel of our everyday working life. ”

More on this subject