Concrete helps create a cleaner environment for London – the Lee Tunnel Project wins at Concrete Society Awards

Over 400 members, guests and construction industry representatives attended The Concrete Society Awards Dinner held at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London on 17 November 2016. This event celebrates excellence in concrete and is the longest-running awards programme in the UK construction industry, now in its 48th year. Broadcaster and journalist Kate Silverton was this year’s guest host, presenting awards to the winners and compering the programme for the evening.

The Outright Winner was the MVB Joint Venture for the Lee Tunnel Project, Beckton in London. The project comprises five shafts, with the diaphragm walls the deepest undertaken in the UK at 90m. A 7m-diameter 7km-long tunnel connects the shafts. The steel-fibre-reinforced concrete for the slipformed tunnel lining took 18 months to develop, resulting in a self- compacting concrete with a retention time of four hours encompassing up to 15 constituent materials. The innovative slipformed shaft construction also incorporated steel fibres to reduce substantially the quantity of standard reinforcement.

Richard Kershaw of CEMEX UK Materials, concrete supplier to the project, said:

“We are very honoured to receive such acclaim from this most prestigious of awards. Concrete was the only realistic material choice for this structure. CEMEX is proud to be part of this momentous scheme and be part of a legacy to London, which will help prevent 16 million tonnes of sewage entering the River Lee and Thames each year.”

The Society Awards judging panel said:

“The Lee Tunnel was the most outstanding structure and therefore outright winner for its technical achievements in the use of concrete, its demanding placement conditions and innovative structural solutions. The statistics for concrete volume placed are impressive; the innovation required and final execution is exemplary. This project pushed the technical boundaries of what is possible with concrete.”

Five further projects were Highly Commended at The Society Awards Dinner:

Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford – awarded to nominee Laing O’Rourke for its combination of complex architectural and structural engineering, which is a statement of modern architecture. The exposed concrete atrium with a complex geometry based on a series of shifted discs (stacked and off-set toroids) creates space and light. The exposed curved and ever-changing ‘floating’ staircase links the fluid architecture. Load transfer is achieved through a mixture of post-tensioning, precast and in-situ concrete, which combine both architecturally and structurally to deliver a building of the highest quality – a feat not possible with other structural materials.

Cockcroft Building, University of Brighton – awarded to Fraser Brown MacKenna Architects for a striking example of 1960s architecture. Designed for the atomic age, it is now transformed into a research environment for the information age. By repurposing this occupied academic building, the long-term durability and longevity of concrete has been admirably demonstrated. This refurbishment illustrates that well-maintained concrete structures can continue well after their predicted design life and has resulted in the EPC rating improving from F to a highly efficient B.

Motel One, Manchester – was presented to Hodder & Partners for encompassing precast just-in-time techniques with very high-quality architectural finishes in a busy city centre. The elegant façade has been achieved with variations in height with echoes of the adjacent traditional building’s window proportions and sight lines. Extensive use of BIM-based 3D modelling and off-site efficiencies has created a high-quality project within the stringent budget. The architectural form and concrete finish are the outstanding aspects of this structure.

Outhouse, Forest of Dean – was awarded to architect Loyn & Co, for the stunning environment created for both a working and living space, and backdrop to the owners’ artwork collections. The project is a testimony to the versatility of concrete. Exterior edging beams were precast on-site, decorative flooring and exposed in-situ coloured concrete walls contribute to appearance, as do the thicker construction elements that are used for thermal mass. The dwelling includes sustainable technologies such as whole-house ventilation, a ground-source heat pump, solar thermal and photovoltaic panels. This adds up to an impressive energy-efficiency rating of 96%.

Pont Briwet Viaduct, Penrhyndeudraeth, Gwynedd – was presented to Hewson Consulting Engineers for a project where concrete has provided an aesthetically pleasing viaduct with robustness against shipping collisions. The Pont Briwet Viaduct is a very impressive structure that replaces the old timber railway and single-lane toll road crossing in Gwynedd, north Wales. The project is an innovative and sustainable solution to improve links and ease congestion in the area. Both self-compacting and traditional concrete have been used in casting the precast units and in-situ work.

Kathy Calverley, Managing Director of The Concrete Society, said:

“We were amazed by the number and quality of nominations that we received this year, demonstrating that the passion for the most widely used material in the construction industry continues. The judges had a difficult task putting a shortlist together and an even more onerous one to reach the final decision for the winning project and those highly commended. The Society would like to thank all the teams who take the time and effort putting together the nominations and the judges for visiting all the shortlisted projects across the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, making our Awards one of the most respected in the construction industry. We would also like to thank all our sponsors, with a special mention to main sponsor, Pudlo, who helped make this event a continued success.”

The judging panel was made up of: Ian Firth, vice-president of the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE); Tim Broyd, president of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE); Mark Hodson, regional chair at Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA); and Stephen Hodder, past-president of RIBA. They were supported by The Concrete Society’s advisory engineers.

The Society’s 2017 Awards process will start in December 2016 and the competition will be open to structures completed between October 2015 and April 2017.