Our client bought a leasehold flat in very poor conditions, in a conversion building dating 1900. She needed a complete refurbishment and a new layout. The alterations included the removal of a load-bearing wall to create an open space kitchen and living room, which required the freeholder consent.
Initially our client engaged a building contractor directly who provided the structural design of an independent structural engineer and started immediately with the stripping out of the flat.
The freeholder refused to give consent to implement the original structural design and the work was suspended. Our client tried to negotiate but in the meantime she had to pay for short term rent and mortgage every month.
The original structural design included three steel beams to support the roof load as replacement for the removal of the load bearing wall. The freeholder refused to give consent for the installation of three steel beams, trying to exploit our client’s situation and convince her to buy the loft space from him. During the negotiation, the freeholder provided provisional consent to complete the work using only one steel beam.
When our client contacted us, we immediately thought of an alternative design. With minimal structural alterations we would obtain the freeholder’s consent. It was possible to realise the conversion using only one steel beam.
How is it possible to replace three beams with only one without compromising the structure? The original design distributed all the load to the party walls via three thinner steel beams. In our solution we used only one steel beam, placed in the critical point and thicker; plus, we replaced the timber joists with thicker ones. This way we distributed the load evenly between the beam and the external walls.
Structural design is creative
In construction, you very rarely pay attention to the challenges of structural design.
The cost, complexity and schedule of construction projects are deeply impacted by the structural elements and their design. It is possible to create alternative structural designs. We can optimise budget and complexity issues and maximise space, light and habitability.
As the word design suggests, creating supporting structures for buildings is a creative exercise.