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Structural engineering

The structural aspects of most applications are well prepared by experienced practitioners, but occasionally applications are received which are not of the same standard or based on the same level of information as usual.

This note is intended to help with such applications and is intended for Structural Engineers, Civil Engineers, and churches appointing them, who have not made previous or recent applications and who are not familiar with the requirements.

  1. The structural design should be prepared by a Chartered Structural Engineer or Chartered Civil Engineer with experience relevant to the age and building type of the church.
  2. Generally the engineer’s appointment should be direct to the church. “Design and Build” and other indirect appointments are discouraged.
  3. The Engineer must visit the church and familiarise him/her self with the layout, construction and materials, the history of the building, ground conditions and relevant site features, along with all such archival documentation available including historic plans of previous alterations and works.
  4. The application should be prepared with a brief description of the structure of the church – or relevant part of the church, with reference to the investigations, history and features, including all / any invasive (physical) and non-destructive investigation and reports.
  5. The application should also include a brief statement explaining the principals which were applied when preparing the structural work including consideration of any alternative approaches and an explanation of why the proposed approach was taken. This assists the DAC’s consultant engineers when considering an application as it provides them with an explanation of why a given approach was favoured over another.
  6. If physical investigations are appropriate these should be clearly set out and if necessary DAC approval obtained for trial pits, boreholes, opening floors, drilling walls, making access with roof voids etc.
  7. Remember that before any internal works are undertaken there must be clearance of any asbestos. External works may need to recognise burial sites, both recent and ancient. Advice may be obtained in this regard from the DAC’s Archaeology Consultant.
  8. While the new works must be fully detailed and soundly engineered, the DAC and the DAC’s Structural Engineering Consultants will be particularly concerned about the effect of the proposals on the existing fabric and issues of loading, differential movement, bearing stresses etc. Changes in foundation loading, reversibility etc. should be fully addressed.
  9. Lengthy, detailed computer printouts are not required unless specifically called for, but clearly detailed scale drawings, showing the affected area before and after the proposed works, are required to the layout and section of the proposed structure.
  10. The Engineer must be engaged to inspect the work in progress as excavations and opening up may throw up unexpected conditions despite investigative works.
  11. Building Regulation applications should be made on a “FULL PLANS” basis and a “Completion Certificate” obtained when the works are complete.

J.S. Johnston BSc CEng FICE FIStructE FCONSE
An engineer accredited in conservation

E. Morton BEng (Hons), CEng, MICE, IHBC
An engineer accredited in conservation

Structural Engineering Consultants to the Diocesan Advisory Committee
Diocese of London
October 2011

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