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Specifying visual concrete: An engineer’s view
Concrete used as part of the final finish of a building generates debate on aesthetics; in this paper a structural engineer gives his views on how to produce and view good quality concrete. The notes apply to both in-situ and pre-cast work, outlining the key issues for any project of: managing the expectations of all parties; clear and effective communication of those expectations; teamwork — everybody on the project must work positively together; the material quality, primarily good shuttering. There are notes on the main alternative forms of specification used by structural engineers — the National Building Specification (NBS) and the National Structural Concrete Specification (NSCS). These are followed by a discussion on the advantages of using reference projects to establish the standards for a project and what can be gained from using sample panels to establish clear benchmarks. Further technical detail is given on topics that include formwork, the concrete mix and concreting process and post concreting issues. Points are illustrated with projects including Juergen Teller’s photography studio in West London which was shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize (see Figure 1).
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Paul Toplis is a partner at Price & Myers consulting engineers; IStructE board member for the Quality Scheme for Ready Mixed Concrete; was the technical editor for the fourth edition of the National Structural Concrete Specification and is a member of the CARES sustainability committee. He has worked on numerous projects where beautiful concrete was required including working for the supplier of the pre-cast units for the USAF museum at Duxford and then, most recently, for several projects with 6a architects including Juergen Teller’s photography studio, the Black Stone Building and a small private art gallery just off Gray’s Inn Road.