As complex forms increasingly become the norm so product manufacturers have to continually raise their game and develop innovative solutions to allow the realisation of these designs with as little pain as possible.

Double curves in building envelopes are not new but can still cause headaches in the often torturous path from architects’ concept sketches through 3D models and detailing to engineers and finally to manufacturers and installation, all via a myriad of software products.

One such project, the South Bristol Skills Academy presented a complex technical challenge. Ian Hunt of architects AWW explains: “The building ‘shell’ curves asymmetrically in 3 dimensions: the plan, cross section and long section all curve asymmetrically in compound curves.

Realising this form required close co-operation from an early stage between the main parties: AWW as the architects and Clarke Bond as the structural engineer, SIAC steel as the steel fabricator, KalZip the cladding supplier and Lakesmere as cladding installer.

Early meetings between all parties agreed the principles of how to put the external fabric together and ensure a suitable and achievable interface between the supporting steel frame and the finished shell of cladding. AWW produced 3D CAD drawings in AutoCAD Architecture which formed the basis of the 3D design of both the steel frame and the cladding, and helped ensure that all steelwork was where it should be.

The complex shape of the building meant every single one of the roof sheets was a unique shape and individually drawn up in Rhino by Lakesmere. The sheets were then manufactured by KalZip in Germany using their unique rolling facility there.

The complex design, production and installation requirements for the Kalzip XT sheets meant that extremely close and co-operative working relationships were required between all members of the team at all times. Each of the 1,500 individual Kalzip sheets would only fit in one location and therefore it was imperative that all the details were 100% accurate. Some of those involved on the project have described the envelope’s construction as like working on a ‘giant 3D jigsaw puzzle’ - which obviously required careful planning, monitoring and control.

The close co-operation and teamwork between all parties meant that installation on site went very much as planned and proceeded smoothly and safely. The two keys to the success of this project were early meetings to agree every party's needs and capabilities, and then the exchange of 3D CAD models between the designers which ultimately was used to drive the computer driven production machinery.”

Client: City of Bristol College
Architects: AWW, Bristol
Structural Engineers: Clarke Bond, Bristol
Main Contractor: Cowlin Construction, Bristol
Steel Frame Contactor: SIAC, Tetbury
Cladding Supplier: KalZip
Cladding Contractor: Lakesmere Ltd, Winchester

Click here to view a PDF on the AWW design delivery process for South Bristol Skills Academy

Michael Hammond
Editor in Chief

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