The Manta Ray roof to Zaha Hadid's London Olympic Aquatics Centre is a triumph in architectural and engineering terms. However, the complexity of the design presented many buildability issues.
The WI system allowed 7 metre high curved walls, with no soffit restraint, to be constructed with large service penetrations and openings whilst maintaining a single substrate for tiled finishes. This was achieved without the use of any steelwork (windposts) to stiffen or restrain the wall panels laterally. The WI systems unique characteristics enabled the standard slenderness ratios and wall panel lengths to be surpassed.
This innovative walling solution enhanced the aesthetic appearance, created large homogenous panels with increased air-tightness, acoustic and fire performance whilst reducing the carbon footprint. All this was achieved within the pool environment and a temperature differential of 35°C.
The use of WI beams and WI columns to subdivide large blockwork panels and to withstand the internal design pressures is a world first. The system reduced the masonry programme duration, resulting in financial savings for the project.
The design of the WI beams and WI columns was based upon an extensive programme of full scale testing. This led to the refinement of the shear connectors, cleats and restraints and the confirmation of material specification. Acceptance of the system has been helped by the presentation of the research at international conferences in Australia, Canada and Germany and the publication of an independently produced Design Guide. The quality of this information has provided engineers with the confidence to design walls using the system and enabled architects to achieve the required performance at the Aquatics Centre. Although a bespoke system, it can be used across all sectors of the construction industry.