Engineering the Shard

4 December 2012
By Keri Allan
London skyline showing the Shard

This October saw the culmination of months of hard work by the IET London Network and the Built Environment Technologies technical and professional network (TPN), who jointly hosted a successful event on the engineering behind the Shard.

Entitled ‘Different facets of the Shard - engineering challenges overcome to achieve the dream’, the lecture evening hosted talks from three key members of the Shard’s design team followed by a Q&A session. This took place in IET London: Savoy Place’s Riverside Room, overlooking the Shard itself.

Discussions covered how you construct a skyscraper core in midair without attachment to the ground, how you make hundreds of pieces of glass appear as one, why you can see straight through the Shard and how the building services were made to ‘disappear’.

“The original idea came to us over a glass of wine on the balcony of Savoy Place’s Riverside Room back in June,” says David Rakowski, chair of the IET London Network. “It was after an event and I was looking out at the Shard with Huw Blackwell, chair of the Built Environment Technologies TPN (BETNET). I said it would be great to host an event in the Shard. We couldn’t quite manage that, so we had an event about it instead!”

The speakers

The first step was to find the perfect speakers.

“Huw works for Hoare Lea and as chair of BETNET this is the sector he lives and breathes, so he was responsible for making contact with the speakers,” says Rakowski.

Blackwell’s hard work paid off and he managed to get three renowned professionals to sign up as speakers; WSP Group structural engineer Richard Mawer, Andy Seman, a project manager for Toronto-based Adamson Associates Architects and David Healy, project manager for Arup’s team on the Shard; but it wasn’t all plain sailing, as Rakowski explains.

Managing the logistics

“Events are always a lot of hard work and if you’ve got more than one speaker it can become particularly challenging, because one of our speakers was actually based in Canada we had to time our event with him coming to the UK. He wasn’t able to confirm until just three weeks before, so we had to have a floating date!”

The networks had a rough date in mind, but in the end Seman’s trip ended up being two weeks earlier than expected, so they had to reshuffle all their plans and had just two weeks to get everything in place and market the event.

“Fortunately there was availability within Savoy Place,” says Rakowski. “[The success of the event] just shows how the IET staff were really supportive and pushed it really hard. They pulled out all the stops and did a really good job.”

Last-minute marketing

“The event was marketed by IET Communities marketing coordinator Aaron Thiele,” says Janine Mitchell, community online manager. “The event was confirmed on the 19 September and the event took place on the 3 October, which meant we only had two weeks to promote it.”

In terms of marketing carried out, the IET sent a dedicated email to members and non-members in London and the surrounding areas who had expressed interest in the built environment. Staff also cross-promoted the event in other IET emails and used social media and banners to advertise. The IET’s communications team also wrote and sent out a press release to highlight the event.

“The [network] volunteers were also very proactive in getting the event information out to the community – it was a great team approach,” Mitchell enthuses.

Rakowski also wants to highlight the marketing skills of one of his committee members.

“We’ve got an awesome member of our committee, Paula Barratt. A comms officer by trade, she puts a lot of work into preparing the text we use. She manages to get a lot of people through the door by doing lots of posters, contacting people through the IET and liaising with the various specialist press. Having someone like Paula is a real plus for the network,” he says.

Collaboration is the way to go!

Thanks to such a team effort the event was a huge success, and almost at capacity with around 400 attendees. Rakowski believes this was in part due to the fact that this was a joint LN/TPN event and recommends more networks work together in this way.

“One thing I find good about working with TPNs is that they have really good contacts and understand what is interesting about a specific subject,” he says. “If you get good TPNs to work with you, you can put on some really awesome events, plus they part fund them!

“Basically we worked together to offer a really good event, on a cool subject and it cost us half as much as it would have if we did this individually. I think it’s really good to collaborate with other networks,” he concludes.

The IET London Network runs regular monthly events, which are usually held on the second Wednesday of the month at IET London: Savoy Place. 12 December sees Stephen Emmott, head of Computational Science at Microsoft presenting ‘The future of life: from biology to the biosphere’.

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