NSC Archives

Projects and Features

Gaining vital work experience 

Students were required to fulfil all the roles in the construction of the Gherkin.

A scaled down steel-framed version of London’s Swiss Re building was one of the working projects at the recent National Construction College’s Constructionarium. 

The Constructionarium project is a unique col- laboration between academia and industry, which has been designed to recreate the appearance and atmosphere of working on a real large-scale civil engineering project.

The initiative was originally pioneered in a joint venture between Imperial College London, Expedition Engineering and John Doyle Construction. This higher education stratagem is also aimed at addressing the current shortfall in practical construction and design expertise among graduates, and attract prospective students by offering a more hands-on degree.

The events are held at the National Construction College, the training division of ConstructionSkills, located at Bircham Newton in Norfolk, on a per- manent two hectare site, which has been designed especially for the purpose.

Students were required to fulfil all the roles in the construction of the Gherkin.

Constructionarium is held intermittently and generally lasts for a week; the most recent event took place in June when more than 80 students from Imperial College London worked on scaled down versions of real sites, including the Swiss Re building (London Gherkin).

The steel frame for the 10m-high Gherkin was fabricated and supplied by Caunton Engineering, with Expedition Engineering coordinating the design process.

Allan Younger, Business Unit Manager for Caun- ton, says the entire structure consisted of more than 500 individual steel members with a combined weight of 5.5t.

To make sure all of this steel fitted together per- fectly Caunton conducted a trial erection at its facil- ity before the steel was painted.

“Once painted we then delivered the steel to the College in a number of erectable packs to make it easier for the students to assemble,” explains Mr Younger.

All of the steelwork for the mini-Gherkin is light- weight and consists of 1.4m-long x 48mm diameter tubes for the external perimeter and an internal core made from 127mm x 76mm beams and columns. Geoffrey Taylor, Caunton’s Marketing Director, says the project has some interesting symmetry as all the fabrication was done by the company’s apprentices. “Our academy initially fabricated all the steel so that other students could erect it at the Constructionarium. It all goes to show how the industry as a whole is involved in training.”

Each event runs as a real construction site for the week, with everyone receiving a full safety induction. Students work in all roles as part of a team from labourers, steel erectors and foremen, to schedulers, managers and estimators. Method statements, risk assessments and budgeting for plant and labour rates, are also an integral part of the construction scenario.

The project offers graduates hands-on experience.

Caunton donated its steelwork to the Construc- tionarium and although the structure was dismantled at the end of the event’s week, it has been stored at the College and may be re-erected again at a later date.

Robin Holdsworth, Scheme Manager for Constructionarium, says: “The practical experience
of working on site is invaluable for students. The scheme demonstrates how industry and academia are combining to combat the on-going shortage in construction and design expertise, and it provides our future construction managers with skills and experience.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Share this post

Related Posts


Click on the cover to view this month's issue as a digimag.