The Parabola project focused around the reuse and refurbishment of the former Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington, London. This building, which was constructed in the 1960s, incorporates a hyperbolic paraboloid concrete shell roof which is architecturally and structurally unique. For this reason it has a Grade II* English Heritage listing. Ilchester Estates & Chelsfeld Partners developed the site to provide exhibition space for the new London Design Museum and 62 new residential units in three ancillary buildings.

The project called for a site-wide basement which carries beneath the existing Commonwealth Institute building. The primary engineering challenge was underpinning of this building which was sensitive to movements from the construction, demolition, and excavation works. With technical support from Robert Bird Group, our client Byrne Brothers proposed an alternative construction solution for the project as part of their tender subcontractor submission. This alternative solution reduced programme and safety risks inherent in the underpinning works. This made use of a topdown construction sequence in which the new ground foor slab was installed early in the program. This locked the building in at ground level and provided a platform from which to carry out superstructure works in parallel with basement works.

Working closely with Byrne Bros in their tender submission, RBG undertook a series of construction sequencing and coordination studies to prove the viability of the alternative concept. Included was the development of a detailed structural model which was
used to study the structure’s sensitivity to movement.

Post-tender – after Byrne Brothers won the bid – RBG worked closely with them throughout the construction to ensure construction proceeded as planned.

Project Metrics

Civic, Cultural & Public Assembly
Ilchester Estates & Chelsfield Partners
Primary Contractor:
Byrne Brothers
Robert Bird Group Services:
Construction Engineering