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All angles covered

The design of Salford's millennium project, the 127M Lowry Centre, includes a huge multi-angled irregular wall which presented contractor Heyrod Construction with a major technical challenge.

The wall, which will eventually dominate the complex with its purple cladding, was originally to be built in steel. However concrete eventually got the nod as it allowed more leeway in the placing of doors and windows.

Once this decision was made, Heyrod had to solve the problem of quickly and efficiently building a 28m high, 600mm thick wall which slopes outward at several angles, from 3degrees up to 17degrees from the vertical.

Heyrod's answer was to use the composite timber and steel Doka formwork system supplied by the Austrian firm's UK subsidiary.

Doka's shutter system was used to climb the side and front of the 'Purple Wall' and Doka access platforms, which connect to the formwork, have been used in such a way as to accommodate the inclination of the shutters. Doka formwork was also used on the building's towers and variously curved curtain walls.

As each element is constructed, the formwork can be raised and moved without the need for dismantling. Once the job is completed, the formwork will be taken down and can be used again.

On the Lowry Centre, Heyrod also took advantage of Doka's design service. This has recently been enhanced by a specially developed piece of software which allows all those using the company's formwork to benefit from the lessons being learned on projects from Brazil to Singapore.

The system - known as Tipos and designed with the software house belonging to German contractor Hochtief - makes it possible to show the interaction of all stages of formwork planning, from design to planning on-site use. Tipos has been purchased by a number of Doka's competitors, opening up the possibility of customers being able to collaborate with several formwork suppliers using a single, integrated planning system.

As well as helping to spread best practice, Doka is also a fan of that other watchword of 1990s construction, standardisation. It rejects the development of what it calls 'trendy' products, such as the use of synthetic materials in formwork manufacture, and has 'rigorously trimmed' its product range. It believes that this is the only way 'in which both training and widespread product availability can be provided at reasonable cost'. It adds: 'If a high degree of process reliability is to be achieved, prompt availability of equipment is not enough; it is also important that there is a certain interchangeablity of parts and that workers are familiar with the equipment'. Hence the limiting of the product range.

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