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Stadium Spartak: Cracking Russian codes

Spartak Moscow’s new football stadium, which is being built for the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia, features a stadium layout unseen anywhere before. Mark Hansford reports.

Spartak new stadium

Red square: With all the VIP boxes in one stand the rest of the ground does not require heating

It takes only the briefest of glances at the spectacular artists’ impressions of Spartak Moscow’s soon-to be 43,000 seat home to make the eyebrow of a sports enthusiast shoot up questioningly. The unusual layout - believed to be first of its kind anywhere - features a three-tier corporate hospitality suite running the entire length of one of the touchlines. “That’s going to be an atmosphere killer,” is the immediate thought that passes through any football fan’s head. And it was certainly the first question put to stadium designer Aecom and project director Peter Ayres in the site office when NCE visited on a typically grey, damp and cold Moscow day in October.

The roof is steel at its most spectacular - giant steel trusses supported by four interlocking steel mega-trusses, which span back to eight principal support points around the stadium

“Wait and see,” is the response as thick coats and boots are pulled on before struggling through the muddy quagmire that is the construction site and into the under-construction stadium. Ayres is clearly convinced the stadium will work.

And, 30 minutes later, standing in the concrete shell of the presidential box gazing straight down onto the 20,000 seat lower terrace that will provide an almost unbroken ring of footballing passion at pitchside, it is hard not to agree. “The view from these boxes is very exciting,” enthuses Ayres. “Here, everybody is still very close to the action. And even now you can imagine the crowd.” He’s right; even on this greyest of days there is a feeling that something special is being built here.

Special, and unique; or at least unique for football stadiums, because the idea to go for three floors of VIP boxes, banqueting suites and presidential lounges all banked together actually came from the horse racing industry, explains Ayres.

“It is a particular response to a particular client,” he says. “We started out looking at a conventional bowl with VIP boxes at one or two levels around the stadium, but in discussion with the owner, it soon became clear that an intimate, interconnected VIP zone was much more suited to the Russian way.”

Moscow is home to more billionaires than any other city in the world, he explains, so Aecom looked at how racecourse grandstands, well known for their more affluent clientele, worked. And that became the model. “I’ve not seen anybody do it like this before,” says Ayres.

Stadium Facts


1. The entire stadium sits on piles up to 45m long

2. The reinforced concrete structural frames are on a consistent 7.6m grid

3. The longer roof trusses span 217m along the length of the pitch with a mid-span depth of 21m

4. The shorter trusses span 180m with a mid-span depth of 17m

5. A secondary roof structure of cellular beams then spans from the primary trusses to the concrete columns at the back of the grandstand


The result is an extremely efficient solution, because with all the serviced areas of the stadium in the one VIP area, the rest of the stadium - a conventional two-tier rectilinear design - needs no heating and minimal other services.

Efficiency is a key word on this project. That it is being built at all owes a huge amount to the conceptual and detailed design put together by architects and engineers from Aecom’s Moscow and London offices since the consultant’s appointment in early 2010 to design andmanage its delivery as lead architect and engineer. The firm also collaborated with architect Sport Concepts up to scheme design stage.

Ayres led the work from the start and gives short shrift to the proposals that were on the table back then. “When we first met the club, they had been trying for three or four years to get the project off the ground, but had been frustrated by both the approvals process, and spiralling costs,” he says.

“They had a number of designs under consideration which, no doubt, looked good on architectural social networking sites, but really did not reflect the realities of what the club needed - a functionally efficient, economically sustainable stadium.”

The new stadium is located on the site of the disused Tushinskiy Aerodrome in the north west of the city and sits alongside and within the flood plain of the Moscow River. It was a quagmire of a site when NCE visited and these conditions had a major influence on the design.

“It is terrible ground,” states Ayres.

The top 15m of soil comprises highly compressible alluvial deposits, and groundwater is less than a metre below the existing site formation level. As a result, the entire stadium sits on piles up to 45m long plus an interconnected grillage of 1.5m deep ground beams, to raise it out of the ground.

reinforced concrete spartak russia

Concrete king: Reinforced concrete is the material of choice for stadium structures in Russia

“The whole thing is raised 1.5m above ground level,” says Ayres, adding that conventionally the site would be landscaped to bring the external levels around the stadium up to ease internal spectator access. “But when we looked at the geology it would have been settling forever afterwards,” he says. The ground was simply so soft that the overburden weight of the fill material on the compressible soils would have left the client with long-term settlement problems for decades.

So instead of a gentle slope outside the stadium bringing spectators in at the top of the lower tier, all spectators will enter the stadium at pitch level and then move to upper levels via a series of lifts, staircases and escalators.

While an unfortunate complication technically, it does mean the lower bowl has a larger capacity than usual in modern stadiums; instead of wide stairways running from top to bottom to allow spectators to filter in from the top of the tier, a series of smaller vomitories provide access.

Reinforced concrete is the material of choice for stadium structures in Russia; the approach suits the everyday construction worker and the additional robustness provided by continuously tied reinforced concrete beams helps in achieving Russian code requirements and provides resilience against the harsh climatic conditions that are experienced in Moscow: a temperature range of -40oC to +40oC

“When we first met the club, they had been trying for three or four years to get the project off the ground, but had been frustrated by both the approvals process and spiralling costs”

Peter Ayres, Aecom

The structural frames are on a consistent 7.6m grid, which allows for maximum repetition of the concrete frame and precast seating units. To cope with the thermal movements expected for the 80oC temperature range, the bowl is split into 12 segments with vertical movement joints at around 50m intervals throughout the grandstands. Each of the 12 segments has its own stability system allowing them to act independently, which is good news for the contractor who can make use of a multi-phased construction sequence.

The roof, however, is steel at its most spectacular - giant steel trusses supported by four interlocking steel mega-trusses, which span back to eight principal support points around the stadium.

The longer trusses span 217m along the length of the pitch, with a mid-span depth of around 21m, and the shorter horizontal trusses span approximately 180m, with a mid-span depth of 17m. A secondary roof structure of cellular beams then spans from the concrete columns at the back of the grandstands to the primary trusses spanning across the stadium.

spartak russia

Stand alone: To cope with thermal movement the bowl is split into 12 segments with vertical movement joints

The interlocking mega-truss design specifically addresses Russian disproportionate collapse regulations, since even under a theoretical failure of one truss, the orthogonal trusses can redistribute the loads safely. To an international designer such as Ayres this seems like an incredibly conservative approach, but the requirement for such onerous conditions is born of concerns about the quality of steelwork fabrication in the emerging Russian market.

The sheer size of the roof structure is also an inevitable consequence of the 2.4kN/m2 snow loads it must resist. Snowfalls in Moscow are very high and it freezes onto roof structures throughout the winter, and the weight builds up as rain and melt-water are trapped within it through the daily freeze-thaw cycle.

“The snow loading is huge,” says Ayres. “So we have some interesting trusses.”

To try to minimise the structural members’ sizes and reduce the self-weight of the roof, Aecom brought in RWDI of Toronto, Canada, to carry out a series of water flume modelling tests of the snow drift distribution on the roof. This allowed the design of the roof to be based on lower distributed snow loads for the primary roof trusses and the use of higher drift loads for the secondary roof structure.

Climate is also a factor in a further critical aspect in the roof design: allowing for movement at the roof bearings due to both thermal movement and loading. For stability, the roof must act as a continuous diaphragm and therefore it has been designed to “breathe” to accommodate these thermal movements.

To allow the roof to do this, a single direction restrainedbearing is placed in the middle of the roof edge on each side of the stadium. These transfer the horizontal forces to the stability systems within the concrete structures below. Bi-directional bearings are used on all other supports. The total movement range predicted at the megatruss supports can be in excess of 200mm when thermal movement and deformation under load are considered.

When NCE visited in October, the focus was on getting concrete pours completed before the onset of winter. Attention will then switch to erecting the mega roof structure and the rather more prosaic precast concrete seating units.

All being well, the stadium will open in time for the second half of the Russian football season in early 2014. And then Spartak’s fans will discover whether the stadium has the atmosphere that their passion deserves. Early signs are good.

Tactical battle


Designing a stadium for the extremes of the Moscow winter was only part of the story. Obtaining regulatory approval for construction provides a whole different series of challenges, explains Aecom’s Peter Ayres.

The Russian “SNiP” construction codes and regulations are the only codes of practice currently recognised in Russia.

These are normally aimed at the design of typical six to 10 storey buildings. Unfortunately, much of this documentation is not applicable to stadium design, so as part of the design process a document known as the special technical conditions (STCs) must be created by the design team and approved by local Russian design institutes.

The STCs are specific to the development, and once created, they effectively pass into law, and becomes the benchmark against which the design and construction of the project is assessed for regulatory approval by a Russian authority known as “Expertise”

To achieve approval to construct from Expertise all the design conditions set out by the SNiPs and STCs must have been met. This process can be lengthy, and engaging with the local design institutes and Expertise from the conception of the project is essential to ensure that all these criteria are met without delay to the programme.

For the development of Stadium Spartak, Aecom obtained a phased Expertise approval, allowing the piling and substructure to proceed while approval for the full superstructure and roof design was still being negotiated. Full Expertise approval for the entire development has recently been confirmed, and the stadium construction is now well underway.

“The Expertise approvals process can be very time consuming,” says Ayres. “We can use state of the art performance based design techniques to develop a highly efficient structure, which we know will work, but you also need to be prepared to compromise.

“For instance, the roof structure is definitely heavier than it would have been in, say Western Europe, as a direct consequence of the Russian disproportionate collapse regulations and the special technical conditions.”

With a boom in Russian stadium construction predicted in the runup to the 2018 World Cup, Ayres is convinced that knowledge and understanding of the regulatory landscape and local customs will be pivotal in ensuring success.

“Russia is a proud country with a long tradition of science and technology. If people think they can walk in there and tell them how to do things, then they will not be successful.

“It is essential to engage with local experts and design institutes from the outset and learn from each other,” he says. ” If you work with them, then they are prepared to listen and absorb new ideas.”

There is good news on the horizon: the Russian authorities have stated that they will start to recognise the use of Eurocodes.

However, with no date yet set for the introduction of a Russian National Annexe, essential for the practical application of Eurocodes, it is not yet clear whether this will make life any easier for international designers in time for the Russia 2018 stadium construction programme.

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