Launch of the European Concrete Building Project last week at the Building Research Establishments massive Cardington research facility was a significant milestone in the history of structural engineering. But BRE project director Haig Gulvanessian has perhaps more interest than most in such research at Cardington.
For a start, Gulvanessian is responsible for the Centre for Whole Structural Behaviour which encompasses all full-size building research in the former airship hangar. At present this includes one steel and one timber-framed structure along with the first of four concrete buildings.
But he also chairs the Eurocode committee developing the crucial EN 1990 Basis of Design document which will set safety factor standards for all structural Eurocodes when it published in late 1999. And feedback from the Cardington research is bound to have a massive impact on all relevant structural Eurocodes in the years to come.
Im also a visiting professor at Imperial College, where I try to keep my students up to date on whats happening at Cardington, Gulvanessian adds.
Before the major shake-up at the BRE last year, Gulvanessian had been head of the structural design division for nearly eight years. One of his responsibilities then was the tricky task of getting the whole Cardington concept off the ground.
But another was to develop links with industry and academia BREs tremendous partnership with government, the concrete industry and several UK universities on the ECBP, is the latest success for this latter policy. Gulvanessians previous existence as principal civil engineer in the then Department of the Environments Construction Industry Directorate must have helped in achieving such an unusual degree of collaboration.
Much of his 14 years with the DoE were spent sitting on committees drafting both British and European standards. Even during his previous 16 years at the Department of Transport, he spent time seconded to the DoE working on codes and standards.
However he has also spent time as a part time research fellow at Cambridge and in the early 1970s spent a couple of years as head of the civil engineering department of Tracked Hovercraft, developing guideways for urban and rural systems.
Today Gulvanessian has very high hopes for research at Cardington, in particular the ECBP. The main objectives are to help the UK concrete industry become more efficient and to find out more about the behaviour of concrete structures, he says.
He adds: Im looking forward to seeing the results of research into serviceability the whole subject of serviceability will become increasingly important as more sophisticated structural analysis allows us to use lighter structures.