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Roof lift starts at London 2012 Aquatics site

Work is under way lifting the 2800-tonne wave-shaped roof of the Zaha Hadid and Arup designed London 2012 Aquatics Centre. The lift is considered one of the most complex engineering and construction challenges of the Olympic Park ‘big build’.

The Aquatics Centre will mark the ‘gateway’ to the Olympic Park during the 2012 Games and in legacy will provide elite and community facilities that London does not currently have, including two 50m swimming pools and a diving pool.

The steel being lifted to form the 160m long, 11,000 sq m sweeping roof is fabricated in Newport from plate rolled in Gateshead, Motherwell and Scunthorpe.

The Aquatics Centre is on track to be a fantastic gateway to the Games and provide swimming and diving facilities in legacy that London does not currently have,” said ODA Chief Executive David Higgins

“The lift of the sweeping wave-shaped roof is one of the toughest construction and engineering challenges on the Olympic Park and will showcase the world class expertise involved in delivering the venues and infrastructure for London 2012.  Different parts of the country are playing a part with the structure being built in London but made in Scotland, Wales and the north of England.”

When complete the 160m long column-free and up to 90m wide roof will rest on two concrete supports at the northern end and a 28m long and 5m wide  supporting ‘wall’ at its southern end.

A huge 30m steel truss weighing over 70 tonnes has been lifted into place on top of the southern wall. This has already been connected with the first sections of 15 steel trusses which will span up to 120m to the two northern roof supports.

Over the coming months steel trusses fabricated in Newport from plate rolled in Gateshead, Motherwell and Scunthorpe, will be assembled on the Aquatics Centre site and connected together 20m off the ground on three rows of temporary support trestles.

Once the huge steel roof frame is complete it will be lifted up to two metres at its southern end, turning on complex rotating joints in the northern roof supports. The temporary trestles will be removed and the 160m long roof frame lowered on to its three permanent roof supports, which have been built with over 20,000 tonnes of concrete.

As the full weight of the roof rests on its supports it will slide approximately 20cm into its joints at the southern wall. The roof has been designed, through wind tunnel testing and computer modelling, to stretch, twist and contract in response to the effects of snow, wind and changing temperatures.

Once the steel roof is in place this summer work will begin on the aluminium roof covering. Installation will then start next year on the timber cladding of the ceiling which will sweep outside to cover the northern roof supports.

The foundations of the permanent venue are complete and work will begin on the pool structure once the steel roof is complete.

Readers' comments (1)

  • The issue of Engineers having a poor reputation in the media, to me, seems to be endless - unless we change our own perception about our noble profession.
    Although the fantastic engineering design principles of the roof structure was briefly mentioned, the above article regarding the Aquatic Centre has no mention of the Engineer that designed the roof structure despite mentioning the Architect.
    If articles like this on the NCE website cannot mention and praise the engineering consulting firm such famous building, who else will do so?
    The editor of the NCE might wish to consider this as basic for every article that goes on this website or the NCE magazines.

    Uchenna (

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