Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Steps to success

Cover Story: Dave Rolton

Rolton's engineering career began at Binnie & Partners in central London. Here, his work with the ICE graduates brought him to the attention of NCE's first editor Sydney Lenssen who offered him a job in 1972. But it was when he moved to Redpath Dorman Long that his love affair with temporary works design began in earnest.

'We worked on oil rig production and metal yard contracts among considerable variety.' And it was here that Rolton worked under the eminent Tony Gee, who was design office manager. 'For a year or so he was quite an influence on me; I saw how he went about things and how much passion and care he put into his work, ' adds Rolton.

Then in 1980, Rolton achieved his long held goal to launch his own company. Rolton Group was born.

First job through the door was probably Rolton's greatest personal challenge. 'This was in 1981, when we had no computers to rely on. We had to design a lift for two 2,500t deck units for a site in Almeria, Spain.

'At the time I was a 31 year old engineer in an office of three. For six weeks we were designing and drawing units that were made the following week and shipped out.'

This was the benchmark for what has followed.

A key landmark was Rolton's invention of a flat-pack tower system for the construction of the Foyle Bridge in Londonderry. 'Prior to this development, erection towers had been transported in trussed sections much like crane jibs, ' Rolton explains.

'But with the advent of this PSC tower, we were able to transport all the tower's elements in one standard container.'

A flexible interlocking system meant the temporary tower trusses could be bolted together, Meccano fashion, up to a height of 108m. These towers have been used on a variety of civil engineering applications all over the world, notably high level gantry crane erection, and chemical pressure vessel installations.

'One of the most testing contracts we used the towers on was an oil rig erection job where we had to lift a steel section between two luffing towers - then rotate both towers, with load, back into position.'

To achieve this rotation, spherical bearings were needed at either end of the towers and restraint cables to control the descent.

Rolton Group is well advanced on the development of a self-erecting version with fewer connections and less working at height.

But Rolton Group's work is not confined to temporary towers. The consultancy is a true multidisciplinary practice with fingers in the pies of fire testing, building services, structures and construction management. One of Rolton's favourite contracts has been his ongoing work on Aston Martin's new factory.

'This was great for me as I have a real passion for fast cars, ' Rolton says.

The heavy lift expertise is centred around Rolton Group's office near Wellingborough and Dorman Long Technology (DLT), next door. Rolton was a co-founder of DLT, which has designed the whole lifting process on the Wembley arch, and is a nonexecutive director.

But on T5, Rolton has taken personal care of the project. Once the roof lift kicks off next month, attention will divert to the new 87m tall control tower. This will be a unique project, as the radar ceiling imposed to minimise disruption to Heathrow's radar systems will prohibit conventional construction.

The solution will be to build the control room at Terminal 3 and transport it across the runway overnight to sit above the foundations. The whole structure will then be jacked and a 12m section of the tower's stem slid into place.

The main control room and tower piece will then be lifted as one and a further piece installed.

This will continue until the tower reaches its full height. Details are being finalised ready for the end of year construction target.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.