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UK sees its first use of Guastavino vaulting

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SPANISH CRAFTSMEN are constructing two tile domes on a conference centre near Dover using a traditional technique once employed to form the roof of New York's Grand Central Station.

Client St Margaret's Bay Trust chose Guastavino vaulting, also known as timbral vaulting, for the roofs of the new Pines Calyx conference venue, partially because of its use of locally sourced materials.

The new building also features rammed chalk walls and will be partially earth shielded with the roof covered in turf.

The 12m diameter domes are built without supports. A first layer of lightweight tiles is glued together with fast setting Plaster of Paris.

As each ring of the dome is completed a second layer of heavier weight tiles is bedded onto mortar on top, followed by a third layer of mortar and tiles.

Insitu reinforced concrete ring beams provide lateral stability around the dome base.

The tiles are produced locally, using waste clay from a sand and gravel quarrying operation.

Project leader, and St Margaret's Bay Trust chairman, Alistair Gould said this was the first known use of Guastavino domes in the UK. 'Construction costs for the buildingare much the same as with conventional construction, at £550,000, but running costs will be 85% lower.' The project is being closely monitored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which has been researching Guastavino construction for some time.

Main contractor is Eco-Librium Solutions, structural engineer is Cameron Taylor.

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