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Ups and downs

Viewpoint - As designers start work on temporary Olympic venues, here are some hints.

Are you going to Glastonbury or Carnoustie this year?

These and many other events this summer will feature a wide range of temporary demountable structures such as: grandstands around the tees and greens, tented villages, stages, towers for lighting and speakers, viewing facilities for wheelchair users, support structures for large video screens, barriers and hospitality units.

Some of these are fairly impressive engineered structures in their own right, especially when you consider that they are designed to be erected and dismantled many times.

Not all temporary demountable structures are erected outside; many of the larger indoor venues use temporary grandstands, stages and other structures when hosting concerts.

Temporary demountable structures differ from conventional structures in several ways. The structural components are often lightweight, rapidly assembled, readily dismantled and reusable. The ratio of dead to imposed loading on a temporary structure will be quite different to that of a permanent structure yet the temporary structure may need to withstand substantial horizontal and vertical loads from crowds.

The wind loading on the structure will be very different when it is erected in Oxford to when it is used on Orkney, and wherever it is erected, the wind loading will differ depending on the time of year. Ground and site conditions will also vary from one location to another.

But temporary demountable structures are often required at short notice so clients, contractors and local authority officers may have to make decisions quickly, so the approach to planning, design, erection and use needs to be one of flexibility and judgement.

With recent changes to UK legislation and building regulations it is also vitally important to ensure their compliance with the requisite safety and access requirements.

The new third edition of Temporary Demountable Structures: Guidance on procurement, design and use, published this week by the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE), considers all of the above factors and features new approaches to the design of temporary structures to resist wind loads as well as extensive new information about statutory control, erection and inspection.

It also includes a new section on the provision of viewing facilities for wheelchair users.

Temporary demountable structures offer a variety of benefits to the event organiser including versatility and speed of assembly.

However, as the issue of the environment becomes increasingly important, the value of temporary demountable structures' sustainability credentials really comes to the fore and this aspect is certainly not lost on the organisers of large events such as Glastonbury, and the 2012 Olympics.

I really do applaud the increasing use of these structures as their reuseable nature offers the event industry the vital opportunity to consider and reduce its wider environmental impact.

Dr Keith Eaton is the chief executive of the IStructE

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