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Claridge’s Hotel wins 2018 Fleming Award

10 December 2018

The prize is awarded to projects that demonstrate an excellent practical use of geotechnics.

Claridge’s Hotel wins 2018 Fleming Award
Claridge’s Hotel

The British Geotechnical Association has awarded this year’s Fleming Award to the project team that worked on the £35m extension of the basement at Claridge’s Hotel in London.

The annual Fleming Award Competition commemorates the life and work of Dr Ken Fleming, a geotechnical engineer who was the chief engineer at Cementation Skanska Foundation. It recognises the best use of geotechnics in a project.

A project team made up of contractor McGee Group Ltd, structural and geotechnical engineer Arup and RKD Consultant Ltd were responsible for the winning entry, which was a complex, deep basement extension project with very restricted access.

The team had just one window to access to build a five-storey basement underneath the luxury, five-star Claridge’s hotel. The project took three years.

A winning project ... that nearly didn't happen

Dinesh Patel, director at Arup, said that the build almost didn't take place, as contractors consulted by the client said that it couldn't be done without closing the hotel.

"This was news which the client was not at all happy with," said Patel.

"Jim Mackey of McGee was the only person consulted who thought there was a novel method that would keep the hotel fully operational during the basement box excavation beneath the hotel."

Mackey assembled Arup Structures and Geotechnics and RKD consultants to provide an integrated permanent and temporary works design solution.

"The extraordinary basement solution used mining technology, which was unique for a project of this nature, and we consider it as a first," Patel said.

He added: "[The Fleming Award] is a culmination of our close collaboration and teamwork, not being afraid to take ownership of the design and construction, recognising that good engineering judgment and trials on site underpinned both design assumptions and buildability."

Other finalists

The team beat two other finalists who also presented their projects at the event held at ICE’s London headquarters on Wednesday (6 December 2018).

A project team comprising WSP UK Limited, Scotland Transerv, Raynesway and Transport Scotland had entered its A77 Cairnryan Slip Remediation project into the competition.

This project in south-west Scotland involved the challenges of stabilising slopes above and below a major road, while ensuring that a trunk route to the ferry port of Stranraer remained open.

The third project was the Gardenstown Landslide Stabilisation in Gardenstown, near Banff in Aberdeenshire. This involved remediating a steep slope in the centre of a small village, with difficult access. The project team responsible included Aberdeenshire Council, Atkins and BAM Ritchies.

The judges agreed all the finalist projects were of high quality, but were unanimous in choosing the Claridge’s team as the winner.

“The BGA has been holding the Fleming Award Competition for almost 20 years, and the standard remains as high as ever.

“All three projects were great descriptions of challenging geotechnical and civil engineering problems solved by collaboration, innovation and hard work.”

While the judges deliberated, Yvonne Ainsworth of JRL Civil Engineering gave a presentation, Pay Peanuts, Get Monkeys, which discussed pay, skills and work/life issues in geotechnical engineering.

Previous winner

Last year’s award was given to the PISA Project, which was worked on by a team including Oxford University, Imperial College London, DONG Energy, Carbon Trust, SOCOTEC UK.

PISA (Pile Soil Analysis) is a research project that investigates and develops improved design methods for the offshore wind sector.

The Fleming Award is supported by Cementation Skanska.

  • Dr Martin Preene, principal at Preene Groundwater Consulting