CMYA Finalist

Employer: Fabrite Engineering

Project: 104 Paper Storage Building, Imperial War Museum, Duxford

When they said it couldn’t be done, Nigel Johnston begged to differ. The issue: the designers of this warehouse wanted weathered-steel panels 6m high by 1.5m wide, 100 of them cladding the entire building and each stretching the full height of the elevation. The contractors, indeed the industry, sucked in their buildability cheeks, shook their heads and proposed 3m-high panels instead. Reasonable enough, you might imagine – except that the 100 panels symbolised the 100-year history of the client’s document storage operations.

Enter Nigel. Confident that 6m-high panels were indeed possible, he had his structural steelwork employer design, manufacture and instal the corrosion-resistant panels to the client’s and the architect’s expectations.

That alone earns Nigel huge credit. But his construction manager input to this unheated passive-house scheme went much further than that. Take the even more exacting aspiration for a 0.15 airtightness score (considerably below the building requirements standards, and making the passive-house norm of 0.6 draughty by comparison). By challenging every detail and interface from foundations and superstructure to specialist wall linings, all structural penetrations and every single screwhole drilled into external walls, Nigel delivered a UK record.

And he found an eminently sensible solution to the requirement for a roof slab poured in situ as a way of delivering four-hour fire protection (as well as assisting with the airtightness demands). Pointing out the substantial time and cost that would be needed to achieve such a pour, Nigel successfully championed an alternative of prestressed concrete slabs with a heavily downsized pour of reinforced screed on top.