Few hotels are as famous or luxurious as Claridge’s in London, England. The five-star accommodation boasts 197 rooms that have hosted so many royals that the hotel has been nicknamed the “annexe to Buckingham Palace.” This year, the hotel has increased the number of rooms and added more facilities due to a remarkable feat of structural engineering.

The owners of the hotel have wanted to complete an expansion for over a decade and knew they could not build up or out. A basement was the only option, but this wasn’t a normal basement. It required digging 5 storeys below ground all while keeping the hotel running normally during construction. This seemed impossible until recently, but with the latest technology such a feat became a reality.

First, a Little History

If you are interested in a career in engineering design technology there’s a good chance you also have a passion for the history of landmark buildings. Claridge’s is a Grade II listed building due to its heritage, which means there are extra controls over what kinds of changes are allowed to be made to the building inside and out.

The hotel was established in the 1850’s then re-designed and built into its current form in the 1890’s. Thirty years later, a large art deco extension with more rooms and a ballroom was added. The construction of the new five-storey basement largely occurred beneath this art deco extension.

How to Build a Basement

A project of this complexity required the expertise of many talented professionals in the architecture, engineering and construction sectors. Geotechnical and structural engineering was especially important to keep in mind given that construction occurred underground and could not disturb the existing hotel. If you’re interested in studying at a BIM college, it’s worth mentioning that BIM is especially useful on such complex projects given that it allows various teams to collaborate more easily.

Projects like the Claridge’s basement require expertise from a number of different disciplines

Projects like the Claridge’s basement require expertise from a number of different disciplines

In order to start excavating, the contractors and consultants had to analyze the soil under the art deco extension, which sat on a reinforced concrete raft foundation. The area under the foundation had to be dewatered to increase the strength of the underlying soil to support the basement and building. Other options such as grout injection and ground freezing were rejected because the soil is too dense and existing hotel rooms would be disturbed.

After the soil problem was solved, crews hand dug tunnels under the ground-bearing raft foundation. One tunnel was dug for each of the building’s existing columns. During the dig, the loads and deflections of the building were monitored closely and then concrete shafts were built up to the underside of the concrete raft, which was originally the art deco wing’s foundation but which will now serve as a suspended slab.

Should You Move Your Career in Engineering Design Technology Underground?

This project was exceptional in many ways and it is believed to be the first large underground hotel extension built while the hotel itself stayed open. It is worth noting that one of the project’s most exceptional aspects is the cooperative work done between contractors and consultants. In fact, the team has been shortlisted for a 2019 Structural Award from the Institution of Structural Engineers.

As you’ll learn if you study an engineering design technology program,interdisciplinary team work is one of the key features of BIM that will enable more projects like this to go forward in the future. For Claridge’s, this project resulted in more guest rooms, the addition of a spa, swimming pools, a restaurant, and meeting rooms. Beyond that, the project demonstrates a new way that a historic building can be expanded without interrupting service, which may open the doors to more underground projects in the future.

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