Overcoming Barriers to BIM Adoption - New Civil Engineer webcast

Solid Structures’ Sean Daly joined a panel of industry experts for an in depth discussion on overcoming the barriers to BIM adoption. In summary, the panel highlighted the following:

  • Commitment to continuous in-house training is crucial in developing a disciplined approach to a company’s BIM capability

  • Communication with the project team is paramount to ensure a common understanding of the type of information that is to be shared and at what stage of the process

  • Create greater awareness of the value benefit of BIM capability to encourage a greater uptake through webcasts, webinars and publications

We're finalists at the WOBAs!


The office is buzzing with excitement today after last night's announcement that Solid Structures are finalists in the West Oxfordshire Business Awards!

After a couple of gruelling interviews earlier this year, last night we found ourselves on the all important finalists board for both the Small Business of the Year and the Employer of the Year. 

We'll find out on the 29th March if we've won, so fingers and toes crossed until then!


St Lawrence's Church, West Wycombe


St Lawrence's Church is a Grade I listed church that sits on top of West Wycombe Hill in a prominent position overlooking the West Wycombe Road, and surrounding villages. The top of the tower is the highest point in the Southern Chilterns and on a clear day it is possible to see West London. The church was gradually rebuilt in its current form by Sir Francis Dashwood, 1st Baronet and Baron Le Despenser. In the 1750s the medieval west tower was raised to make it an eye-catcher from the West Wycombe Estate, West Wycombe House and also from the West Wycombe road. It was topped by a great golden ball, possibly inspired by the Dogana, Venice.


The golden ball can be seen for miles around and is a recognised symbol of West Wycombe village. It is made from a wooden frame covered in gold leaf, 8 feet in diameter, and contains seating for up to six people. It is reputed to be a meeting place for the Hellfire Club and was described by the author John Wilkes as “the best globe tavern I was ever in.”

St Lawrence Church has been used as a backdrop and as part of important scenes in various popular TV shows and films such as Downton Abbey and in the 2016 film Bridget Jones's Baby.

Recently public access to the tower was closed due to safety concerns. From our initial inspection it is clear the structure is suffering from weather ingress and timber deterioration. We are organising timber investigation work but first we need to work out a method of safe access into the golden ball!

This story will continue…  

Bidwells Golden Triangle Ride, Oxford to Cambridge 2018

After many weeks of hard training, the day had finally arrived for us to tackle the Bidwells Golden Triangle Ride, 100 (and 3) miles across the country from Oxford to Cambridge in aid of Maggies.

An ample turnout from the office saw William Morris, Richard Young, Adrian Reeves, Dani Trevail and our summer student Alex Harris (no relation to Mark Harris) line up at the start all eager to get underway in the September drizzle.

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Alex broke away almost from the off, in pursuit of the front group to attempt a win for Solid Structures. A strong threesome who started 5 minutes prior kept him at bay and saw him riding solo for the first 45 miles.

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The rest of the team kept a good pace, working together as a foursome and helping each other when in difficulty. Much to the relief of Adrian at 60 miles in when he suffered a puncture, our resident enthusiast William was at hand to assist only to be thwarted by a dodgy valve core resulting in a double pumping session.

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All of the Solid Structures team finished in good time, Alex was in the first 10 riders to reach Anstey Hall in Cambridge in a respectable time of 5 hours 28 minutes. The rest of the team rolled in later looking surprisingly fresh and in a time of 6 hours 17 minutes. All of the team then celebrated with a hot shower, gourmet hot dogs and burgers along and a couple of well deserved drinks kindly offered by Bidwells to rejuvenate the exhausted finishers.

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Posted by Mark

New accreditations for Solid Structures


Solid Structures are pleased to announce that we have successfully achieved Constructionline Silver accreditation for meeting pre-qualification requirements appropriate to public and private level procurement. 

We have also been awarded the Health and Safety Accreditation by Acclaim Accreditation for securing the health and safety standards required under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.

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We've moved!


At the beginning of April, we bid our final fond farewell to our Hook Norton Brewery home and set up permanent camp in our brand new offices in Chipping Norton. 

We're pretty chuffed with our new office space. Please do pop in and we can show you round properly!

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Moving day is almost here!

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It’s hard to believe that the time has finally come for us all at Solid to bid a fond farewell to the Brewery offices we’ve called home for the last 12 years. With a continually expanding team (now at 16), space has become tighter and tighter for us. To put it bluntly, we’re now bursting at the seams.

Sean and Mark’s quest to find more space led them, almost two and a half years ago, to a derelict, dilapidated property to the rear of Chipping Norton High Street. Bleak, neglected and in need of a total internal rebuild; they could hardly contain their excitement! Project ‘build an office’ was born.

It was crucial in the planning stage to create a modern office space which was big enough to cope with our continued growth and, equally as important, an environment where our team would enjoy working.

Being a complete redevelopment project, we’ve had our fair share of ups and downs along the way. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve grown a few more grey hairs...but it’s been worth it and we’re thrilled with the new, completed Solid Structures HQ. Please pop in if you’re passing, we’d love to give you the grand tour!

Dani's placement in Zambia


After finishing my degree and before starting with Solid Structures, I spent 6 weeks in Zambia working with the A2Z project. A2Z is a group of students from the University of Bath who help fundraise & build new sports facilities in Zambia. Our 2017 team assisted with the construction of a netball court and changing rooms for the Mtendere Community School.

The first challenge was for us to fund raise for the trip. We were able to get sponsorship from companies including Speller Metcalfe, The Institution of Civil Engineers, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Wentworth House Partnership and Solid Structures of course.

The existing changing rooms were derelict and we found a disintegrating asbestos roof, which they had originally wanted us to recycle. Following further fundraising in the UK the roof was replaced with a new metal sheeted roof.

Our duties included encouraging PPE and site safety, promoting careers in construction with the female students and educating locals about the dangers of asbestos.

The experience gave me an eye-opening experience into the differences in construction approaches and a new heightened appreciation of the benefits of health and safety.

The construction project is facilitating the work of The Perfect Day Foundation and Volunteer in Zambia (VIZ), a UK Sport Programme which aims to establish a high quality, progressive and coordinated sports leadership development exchange programme. Ace2Zambia aim to provide much needed facilities to enable the excellent work of VIZ to continue. They aim to enhance the lives of the communities by working with local contractors as well as enable a platform for knowledge sharing.

To find out more about the program, search “ACE2Zambia”.

Westgate Oxford: Medieval Tile Display. Are you curious?


Is it a bird, an animal or a map? Are you curious? The new installation featured in the Middle Square of the new Westgate Centre, Oxford is adding to the curiosity around the new shopping destination. The display happens to be the archaeological tiles discovered within the former Greyfriars Cloister during construction. 

The tiles were discovered by Oxford Archaeology during the south excavations which saw up to 50 dedicated archaeologists working on site to reveal the extensive remains of the medieval Greyfriars friary (AD 1244-1538) during the construction. The works was recognised by the British Archaeological Awards as ‘Best Archaeological Project 2016’.

An estimated 350 tiles are displayed in their preserved pattern. The study by Oxford Archaeology showed that the surface formed the south-east corner of the cloister walkway which would have run around the entire main cloister. The main cloister would have connected the most important buildings in the friary; the church to the north, the sacristy and chapter house and the lodgings and libraries.

Oxford Archaeology used photogrammetry as a quick and accurate method of recording the tiles. The pavement was properly cleaned with water and sponges and recorded with high resolution digital photos. These images were combined using software which uses algorithms to produce an accurate 3D digital model. A scaled print-off of the entire pavement was then used on site to record the outline of each tile with a unique ‘small find’ number before the tiles were lifted.

The tiles were probably made near Newbury in West Berkshire and are of the ‘Stabbed Wessex’ type, whose main period of use was between AD 1280–1350.

These were probably laid in the 1240’s–50’s when the friary was constructed. The larger tiles are about 15cm square and 3cm thick and have very deeply-inlaid white slip patterns including daisies, fleur-de-lys and curved-sided 4-pointed ‘stars’. The reverse is characterised by ‘stabbing’ of the wet clay during manufacture, these indents help to keep them mortared into place.

The display work was completed by the specialist heritage contractor Cliveden Conservation in time for the opening of the shopping centre in October 2017. Solid Structures designed the steel frame work to aid sequencing of the restored tiled panels ensuring the finished structure and fixings would not be visible.

Posted by Mark

Solid honoured to join Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice on their special day

We had the pleasure of joining the Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice team when they were given the keys to their completed building, soon to be opened as Berkshire’s first children’s hospice.

Built by Beard Construction, the project took 16 months and creates a calm and tranquil environment for patients and their families, day care visitors and staff.  The facility will cater for children suffering from life limiting or life-threatening conditions.

Fiona and John Devine set up a hospice at home in memory of their little boy, who sadly passed away in 2006, aged only eight, from a rare brain tumour. The new building has been an 11 year ambition with a huge fundraising effort to enable them to achieve their dream.

Solid Structures worked with Beard Construction to successfully overcome the challenges raised during the build.

Alexander Devine are still fundraising for this worthy cause.

To find out more about the hospice visit www.alexanderdevine.org or to assist them in their fundraising efforts email fundraising@alexanderdevine.org

Posted by Mark

Solid Structures wins a Plaque at the Oxford Preservation Trust Awards 2016

We are delighted to have been awarded a plaque at the 39th Oxford Preservation Trust Awards recognising the restoration work to the roof of the Great Hall, Christ Church . 

The OPT Awards celebrate 'Keeping the best of the old and encouraging the best of the new'. 36 buildings were shortlisted across four categories; Building Conservation, New Buildings, Small Projects and Environment / Landscape Enhancement.  

The roof restoration project at Christ Church picked up one of the only two plaques awarded for Building Conservation. 

Professor Malcolm Airs, Vice President of the Oxford Preservation Trust and Chairman of the awards panel, praised the project in his speech at the awards; “Apart from its newly cleaned and bright decorative finish, the result is sublimely invisible – which is just as it ought to be. This was an exemplary conservation project.”

The Great Hall was originally commissioned by Cardinal Wolsey and designed by Humphrey Coke; it was completed in 1529. Admired daily by tourists and academics alike this magnificent Grade 1 listed building required substantial strengthening work following an initial catastrophic failure of an unbraced purlin. Following investigation it was found the roof had undergone significant movement and decay which put its structural stability at major risk.  

Our skilled team worked with passion to ensure that the roof was stabilised, whilst intervention was kept to a minimum and the historic fabric and appearance of this magnificent roof were retained.

The simplest reconnection solution used coach bolts and steel plate to strengthen. More in-depth repairs looked to replace the missing bearing ‘knuckle’ at the junction between the principal rafter and hammer beam with larger pre-formed channels made in steel. We used an extensive birdcage scaffold was required to allow access to repair the roof while allowing some functions in the Great Hall to continue below.

Throughout the project, great care was taken to ensure the historic intervention was minimised. Final solutions modelled in 3D CAD allowed the reinstatement of the historic mouldings to minimise the visual impact. Timber templates were created on site to ensure the steelwork was fabricated to fit the tight spaces available. Further work included some additional purlin repairs, pendant lantern repairs, strengthening diagonal ties, plates & braces and some mortar repairs. 

The main roof repair work was completed by Cliveden Conservation over a period of six months finishing in time for the new summer conference season at the beginning of July 2015.

Further information about the work of the Preservation Trust is available at www.oxfordpreservation.org.uk

Posted by Mark

Cheesy news from Solid

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In late August, more than 55,000 Feastival-goers gathered on the Blur-bassist-turned-gentleman-cheesemaker Alex James's Oxfordshire farm. Now in its fifth year, the annual Big Feastival is the brainchild of Alex James and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, whose charity the Fifteen Foundation, is part-funded by the festival. Central to the Festival is the ever popular Cheese Hub, and this year it was bigger and better than ever!

Along with BLA Architects, Solid Structures provided consultancy advice to bring this redundant Dutch barn back to life in time to open for the 2016 Feastival. The barn was replaced with a new steel frame with a first floor mezzanine and a fully openable elevation at ground floor level. The barn houses a cheese preparation area, function space and bar area - perfect for cheese sampling, the all day cocktail bar and DJs spinning tunes from late afternoon until well until the night.

"The whole thing is completely exhilarating, like a mad village fete!"

Posted by Sean


Infrastructure Design in 3D

Using our 3D All Plan toolkit we were able to design and integrate the roads, landscaping and sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) into a single 3D model. The use of 3D modelling gave our client a clear understanding of the cut and fill operations and potential savings. It also delivers a fully functional model from which precise sections and elevations across the site can be produced.    

Bloggers - Argemiro and Iustin

St Hilda’s appoint Solid for the Front of College project

Solid Structures are delighted to have been appointed as the civil and structural engineers for this new £12 million riverside extension to St Hilda's College.

The design features a slender tower that will mark a new entrance to the college from Cowley Place, as well as rooftop gardens and a riverside pavilion with a decorative latticed facade. The proposal also features a suite of teaching and common areas, as well as accommodation for student fellows – much of which will be placed along the boundary of the site. A paved courtyard will link with the pavilion to open up views to the River Cherwell as well as Christ Church Meadows.

London studio Gort Scott were selected following an invited competition. Construction is anticipated to commence at the start of 2018. The project looks to help mark the College’s 125th anniversary. 

Blogger - Mark

Christ Church merlon repairs underway

Following our parapet survey, a programme of emergency repairs has started to correct the defective stone merlons.

Situated around Tom Quod, these merlons are 900mm long and 455mm high built in two courses. In total, 212 merlons were inspected.

A combination of rebuilding and strengthening the merlons will take place to ensure the long term stability of this historic fabric. Merlons will be rebuilt with new stainless steel dowels resin fixed and a lime mortar bed. Merlons are to be strengthened with Helifix sock anchors 650mm long.  

Blogger - Mark

The big reveal - scaffolding removed at St Anne’s Library

The scaffolding has now been taken down at the Kingerlee construction site to reveal the stone façade of the new library building at St Anne’s College Oxford.

The façade has been constructed by the architectural precast concrete company Decomo. The precast panels provide the load bearing elements of the building and are generally built up of 50mm outer stone, 75mm backing concrete, 100mm insulation and 250mm inner leaf concrete.

Fixings were detailed to allow the connection of incoming steelwork and precast floor planks. The panels were made in Belgium.  

Blogger - Joshua

Sustainable Drainage System agreed

After months of negotiations and consultations with the Environment Agency, Surrey County Council (Lead Local Flood Authority) and the local council, the detailed drainage scheme for Tilford Development has been approved. 

Our main challenge was that the site was located in a Ground Source Protection Zone 2, and therefore the planning conditions didn’t allow for infiltration into the ground. Working together with key stake holders we developed a sustainable drainage system to address these issues.

Blogger - Argemiro