Community Church, Sidcup, Kent

Adaptations throughout its modern years have produced a conglomerate of offices and meeting areas and toilet facilities to name but a few ancillaries to this popular venue. The Client came to a realisation that these would need to be better integrated into the property so that residual volume could be harnessed to enable additional facilities to be introduced.

Initial schemes were produced to consider the options of converting part of the main original church or to adapt the later additions or to demolish the later additions for new constructions.

THe Consultants were engaged to produce a feasibility study with report soon after the Client subjectively expressed the preference to adapt and extend the later property. The conclusions and recommendations from this study and report affirmed that the structural works would be both viable and economical although in absence of any record information of the property and without access available to all areas, contingencies were incorporated for likely solutions to particular unknowns that would be revealed once the construction works and removal of fixtures and fittings were underway.

The densely developed site is land-locked to all sides with a public right-of-way in constant use at the south. The Client and all staff planned to remain in occupation throughout the works and they were condensed and reallocated around the property in phases as stages of works were completed. Both of these conditions as well as other constraints influenced the design solutions since on-site storage space was limited thereby necessitating maximisation of off-site prefabrication.

As existing details became exposed on site, THe Consultants kept themselves available for site inspections at reasonably short notice for accurate recording of field-information to enable structural proposals to be revised or fresh design solutions to be generated and co-ordinated with the other design disciplines before forwarding the construction status information to the contractor to maintain momentum of progress.

Waiting to be exploited was the double-storey height sports’ hall with its high gable-ended roof. A mezzanine floor already occupied part of the plan area of this cavernous volume supported on load-bearing walls within the equivalent ground floor storey height.

The mezzanine and these walls would be demolished and replaced with a new first floor across the entire plan area without any internal vertical load-bearing walls or columns. Headrooms above and below this new floor were critical so very tight structural designs were performed and splicing of beams was emphatically not permitted. This gave cause for concern on the handling of these beams that were not modestly sized in themselves to support a library and office accommodation, and this special condition of fabrication was highlighted to the steelwork specialist. Congratulations were given on a difficult task accomplished with careful consideration by the steelwork contractor, ensuring that the Client and architect were happy with having achieved what was once considered to be the near-impossible.

The theme of timber trusses already pervasive in the original church was echoed in the new construction of a lantern roof over the south extension. The architect’s brief stipulated a substantially glazed area of the roof with minimal glazing bars and structure. The aesthetic that was sought to be achieved did not offer sufficient zones for a roof structure of timber that would cope with the applied loadings and the deflection limitations, therefore THe Consultants devised a steelwork solution of minimal sizes and frequency that would be cloaked in finished joinery. All connections had to be concealed and given the finished appearance of being wholly timber, and we focused on generating every small detail on drawings, ostensibly fabrication drawings, to win the confidence of the architect.

Original features such as tied arches were retained and expressed in the finished works of this modern and forward-thinking church that now includes a spacious entrance lobby, reception, bookshop, foyer, servery, café, youth hall, and increased office accommodation to comprehensively surpass the amenity requirements of the community.

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