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  • Jez Clarke

When the 100 year storm actually rolls in during your installation.

So we build these crazy, one off bespoke structures and projects. It's all so easy and stress free, eh? Yeah right.

We go through the appropriate design paths of course using Independent Structural Engineers to monitor the CAD design, the build and the installation.

Every certification comes with the engineer's Guidance Notes for extreme weather contingencies. These Notes often make me raise an eyebrow, especially when they are relating to something that is an Event or Experiential, forewarning that in 60 kmph winds all members of staff should be 'on alert and standby'. 70 kmph winds require large fabrics, banners and vulnerable structures to be taken down, and at 80-90kmph the site should be evacuated.

Now we raise our eyebrows at these words as it would imply that members of the public and staff are battling on, trying to enjoy the event despite the horrific weather conditions. What an image that conjures.

Now we build some pretty incredible stuff we like to think, but even with

30 kmph winds and most exterior events would be a ghost town.

So these guidance notes are taken on board and 99% of the time, but goes no further.

But what happens when 80-90 kmph winds roll in during your installation period of a 10m high Selfie Stick? The World Record no less. Now is not the time to panic. But it does make things that little bit more interesting.....

Well, that's exactly what happened in Toronto October 13th for our #Finastraselfie installation for Shelton Fleming.

With a two day installation scheduled, and a contingency day conscientiously earmarked prior to the 3 live days, we felt we had all the bases covered.

But into Day 1 of installation and the weather report comes in. No ifs and maybes, there was a storm coming our way and it was going to bend a few trees!

This is where your structural engineers are worth every Cent of their fee.

After considerable dialogue, and reassessment of the calculations for all elements of the build, we were able to commit to the (already erected) 10m high steel column that was the internal support for the Selfie Stick. Weighing in at 1.5 tonnes and counterweighted with 3 tonnes of concrete, this Baby wasn't going anywhere.

Nor, luckily, was the truss structure that made up our rear wall.

The 18 x 5m printed fabric banner on the other hand was staying securely in its box!

This is where weather contingencies and (you hope) an understanding client comes in. Some parts of the installation had to cease on Day 2, and our entire contingency day was spent weather watching. To rub salt to the wound the wind would only abate at 4am of the first live day, just 5 hrs before Launch.

So what do you do?

Well, you get a massive team of crew in, some serious lighting and pounce on the thing the minute the wind drops enough for it be safe.

With what was a very understanding client we're delighted to say, we took the appropriate time to do the 'right' job and not rush, and were ready at 10am.

A great result when all things considered.

As it turns out the storm moved on briskly to open up beautiful blue skies for the entire 3 day event. Perfect for Finastra. Less so for us, but that's the way it should be.

But what if it had come in half way through the event? Makes you wince just thinking about it.

It does beg the question. Structural engineers can still work to 100 yr storms and the associated wind speeds that arise. In the UK especially 50-60mph winds are often inputted as the critical limit for Builds. But these wind speeds are occurring all too frequently now. Forget the 100 year storm, they're not even every 10 yrs now.

With meteorologists now forecasting that the storm season just experienced in the UK could quadruple in frequency in coming years, Weather Contingency is something that we all need to flag and discuss somewhat more seriously than even just 10 years ago.

Weather, huh?! What can you do?

Well, you can't live in fear and hesitation of what might happen can you? Not when there's fantastical concepts that need dreaming up and making.

Insurance - its good for one thing at least.

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