Glasgow's SSE Hydro
The engineers behind Scotland’s largest entertainment venue are to receive the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Major Project Award in recognition of nearly a decade of work turning a vision into iconic reality.

Since being selected for the project in 2004, the team from Arup combined their structural, civil, mechanical, electrical, lighting and fire engineering expertise to help deliver the 12,500-seater SSE Hydro Arena in Glasgow. During that period, the engineers had to overcome a number of significant challenges to create the building situated on the bank of the River Clyde, including difficult ground conditions in the city’s old docks and a design to withstand a one in 200-year flood event, including allowing for climate change.

The team, based in Arup Scotland’s offices in Edinburgh and Glasgow, consists of Project Manager Ian Lumsden, Project Director Martin Surridge, Lead Mechanical Engineer David Brodie, and Senior Structural Engineer Graeme Moncur.

The main challenge of the construction involved the design and installation of the 125m clear span tilted roof to top the amphitheatre-style arena designed by Foster + Partners architects. The aesthetics of the roof demanded a spiral structure combined with an efficient structural form that could be constructed without excessive temporary support, minimising the amount of time people were required to work at height. The solution developed was a double-layered structure that could support itself as trusses built on the floor and then craned into place in sections of up to 80 tonnes.

Beneath the dome, the challenges overcome in building such a versatile space are already paying dividends for the city of Glasgow. Designed to a high specification, the venue is able to accommodate touring musical acts with ever more elaborate stage setups such as Beyoncé and U2 – the latter requiring almost 100 tonnes of rigging to be installed for their performance. The design of the SSE Hydro makes it one of the few such spaces in the UK that can host such shows, drawing significant acts to the city. In 2015, it was the third busiest entertainment arena in the world, and as a flexible space it formed part of the Glasgow’s bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games – becoming a visual symbol for the city.

The building also achieved a ‘Very Good’ BREEAM sustainability rating, thanks to its use of technology including one of the largest LED lighting schemes ever installed in Scotland, and a backlit ETFE façade which reduced the number of lighting fixtures needed by almost 50%.

Commenting on the award, lead engineer Ian Lumsden said: “Receiving the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Major Project Award is a very high accolade. It’s great recognition for something that was part of our lives for such a long time. It was an amazing achievement to complete a scheme so complex, both technically and commercially, and to see it now hosting acts that are pushing the boundaries of what an entertainment venue can offer. The whole team is very proud.”

Since completing the project, which opened in 2013, a number of the Arup team have gone on to work on developing the new V&A Dundee – a project arguably even more challenging than the Glasgow arena. The lessons learnt on the Hydro project in dealing with complicated geometries and parametric design are already being deployed on the doubly-curved concrete structure under construction on Dundee’s new waterfront. Other team members are putting their experience into practice on the new £235 million Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre development.

Meanwhile in Glasgow, in the light of Hydro's success, the owners of the Scottish Event Campus in which the arena is situated are considering the opportunity to upgrade the neighbouring conference and exhibition facilities.

Notes for editors

  1. The Major Project Award recognises the contribution of a team of up to five engineers, based in the UK, who have delivered a major engineering project that has had a substantial impact on society. Previous winners have been Atkins for delivering broadband infrastructure to Scotland's Highlands and Islands, and BAE Systems for developing the technology to communicate with the Rosetta spacecraft as it delivered the Philae probe to a comet over half a billion kilometres from Earth.

    Major Project Award
  2. Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK’s role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK’s world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook.

    We have four strategic challenges:
    - Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation
    - Address the engineering skills crisis
    - Position engineering at the heart of society
    - Lead the profession

For more information please contact:

Aaron Boardley at the Royal Academy of Engineering
T: 020 7766 0655
E: Aaron Boardley