Temporary Demountable Structures

The Advisory Group on Temporary Structures (AGOTS) has recently prepared edition four of Temporary Demountable Structures on behalf of the Institution of Structural Engineers. Since 1985 previous editions have been the chief source for guidance on the procurement, design, and use of temporary demountable structures in the UK.

Demountable structures are widely used for a variety of functions at public and private events and can be found at exhibitions, sporting events, musical concerts and social occasions. Some may carry substantial numbers of people during major events and structural safety is extremely important.

The Olympic Games in London in 2012 saw the largest number of temporary structures ever used at a single event, and using the third edition of this Guide was one of the core requirements of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). Since then the industry has seen a number of regulatory changes and the introduction of Eurocodes. The fourth edition embraces these.

Detailed recommendations are given for grandstands, stages and special structures. There is a section on fabric structures and further advice on ancillary and special structures to support lighting equipment, video screens, loudspeakers, and the like.

The Guide is based on practice in the United Kingdom and Europe but the principles described are appropriate for application elsewhere. It is also intended for clients, event organisers and venue owners, designers, regulatory and local authorities, as well as contractors and suppliers of demountable structures. It is concerned with the structural safety and adequacy of demountable structures used for temporary purposes and also with the overall planning and management of events.

This is the most comprehensive document that is available concerning the procurement, design, and operation of temporary demountable structures. There have been a number of serious failures of these in recent years, some resulting in loss of life, so steps to improve the safety of spectators, performers, and operatives is to be welcomed.

The temporary structures industry differs from that of permanent structures in that it is much more fluid. At many events there are short timescales for the whole design and construction process. Responsibilities may be divided with no clear chain of command and regulations are complex. A temporary stage may be erected for a small event, the performance held, and the structure dismantled within a few days. Large events usually have a formal management process in place but there are still anomalies with control and with quality assurance.

Another difference with more traditional buildings is that imposed loads from people and wind are relatively high in proportion to dead load. There is more dynamic behaviour involved and different hazards to be considered. Very large numbers of spectators are accommodated in such structures so the life-safety risks have to be taken extremely seriously.

Although the Guide has been written primarily with the UK in mind the principles can be applied universally when allowances are made for regional differences in legislation and practice. As such it will have a wide application and will help to improve standards and enhance safety.

The AGOTS Group consists of:

Peter Hind Chairman and technical editor, together with representatives from; Confidential Reporting on Structural Safety, The Event Services Association, The Institute of Licensing, The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, The Health & Safety Executive, The Institution of Civil Engineers, The Institution of Structural Engineers, Professional Light and Sound Association, MUTA (Marquees, Tents, and Structures), The Production Services Association, and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority.