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Geoff Bold,
G R Bold & Associates cc, Cape Town

"We're the guys who work in the background of a building project - you don't see us but we hold the building up!" After pursuing an early interest in architecture, Geoff Bold altered his study path when he discovered that it was the fundamental principles and exact science of structural engineering that really appealed to him. He was soon operating in his forté as a Junior Engineer at the Natal Provincial Works Department and then as a Senior Engineer at Jeffares and Green.

As a specialist in all fields of structural engineering, Geoff has worked for the last eight years in his own capacity as G R Bold & Associates cc Consulting Civil and Structural Engineers and draws on his extensive experience of reinforced concrete, structural steel, masonry and timber as well as bridge design projects to deliver comprehensive structural engineering services.

His current projects include industrial buildings, office and residential blocks and up-market residential homes. Typically the process begins when an architect completes a drawing plan and requests the associated structural review and engineer's drawing. Geoff then takes the architectural plans (which are usually supplied in DXF format) and imports them into AllyCAD. "I strip out all the details and accessories that I'm not interested in and break the drawing down into a structural scheme. The engineer’s drawing that I create is the basic skeleton of the building with its slabs, post tension slabs, rib and block slabs, beams, columns, other members and sometimes even sky hooks" explains Geoff.

"I have been using AllyCAD for more than 20 years and have therefore collated a large library of drawings. This resource significantly speeds up my design time on new projects. I can use AllyCAD across the whole process including reinforcing layouts and bending schedules for beams, columns and slabs. I can take one beam for example that I've detailed or scheduled before and stretch, modify and edit it so as to create a new beam schedule within a matter of minutes. AllyCAD allows you to resize the vertical and horizontal scale so that the actual size of the members is largely correct in just one adjustment. AllyCAD can handle files from almost any CAD package, making life a lot easier," notes Geoff.

Interesting developments in the field include the increasing number of 'Green' building designs which require structural engineering expertise. Following the success of the 'Greenstar Rating system' internationally and as we begin to see the introduction of legislation and governing bodies surrounding 'green themes' in South Africa, environmentally friendly developments are now commonplace and architectural firms have been quick to embrace the publicity. This trend also poses new challenges to the structural engineering consultants. A recent building project which Geoff undertook in the rural community of Bredasdorp involved the use of a variety of non-standard materials such as straw bales and blue-gum poles in the construction of a double storey building. The use of these and other innovative design materials requires a completely new approach to structural design and analysis. "When it comes to Green architectural concepts I really have to go back to my first year university engineering basic principles to determine what can or can't be done," explains Geoff with enthusiasm.
  The firm is currently handling the structural planning of various industrial buildings, office blocks and up-market residential homes and has recently worked closely with Arthur Quinton Darryl Croome Architects on a number of up-market residential blocks such as 'One77' in Greenpoint, Cape Town. One77 is a 37 unit block of flats designed by Quinton Darryl Croome for Aquacor Property Developers which now has a retail value of over R40 million. In terms of its eclectic brick-and-steel styling, One77 could be called a mini-Metropolis, consisting of four floors of apartments elevated on columns above a parking basement. The block is split lengthwise along its north-south axis so that every unit has natural light on at least two sides. The gap between the east and west ends is spanned by steel bridges and walkways. The top two floors have continuous wrap-around terraces with sunscreens and canopies, and the interiors feature laminated timber flooring, plaster and roughly textured face-brick feature walls. The One77 residential development sold out before its actual launch and its open-plan, naturally lit and low energy consuming design demonstrates a successful working partnership between architect and engineer.

When asked about the challenges within his work Geoff refers to the architectural expectations which he is faced with which often do not take into consideration the structural implications of a design concept. "The structural engineer often only receives the plans at the point shortly before their submission to council. At this stage the design cannot be changed substantially and in my opinion the engineer should be brought in at an earlier stage" argues Geoff.

Though not as common, other challenges can include having to work with certain parameters determined by budget constraints. Geoff recalls the time during the development of a bridge in Cape Town crossing a four-lane highway when it was decided that pre-cast, pre-stressed straight beams be used. "In order to produce the super elevation and horizontal curvature no two beams were parallel. Achieving this was no mean feat!" explained Geoff.

The work of the structural engineer remains largely behind the scenes and is not without its challenges but Geoff Bold is enthused by the engineering principles of the structural field and has clearly found his forté. His company is growing and there is certainly no shortage of new projects awaiting his attention.

image Geoffrey Bold After completing his BSc in Engineering Structures at the University of Natal, Geoff worked as a Junior Engineer for the Natal Provincial Administration Works Department and then joined the Pietermartizburg office of Jeffares and Green in 1989. In 1995 he was transferred to Jeffares and Green's Cape Town Office. He has been operating as G R Bold & Associates cc since January 2000. Geoff is married with a son and a daughter. In his spare time Geoff enjoys hiking and travelling.

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