The Performance Preparation Academy (PPA) is a musical theatre college offering courses in acting, teaching and musical theatre. Based in Guildford, the college has quickly become recognised as one of the UK’s leading institutes for exceptional performing arts training, with a strong emphasis made on employability.
The PPA currently has two separate premises in the town. However, the PPA’s management believed that moving into one larger, more modern facility would benefit their students’ studies and make the Academy even more attractive to future prospecting students. The newly acquired facility required a complete refit before it was operational. Hi-Level was contracted directly by the PPA to install a large single-tier mezzanine that could support multiple studios and provide suitable space for the students during their lectures, seminars, and rehearsals. The most important requirement was to maximise the students’ workspace. This meant it was crucial that our design had no columns obstructing studio rooms where students would perform.
The final requirements of the project were detailed as follows:
- 1150m² floor size
- 4.5kN/m² live load
- Ancillaries: 45m handrail and 4 general access staircases
Our team’s plan was to design a mezzanine where its columns would be hidden within the wall partitions of each studio which would be supported by large steel beams across the mezzanine. Before the design process took place, we first had to organise a core test of the foundation which would support the structure, as the limited placement of columns meant that these areas would have to withstand significant weight loads. Three separate areas of the site’s floor were tested using the ‘Safe Ground Bearing Pressure’ method.
The result of the test showed the foundation was insufficient to cope with the proposed point loads. This meant that their original plans to have large steel beams throughout the mezzanine would no longer be feasible as it would be too heavy for the foundation. This was immediately brought to the PPA’s attention and our structural engineers worked with them to achieve a creative solution. The new design would still have to maximise studio space but would also have to ensure that the foundations could bear the pressure.
The Solution and Result
To achieve what the client required, our expert structural engineers conceived a design with several smaller beams that would sit directly on the slab floor. These beams would rest on top of two small steel slabs that would act as feet at opposite ends of each beam. This new design allows better weight distribution as the weight can be channelled across two feet; essentially halving the weight load per square metre and alleviating the need for reinforced foundations.
The new design meant that we could provide a mezzanine that wouldn’t obstruct students and ensured the foundation would be able to bear the mezzanine’s live weight load.
Our team was very pleased to provide a mezzanine solution that successfully met the PPA’s requirements, which was to maximise the amount of floor space without obstructions. We were able to complete two weeks ahead of schedule to assist the customer who wished to commence further fit-out work earlier.
“From the beginning of the process to the end, it was a pleasure working with Hi-Level. It felt like they invested in the project from the outset, working with us to achieve the best results we could. Malcolm is a credit to the company!”
Principal at The Performance Preparation Academy.