Inside V&A Dundee: Temporary Propping System


Last week saw us shortlisted for the Temporary Works Award at the 2017 British Construction Industry Awards for our work on V&A Museum of Design Dundee. The £80.11 million construction project is the first ever design museum to be built in the UK outside of London. Alan White Design was delighted to provide temporary works consultancy services to the onsite sub-contractors Careys Plc. Ross Quail, AWD Design Engineer, and project leader for V&A Dundee explains more about our design process.

“The unique structure of the building presented several design challenges. The external walls of the building were constructed from curved reinforced concrete which are tied to central cores by a combination of steelwork and concrete floor slabs. The walls were only fully supported when the floor slabs, steelwork and roof diaphragm were installed; meaning the walls required to be supported in the temporary case until these elements were in place.


      Double Curved Concrete Walls at V&A Dundee, source: BAM Construction

Using our specialist knowledge in this area, AWD developed a bespoke temporary propping system to restrain the curved walls and maintain their integrity until the additional permanent supports were installed. With the construction lifecycle lasting 1.5 years, our propping system was required to support the building in its temporary state for the entirety of the build, and therefore was an integral part of the construction process.

As temporary works engineers, we are always conscious that our designs will never be part of the finished build, therefore we always try where possible to utilise existing frameworks to reduce the requirement for purpose-fabricated elements which carry additional cost and time, and to ensure our designs are buildable for workers on site. From this base, we then use our specialist skills and expertise to transform the existing framework to meet temporary works requirements.

 V&A Propping

   AWD Temporary Propping System supporting 21 concrete walls at V&A Dundee

For V&A Dundee, we decided to utilise the falsework system that was provided to cast the wall, however this system was only designed to resist the fresh concrete loads; not the cumulative concrete self-weight or applied floor steelwork forces. Therefore, we completed an extensive analysis of the falsework system for the additional forces which resulted in overloaded members in the falsework system, demonstrating that strengthening of the system was required. We resolved this issue by designing strengthening members, utilising as much proprietary equipment as possible, with minimal bespoke fabricated members, thus reducing the cost of the build for our client. This meant our propping system was fit for purpose of upholding this iconic building for over a year.”


     AWD Temporary Propping System at V&A Dundee

Over the course of a year AWD assessed 21 reinforced concrete walls, completing over 70 individual design calculations and over 100 strengthening drawings. These design checks allowed 11,343m2 of falsework to support 2,240m3 of concrete and steelwork forces in the temporary condition until the roof diaphragm was completed.

We were delighted to be involved in the construction of such a prestigious building, and were pleased to utilise our in-depth industry experience to ensure a great result for our client, finishing on time and under budget.


AWD Managing Director, Malachy Ryan, said:

“V&A Dundee is a once-in-a-career type project which brings together so many different skilled experts in the same aim, and we are proud to have been involved in the construction of this iconic building.  Our approach on this project is a prime example of how we can produce fresh and exciting ideas to resolve even the most complex of building challenges. Our bespoke propping system supported this celebrated building in the temporary case for nearly a year and a half, which is testament to the knowledge and expertise we can offer our clients “

For more information about V&A Dundee, visit