Meet the Makers – Lloyd Evans

Lloyd is a Chartered Structural Engineer at Format. He straddled the divide between design and build and is the reason Sinking House floats!

Hi Lloyd. So, how did you get involved with Sinking House?

We’re based in an office literally just across the river. Stride Treglown approached us a few months ago wanting do something for the COP26. We threw a few ideas back and forth and landed on a Sinking House in the river. It felt like a bit of a long shot at that point with lots of bureaucratic hoops to jump through in terms of permissions from the Environment Agency and the Council – but we did it!

And how about the design and build, was that more straightforward?

Well, the timber frame itself is quite conventional (until you tip it on its side and make it look like it’s sinking) but it’s not often you have to design something that’s floats, something that’s buoyant. That added an extra dimension to the project which made it interesting and quite fun.

What was your role on the project?

I ended up somehow straddling the divide between design and build. One week I was doing the drawings and then the next week I was helping on site. Just from a personal point of view, it’s been really good because it’s not often you get to go from one side of the desk to the other. It makes you realise that the stuff you put down on paper has some serious consequences to the people who have to put your ideas into action on site.

What motivated you to get involved?

I was quite excited by the idea of doing something quite visual. It had a bit of a ‘guerrilla installation’ vibe about it. It’s quite a stark intervention in a city that’s generally quite sleepy and quiet. The idea of doing something that was quite eye-catching for such a worthy cause – or an emergency situation should I say – was really appealing.

It’s nice to do a project that’s so local as well. We’re in an office that overlooks the river and we’re doing an installation straight onto it and with other local organisations too. It’s been a real coming together of different local contacts and friends. I’ve known Sam, the carpenter, since I was at Bath University. So when we were looking for somebody to build Sinking House, he was one of the first people that came to mind because he’s local and doesn’t get phased by unusual projects.

It’s been great. I don’t think we ever would have ended up having any dealings with the Sea Cadets, for instance, unless we were doing this project. And we hadn’t worked with Stride Treglown before so that was nice. Then before you know it, you’re calling around and all these people are getting involved and it’s a real sense of community with everyone working as a team.

How do you think it’s going to be received in Bath?

Bath is a relatively liberal city and so I think it’ll be received well. But I’m hoping that it will reach a wider audience too. I’m hoping that it’ll have enough visual impact that people will want to go there and take photos of it and then the message about climate action will spread even wider.

Is sustainability and climate action something you feel passionate about?

The more I read about climate change and the more we talk about low carbon design in work, the more I feel personally responsible. For me, the construction industry still has a lot to do. It’s all been baby steps so far.

As an engineer who designs things every single day, I think we’ve got this opportunity to leverage a huge amount of change. A few months ago the Institute of Structural Engineers had an article which did a simple material comparison. It stated that if the average engineer swapped out every small steel beam for a slightly bigger timber one over the course of their career, it would lead to an embodied carbon reduction that far outweighs the carbon most individuals will produce in a lifetime. That really hit home and since then I’ve upped my game.

We, in the construction industry, now have choices to make. Our decisions – big and small – can make a massive difference.