ExCeL Phase 2, Royal Victoria Dock, London



Grimshaw Architects LLP

Structural Engineer

McAlpine Design Group

Steelwork Contractor

Severfield-Reeve Structures Ltd (Severfield-Rowen PLC)

Main Contractor

Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd


Excel London

ExCeL Phase 2 creates new spaces that harmonise with and extend ExCeL’s existing offer in London’s Royal Victoria Docks. Phase 2’s key objective was to provide flexibility to respond to the changing requirements of exhibitors, conference organisers and other users. The Phase 2 developments take ExCeL to a total capacity of 1,000,000 sq ft of flexible space, complemented by the new bespoke conference facility, the 15m high hall, a ‘grand entrance’ and a less crowded, easier-to-navigate arrivals experience for all visitors.

An inhabited spiral accommodates foyer and boulevard facilities and brings the east elevation to life. Elements of the spiral act as the foyer floor, the mezzanine floor accommodating casual dining space, and high-level foyer floor serving the conference hub. It stands independently of walls to dropped exhibition halls so that it can be read autonomously on the east elevation and increase the sense of arrival.

The super structure was fully erected in just over four months and a fully covered working enclosure delivered six weeks later. With the Phase 2 venue pre-booked for the day after practical completion for X Factor auditions, the building was fully constructed in just 22 months.

The clear span halls of 87m are structured through the use of a mast assisted steel truss. The structural masts also pick up the grid of suspended demountable hall partitions. This structural solution was adopted from the existing Phase 1 building which had been proven to be the most cost effective solution, but was distilled and improved upon such that the masts were placed back to back centrally rather than to the perimeter. With this modification it was possible to:

  • Remove the requirement for tie down members and increase structural efficiencies through a balanced structural system.
  • Reveal the structural solution to the visitors occupying the central circulation boulevard.
  • Support the roof lights that line the central boulevard.
  • Avoid any conflict with City Airport take-off and landing zones to the south, along with a clash with the electricity pylon to the north.
  • Construct the building in a logical fashion from east to west by erecting the structurally stable masts, then the trusses.

All environmental solutions were required to be cost neutral in terms of construction costs. Phase 2 includes the provision of a grey water storage tank, waterless urinals and low flow fittings throughout. A significant aspect of energy use for the existing ExCeL venue was through its lighting. Simple effective measures were introduced including PIR occupant sensors and low energy fittings. The main improvement was in the introduction of expansive evenly distributed roof lights to the internalised boulevard and also the upper level breakout space. The Phase 2 building demonstrates a reduction of almost 60% in light energy consumption compared to the equivalent Phase 1 environments.

The use of steel ensured a minimal construction period (just 22 months), a lightweight cost-effective solution, and lent itself to the architectural requirement for numerous cantilevers and large column free spans. Steel really was the only viable structural solution and allowed the design team to express the structural and engineering solutions of the building.

Judges’ Comment

Doubling ExCeL to a million square feet of high column-free space has been admirably achieved by this large steelwork structure. Following the earlier outline, this phase is adapted for the constraints of City Airport and local infrastructure, whilst improving the circulation areas. The cost-effective solution continues the 87m spans, also now with some 15m high bays.

The client is delighted, and exhibitors’ enthusiasm is testament to steelwork’s success.