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Special foundations: An origin story

Restrictions in the London Building Acts (Amendment) Act 1939 were carried into the Party Wall etc. Act 1996; David Bowden discusses how they are now commonly misapplied

7 July 2015

The industrial revolution, and in particular the improving technology associated
with the railways, led to the use of steel structural skeleton frames in large buildings in
the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Owens College in Manchester was built in 1869 and is believed to have a steel frame, as are the National Liberal Club in London (built in 1887),
the Midland Hotel in Manchester (in 1903), and the Guinness Market Street Store in Dublin (in 1904). However, the Ritz in Piccadilly, built in 1906, is generally considered to be the first substantial steel-framed building in London. Selfridges, built in 1909, was probably the first to have no continuous external masonry.

The loads in a framed building, as opposed to being distributed along footings and foundations for the full length of load-bearing walls, are concentrated and transferred to the ground
through columns.

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