About Bell Johnson

Bell Johnson was set up by Brian Bell and Barry Johnson who between them have over seven decades of experience designing structures and dealing with construction issues.

Brian joined Ove Arup & Partners, Structures 3 Division, under Sir “Ted” Happold after graduating from Oxford University. After five years of design and site experience with Arup in London and one in Nigeria, he took a year’s MSc/DIC course at Imperial College in Concrete Structures and Technology before joining J L Kier/French Kier/Kier Construction. He worked alongside Barry on projects in Hong Kong before moving on to Kier’s special projects section, with its emphasis on marine works. After running this section for several years, he joined Robert Benaim and Associates/Benaim, being appointed a Director. In 1999 he started Brian Bell Associates and after 10 years of successful practice was delighted to be joined by Barry in 2010.

Brian is a Fellow of the Institutions of both Civil Engineers and Structural Engineers, and is actively involved in the affairs of the latter where he was a founder member of the Executive Board and later a Director of IStructE Ltd. He chaired a Task Group to write the third edition of “The Appraisal of Existing Structures”, begun by Sir “Ted” in 1980, and has been, and is, a member of several task groups. He is a member of SCOSS and is a Past Chairman of his local branch.

Although heavily involved with deep basements and tunnels, using cut-and-cover methods and particularly top-down and semi-top-down techniques, he has also designed bridges and takes a keen interest in methods of construction and safety. He has designed several major temporary works for contractors and for 19 years ran a four week module on the subject annually for the MSc students at Imperial College. He has also published several papers on these subjects.

As part of teams of expert witnesses, Brian has been asked to represent London Underground for the Victoria Station Upgrade public inquiry and to represent the Land Transport Authority of Singapore at the public inquiry into the Nicoll Highway Collapse. He has also given expert advice in several high profile cases.

His interest in historic structures is not limited to theory. He and his long-suffering wife restored a derelict thatched cottage in Cambridgeshire in which they still live. He is now mainly “retired” if you do not count the full-time house maintenance, and is considering refurbishing his working 1959 Fordson Dexta tractor.

Barry studied at Cambridge University, where he was awarded a first class degree and the Sir Archibald Denny Prize for Theory of Structures. He then joined JL Kier & Co Ltd which later became Kier Group plc. His career with Kier started on site building an oil tanker jetty in Milford Haven followed by dry docks at Devonport. Progressing to the design office he spent the next 36 years designing major temporary and permanent works, rising to the position of Chief Engineer. He is a chartered engineer and a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Major themes during this period were the design of deep excavations and marine structures. Several of the deep excavations were in Hong Kong, including some of the most complex underground structures built for the Mass Transit Railway. By integrating the structural and geotechnical aspects of both temporary and permanent works design, he opened the way to more effective and economical designs for these structures.

In the marine field the emphasis was on designing the permanent works to suit the method of construction and available plant. This can result in rapid and economical construction with minimum expenditure on temporary works. In Thailand, the 3km long Sri Racha Jetty was built without any major temporary works in a 9 month construction period.

Many designs were undertaken for tenders with the emphasis on safe, simple and economical construction methods combined with money saving alternative proposals. Post-award, value engineering proposals resulted in significant savings for both contractor and client.

Barry’s wide experience has included a variety of interesting and unusual projects, for which he provided successful and innovative solutions. Several of these are described in the ‘Projects’ section. His lifelong interest in bells and bellringing has led to developments in the design of bell frames and their installation in historic churches. He has also carried out investigations where structural problems have arisen, determining causes and proposing solutions.

Since establishing Bell Johnson he has continued working in his main areas of interest with deep excavation design for projects in Hong Kong and for Crossrail in London, marine structures, and bell frames.