Page last updated at 02:53 GMT, Wednesday, 10 June 2009 03:53 UK

Top prize for Chinese water cube

Beijing Aquatics Centre, AllSport/Getty
The dramatic look of the building helps reduce its environmental impact

Arup has won the UK's top engineering prize for its 'water cube'.

Better known as the Beijing Aquatic Centre the dramatic building was the venue for swimming events at the 2008 Olympics.

Five people at the engineering firm share the MacRobert Prize for their work on the iconic building.

The prize was awarded for the pioneering work done to prototype the building on computer and its low environmental impact.

Describing the building as "stunning" Dr Geoff Robinson, chairman of the MacRobert Award judging panel, said: "Its breathtaking architecture is matched by engineering innovations in fabrication, materials and environmental management, and a project schedule that many regarded as impossible."

Tristram Carfrae, project director; Mark Arkinstall, structural engineer; Stuart Bull, building modeller; Haico Schepers, sustainability energy and facade engineer and Marianne Foley, Fire Engineer are the joint winners of the prize.

The shell of the building is a lightweight structure made of 22,000 individual pieces connected together by 12,000 that mimic the look of soap bubbles.

Clad in a material known as ETFE, the building captures 20% of the solar energy falling on it and, claims Arup, needs 55% less artificial lighting than a comparable conventionally made building.

Tristram Carfrae said the computer-based prototyping of the building helped guide the design of the final structure.

"There is very little continuous learning in the building industry," said Mr Carfrae, "but virtual prototyping can change that, enabling us to achieve greater quality with less time and less money."

Also shortlisted for the 2009 award were Orthomimetics which makes medical implants that help bone and soft tissue to regenerate; QinetiQ for the Tarsier system that can automatically spot debris on runways and Rolls-Royce for the Trent 900 gas turbine Aeroengine used by the Airbus A380.

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