Archive for the ‘Buildings’ Category

High Density Emerging in the Suburbs: Woodville West

January 4, 2013

Over the past couple of years, a lot of former housing trust homes around metropolitan Adelaide have been torn down – and in some areas this is still happening. In many instances, these houses have simply been replaced by regular detached housing within the existing streets and infrastructure.

There have been a few cases where things have been taken a bit further. At Woodville West, in Adelaide’s north-western suburbs, the opportunity to leverage the location adjacent to Albert Park train station on the Grange Line is being leveraged and a new development created in the form of The Square. Some of the previous suburb has been rezoned to allow higher density housing – to a limit of a few levels, not high-rise – with adequate public and open space provided and provision for mixed-use and retail development in future stages.

As of January 2013, Stage 1 of The Square has been completed which consists of several townhouse and apartment complexes. I must say, this area now looks quite nice compared to the old tired looking area it used to be – ignoring the fact that it is still a long way from being complete.

The Square

The Square

The Square

The Square

The Square

The Square



Bringing life back to Adelaide’s heritage buildings

May 20, 2011

Around Adelaide’s city centre there are a number of older buildings that are not currently in use and provide a real opportunity to restore some of Adelaide’s heritage while putting the buildings to effective use. Here are a few of the buildings that are currently unused for various reasons. Some of them have plans for renovation and reuse while others are not currently part of any plan and continue to deteriorate.

Electra House

Electra House is a heritage listed three level building on King William Street opposite the Adelaide Town Hall. Constructed in 1901, it was previously used as offices for the transcontinental telegraph line and insurance companies before falling into disrepair. The building has recently been cleaned up by volunteer groups including Renew Adelaide as part of its makeover for the new home of Tuxedo Cat venue for the duration of the Adelaide Fringe festival.

In the long term, the building has been planned as part of an entertainment facility including a bar and a restaurant as part of the City Central development but it is not known when or if this will take place. This will constructed over the site of the former Criterion Hotel as well. This site, adjacent to Electra House, has been empty since the Criterion was demolished in 2006.

The planned redevelopment of Electra House into bars and restaurants. (Source: Aspen Group)


Electra House in early 2011.

Gawler Chambers

Constructed in 1909 and extended to its present form in 1914, this heritage listed four level building sits on the corner of Gawler Place and North Terrace. For more than five years, it has remained empty and a lifeless spot on a premier boulevarde (North Terrace) that has gone through an extensive makeover in recent years. In late February, a plan to retain the building’s facade and construct a 13 level office building with ground floor retail in its place have been announced. If all goes to plan, it will be completed and in use by 2015.

The planned office building and retail concept for Gawler Chambers. (Source: Studio LFA)

Gawler Chambers in late 2010.

Colonial Mutual Life Building

Constructed in 1932 and extended in 1934, this 12 level building was the tallest building in Adelaide upon completion, a title it held for over 35 years. It was previously an office building, but currently sits and serves as an empty oversized bus shelter at the corner of King William and Hindley Streets.

There are plans to refit the building for use as a hotel. It is not known when this will commence or be completed.

The CML Building awaiting renovation in early 2011.

The Gallerie

Of the buildings listed in this post, this one is probably the most run down of the lot. The Gallerie Building was formerly a retail arcade which ran from North Terrace to Gawler Place and closed in the late 1990s when the former John Martins department store next door closed and was demolished. No known plans to redevelop the building or arcade have currently been proposed.

The Gallerie, all empty and boarded up, in late 2010.

There are a number of other significant heritage listed buildings that are currently not used. They include the former Bank of New South Wales on the corner of King William Street and North Terrace and the Tattersall’s Building on Grenfell Street. There’s plenty of opportunities for redevelopment as demonstrated by the clever plans for Gawler Chambers, but these have often been declared unviable because of restrictions on the use of the heritage listed buildings. Where there’s a will there’s likely to be a way.

Franklin Street, Adelaide – A street in transition, Part 2

April 11, 2011

Traditionally, much of Adelaide’s central business district has developed in the area north of Waymouth and Pirie Streets, east of Topham Mall, Leigh Street and Bentham Street and west of Pulteney Street. Since the turn of the century, an increasing amount of new development has been further south with areas such as King William Street south of Victoria Square and Franklin Street now seeing more building activity.

Franklin Street is about to undergo its biggest transformation in its 174 year history. Over a dozen development plans are in various stages of planning or construction. These developments will transform what is one of the city’s quietest and most derelict streets into a key expansion zone for the central business district. The map below shows where many of these developments will be located.

Map of developments planned for Franklin Street. These are numbered 1 through to 8. (Source: Nearmap)

Part 1 of this two part series can be accessed here.

5. 71-83 Franklin Street

Directly opposite the former Just Kidding site is another derelict building, also used as a car park. This site, located next door to the new interstate bus terminal is earmarked for a 12 level office building. This proposal is still awaiting action.

6. The Precinct South East Corner

Located on the south eastern corner of the Morphett Street and Franklin Street intersection is The Precinct Development, adjacent to the new bus station. It is expected that a couple of residential towers will be constructed here but specific plans have not been identified.

7. The Precinct North West Corner

Diagonally opposite is another section of the Precinct at the same intersection, which is on the former Balfours site. So far, this is the only development on Franklin Street which has elements of the plan completed. It is expected that further residential towers and a retail complex will be constructed here in the future.

8. 176-186 Morphett Street

Not strictly on Franklin Street, but very close is a proposed 15 level apartment building. This building will replace a single level office building currently on the site.

As you can see, there are some exciting times ahead for development in the western part of the city. There are a number of developments near Franklin Street that I have not included such as those on Rowlands Place and Andrew Street (I do like this name very much), and it is likely that not all of the development projects mentioned here will proceed or be completed in their current planned form.

Franklin Street, Adelaide – A street in transition, Part 1

April 7, 2011

Traditionally, much of Adelaide’s central business district has developed in the area north of Waymouth and Pirie Streets, east of Topham Mall, Leigh Street and Bentham Street and west of Pulteney Street. Since the turn of the century, an increasing amount of new development has been further south with areas such as King William Street south of Victoria Square and Franklin Street now seeing more building activity.

Franklin Street is about to undergo its biggest transformation in its 174 year history. Over a dozen development plans are in various stages of planning or construction. These developments will transform what is one of the city’s quietest and most derelict streets into a key expansion zone for the central business district. The map below shows where many of these developments will be located.

Map of developments planned for Franklin Street. These are numbered 1 through to 8. (Source: Nearmap)

1. City Central Tower 8

One of the largest developments currently under construction on Franklin Street is City Central Tower 8, an 18 level building which will become the new home of the Australia Tax Office in Adelaide when completed. The building is part of a larger project known as City Central which is a mixed-use development including offices, retail and hotel space. The project includes the redevelopment of Electra House, presently being used by Tuxedo Cat through the duration of the Adelaide Fringe. Currently, only Tower 1 and Tower 2 have been completed.

2. The Atrium

Further west along Franklin Street at the former Telstra Exchange site (42-56 Franklin Street), a 17 level office building that sits adjacent to the Pitt Street intersection. The former Telstra Exchange Building that previous occupied the site was demolished in 2009 and the site is currently an empty plot of land.

3. A site awaiting development

Directly opposite where The Atrium was proposed is this multi-storey car park which is provides an ugly frontage to Franklin Street. Truscotts previously occupied the ground floor, but this is currently not in use. Rebuilding at this location would remove one of the ugliest structures on the street. I am led to believe that there was previously a proposal for a 9 level office building here, but can not confirm this.

4. 58-76 Franklin Street

On the north side of Franklin Street west from Pitt Street is another derelict building formerly occupied by Just Kidding. Both this building and the adjacent lot are currently used as a car park. The five storey extension to the car park on Young Street behind this site (also part of this development) is currently under construction, while the 16 level apartment building on the corner and the 19 level office building will soon commence construction.

Part 2 will follow shortly.

Lessons from the Christchurch Earthquake

March 23, 2011

Predicting the Danger and Risks

This 8.5 minute documentary that went to air in New Zealand in 1996 warned of the dangers that Christchurch faced from a major earthquake. This clip below shows that building and infrastructure problems were then well known. In the earthquakes that took place on September 4 2010 and February 22 2011, many of the buildings shown in the clip were badly damaged or collapsed, including a number of buildings claimed to be success stories.

How Did Christchurch’s Buildings and Infrastructure Perform?

A few days ago, the Institution of Professional Engineers of New Zealand released a fact sheet about the background into building codes in New Zealand and how effectively buildings and infrastructure constructed in different times performed. This document can be viewed here. Particularly interesting is that the Institution notes:

Many buildings designed before the early 1980s may have experienced earthquake loads significantly above that for which they were designed. Nevertheless, many of them have experienced no or minimal damage.

The last major update to the design standards for earthquake loadings was in the early 1980s, which makes the complete collapse of the CTV Building constructed in 1986 and the stairwell failure of the Forsyth Barr Building while many older buildings survived somewhat puzzling. This is currently the subject of an inquiry under way in New Zealand. Also noted was that the majority of the damage to underground infrastructure was the result of liquefaction in Christchurch’s saturated, loose soils.

What About Earthquakes in Australia?

There’s also recently been some comments about the likelihood of such a large quake causing damage in Australia’s cities. While Australia has a far lower risk of damage from major earthquakes due to its location away from tectonic plate boundaries and major fault lines, some cities are still at risk from moderate sized earthquakes measuring between 5 and 6 in magnitude close to urban areas. Both of the cities of Adelaide and Newcastle have been damaged by earthquakes in 1954 and 1989 respectively, with the latter resulting in a number of fatalities. These, however, are still very small in scale in terms of energy released compared to earthquakes that can occur close to the major fault lines.

As individuals, there are some things that can be done to protect yourself during an earthquake. In the US, the recommended course of action is a quick three step procedure called “Drop, Cover and Hold On”. This involves dropping onto your hands and knees, covering yourself under a table or protecting your head with your arms and holding on to your shelter until the shaking stops. The aim of this is to prevent injury from flying and falling debris.

Media often portrays the wrong ways of reacting to an earthquake. While some buildings do collapse during major earthquakes, the majority escape with minimal or no damage. If a building does collapse, your shelter can provide a void. The natural instinct to run outside puts you at risk of injury from falling debris, while other recommendations such as standing in the doorway do not offer much protection.


Earthquake Country Alliance

A high-rise built with a timber structural frame

March 5, 2011

Flipping through the property section of the Australian Financial Review a few days ago (28/2/2011), this project being developed at the former Carlton United Breweries site in the north of Melbourne’s central business district caught my eye. The project is called Delta, a ten level apartment building being developed by Grocon who is well known for developing and constructing Melbourne’s Eureka Tower – the tallest building in Melbourne and one of the tallest in the southern hemisphere.

Delta, a passive house design to be constructed using timber. (Source: Architecture & Design)

What’s unique about this structure is that the contractors (also Grocon), are attempting to have the structure supported entirely by timber above the bottom couple of floors. Grocon is calling this design “passive house”, reflecting the fact that the soft-wood timbers from which the building will be constructed from is natural and not a material that emits carbon dioxide emissions in its creation – unlike concrete and steel.

The building will also heat and cool itself as the design will be insulated and the timbers will not absorb and release heat into the building in the way that other materials such as steel and concrete do. As a result, the building will reduce energy consumption in both the construction and operational stages and is expected to be carbon neutral. If built, Delta would become the tallest timber structure of its kind in the world.

The passive house design has been in use across Europe for about 20 years now, but has never before been attempted in Australia. Because of this, the specially manufactured and polished timbers will likely be imported from Europe. With carbon pricing looking a real possibility of being introduced in Australia, designs such as these may become more common.

Oh, and by the way, the soft-wood timbers are meant to be fire proof!


Australian Financial Review

Architecture & Design

Supplying affordable housing away from the urban fringe

February 23, 2011

There’s been an increasing government and private sector effort to get more affordable housing into the centre of Adelaide. However, so too is the effort on the urban fringe.

Between 2000 and 2010, the median house price in Adelaide jumped from about $150,000 to over $400,000, an increase of about 167% or about 10.3% per year according to RP Data! If this is any indication of the future, this is great news if you’re an investor but terrible news for low-income earners and those trying to break into the housing market. This story of rapidly rising house prices has been repeated in almost every major city around Australia.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as of May 2010 the average weekly wage in South Australia was $1139.90, which equates to an annual wage of about $59,000. For a house valued at $300,000 and assuming the banks don’t allow more than one-third of an individual’s income to be put to repaying a mortgage, a standard variable rate of about 8% p.a. and 80% loan-to-value ratio for the loan, this property could take over 30 years to pay off! Two incomes paying off this house would obviously lessen the financial stress.

There are a number of projects currently under way or in planning to provide affordable housing in a country where housing is rated as amongst the most unaffordable in the world. In central Adelaide, a non-for-profit housing company called Common Ground Adelaide has been establishing housing at three locations in cooperation with the State and Federal Governments as well as private sector supporters. One of these at the newly built bus station on Franklin Street and another has recently been completed on Light Square.

The largest affordable housing project currently under way in central Adelaide is the Uno Apartments project on Waymouth Street. This 16 level building will provide 138 apartments and began construction in December 2010.

The Uno Apartments project, currently under construction on Waymouth Street. (Source: Uno Apartments)

Affordable housing close to the city centre is a great initiative because it gives those who would not otherwise be able to afford to live close to transport, employment, recreation, retail, hospitals and other community services the opportunity to do so while also dealing with the problem of keeping the homelessness off the streets at night. It also contributes to making better use of underused buildings – as was the case at the Common Ground project in Light Square – and also improving the vitality and activity occurring on the streets of our cities.

By contrast, providing affordable housing on the urban fringes can create more problems than it solves. In January 2011, the release of land at Blakeview in Adelaide’s outer north was announced by the State Government’s Land Management Corporation to provide affordable housing. Even if affordable housing can be provided in this location, there is limited access to public transport, employment opportunities or community activity which does nothing to assist in helping individuals in finding their own feet. It also results in further urban sprawl and inefficient use of land and infrastructure.

If we can provide affordable housing in existing urban areas and solve a variety of social and urban development issues – more active streets and efficient use of buildings and infrastructure – in the process as has been demonstrated by Common Ground Adelaide, then what excuses do we have for continuing to use the disguise of affordable housing to continue building on our urban fringe?


Affordable Homes Program

Australia Bureau of Statistics

Uno Apartments

Common Ground Adelaide

RP Data

More concrete and column research

February 18, 2011

Some months ago, I published a post about some research I was undertaking as part of my honours project at the University of Adelaide about the use of high strength concretes and a column design – which consumed a lot of my time and kept me from updating this blog for several months late last year. This work was completed in October last year.

For reasons of confidentiality, I can not disclose detailed information about the design specifications of the columns or the testing apparatus we used. However, I can explain the basics of the testing program that was undertaken without going into too much technical detail.

The aim of our research was to explore the feasibility of creating a high-strength, high-performance column known as a Double-Skin Tubular Column (DSTC). These columns consisted of several components: an internal steel tube, an outer tube made from layers of fibre reinforced polymers (FRP), and the space between the two tubes filled with high strength concrete.

Plan view of the column from above. There is a hollow steel tube surrounded by concrete which in turn is confined by an outer FRP tube.

Our testing program was undertaken in two stages. The first involved creating concrete mixes with differing strengths – compressive strengths of 90 Mpa and 110 Mpa were used – and testing them 28 days after pouring the batches to check that the strengths being achieved were suitable to be used in the test columns. Photos and footage of this testing can be seen in the previous post on this research.

The second phase to our testing program involved the task of constructing 1.6 metre tall columns with supporting footings. Each of these columns was different from each other to examine the effect of altering the basic design by changing the concrete strengths, the thickness of the outer FRP tube (or the confinement as it is known by structural engineers), FRP type as well as the effect of different loads on the column. The following photos show the columns in their construction phase.

Steel bar cages were prepared for the foundation, while the steel tube was welded for anchorage.

The outer FRP tubes being cast layer by layer on a special rotating apparatus.

Columns awaiting concrete to be cast in-situ between the two tubes after their foundations were poured.

To test these columns, a test rig was constructed in the labs and hydraulic jacks were used to apply a constant vertical load as well as a varying horizontal load on the column. In effect, the columns were pushed back and forth to simulate seismic loading and tested to failure. Information about the column performance was obtained using strain gauges attached to various points on the column. The following photos and video shows the columns during testing. Note that the video is sped up to about 20 times normal speed.

Column placed in the test rig awaits its destiny.

A column in testing, being pushed far off centre.

An image of the FRP tube at column failure.

Damage to the concrete after stripping away the outer FRP tube.

In a nutshell, our research found that the columns performed very well with high bending capacities and high levels of lateral displacement compared to conventional columns.

Adelaide: University of Adelaide’s new 6 star green star rating building, Innova 21

July 4, 2010

Innova 21 is a leader in the next generation of modern sustainable structures.

Opened on June 14, the new Innova 21 building stands at the heart of the North Terrace campus of the University of Adelaide. It is an eight level building valued at AU$100 million that is the new home of the university’s Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences (ECMS) and the largest project that has been undertaken at the university to date. Amongst the continuous disruption that all the construction has created at the university campus over the past two and half years the final product, so far at least, appears to be well worth the wait for the university’s staff and students.

Innova 21 features many firsts for Australia in building design that make it a leader in the next generation of sustainable structures. The building is the first educational facility to receive a 6 star green star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia and one of a few buildings given this rating alongside others such as the Melbourne Convention Centre and Sydney’s Space office building at 1 Bligh Street. Sustainable features in Innova 21’s design include:

  • Internal cooling loops built into the concrete floors (Active slab technology)
  • Underfloor air distribution system for natural air ventilation
  • Double-glazed curtain glass wall to allow natural light into the building whilst keeping the heat out
  • Rainwater harvesting through a 500,000L underground water tank for toilets and irrigation
  • A Tri generation plant on the roof which provides electricity, heating and cooling for the building
  • An inflated ETFE roofing system (air between two layers of ETFE) for the next exhibition hall, which is the same method that was applied for the exterior walls of Beijing’s Water Cube
  • A Building Management System (BMS) which is a built in system to reduce the building’s energy consumption

The sustainable elements of the design not only feature in the completed product, but also in its construction. The concrete used in the building contains flyash, a byproduct from burning coal which would otherwise be wasted in landfills. This flyash makes concrete stronger and reduces the need for the use of Portland cement which is a major producer of greenhouse gases in the construction industry.

Some parts of the building are not presently open at the time of writing (the computer suites) but the way it blends in with its surroundings is stunning, particularly where the new exhibition hall in the building connects to the existing brick facade of the much older Engineering North Building. The following photos are of the building’s construction in August 2008:

The following photos are following the building completion in June 2010:

The exhibition space that provides a stunning constrast between the old and new.

Looking up at the ETFE roof that hangs over Innova 21's exhibition space.

There will be more photos in the future as more parts of the building open for use.

Destroying concrete in the name of research

June 24, 2010

Just to give others a bit of an idea of what I am currently doing, I am currently involved with a research project with with 3 others which involves the development of a column system that is almost completely untried. It involves using the traditional hardy materials of steel and concrete combined with Aramid (Kevlar) reinforced polymer sheets. The column system involves creating an inner steel tube, an outer Aramid fibre tube and pouring concrete into the space between the two tubes, leaving just the inside of the steel tube hollow. The intention of the research is to investigate how the columns perform under slightly different design conditions which involves replicating the seismic forces applied to buildings during earthquakes.

Combined with the column system, the concrete being used is some of the strongest that has ever been created in the world. Several different strengths of concrete are being trialled, with the strongest concrete mix used at least 4 times the strength of regular concrete. To test their strength in compression, small cylinders were created for testing purposes and left for different periods of time before placing them into the “Jaws of Death”. Below are several images of the aftermath from the destruction, and a video of the explosive failure.

Gravity redefined? One of the high strength concrete specimens that met its destructive fate.

This specimen remained mostly intact, with a chunk of the side blowing off at failure.

This ultra high strength concrete specimen suffered from a shear failure, where one small section completely separated from the rest.