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Careful design protects UQ heritage project

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Buildcorp’s latest project for the University of Queensland (UQ), a substantial refurbishment of their iconic Forgan Smith building, is gathering momentum as demolition works complete and construction works begin.

The Forgan Smith building is the centrepiece of the Great Court at the University of Queensland’s St Lucia campus. Buildcorp is delivering an innovative and complex project to revitalise the heritage listed building into a state-of-the-art teaching and research facility that includes their Law School and library.

Now that the demolition stage is complete, the main atrium void has been cut through the centre of the 70 year old building to allow the first sections of a structural steel stairway to be craned into position. 

Forgan Smith Void

Buildcorp invested time at the start of the project to develop the design and explore the best methods to carry out the refurbishment whilst protecting the heritage features. The following are some of the solutions enabling the project to be delivered more effectively to a shorter, optimised program:

Finding the best way for structural changes

To replace the building’s roof, the team opted for a process that removed the roof structure in one stage and then weather-proofed the top floor slab to protect the heritage elements underneath. This process negated the need for a staged approach and costly engineering to support the structure.

The building’s external heritage sandstone façade is designed to remain intact with the exception of: raising the height by a metre, a new copper feature screen and some structural strengthening. Buildcorp worked with engineers to employ a temporary propping and bracing system for the façade that enabled structural steel to be inserted into it for strengthening. 

Forgan Smith facade

Careful planning to excavate

To excavate and install the new in-ground services whilst minimising vibrations that might dislodge or crack the façade, the best methodology was to use twin headed pulverising excavators instead of a more traditional rock breaking jackhammer. Vibrations where carefully monitored during the works and the excavations were complete ahead of program without any damage to the building or foundations.

Forgan Smith Excavator

Early design finds the best stormwater route 

During an early period of contractor involvement, Buildcorp evolved the design of the siphonic drainage route to better deal with stormwater overflow and avoid the constraints of the site’s services. The new stormwater drainage route will run underground a shorter distance and a tunnel boring machine has begun operations to create the route within a shorter program.

The right crane for the job

The site is being fed by a tower crane, Buildcorp’s second in as many years on the UQ campus. The 50m tower crane was selected as the best fit for the site as it allows a single point for the lifting and loading of materials, and enables the building’s Great Court frontage to be free from a mobile crane. It was important to keep this frontage as clear as possible as it is a strong focal point of the University campus and is home to significant trees and landscaping that require protection.

Forgan Smith crane

The project is due to complete in December 2016 and UQ aims to open the doors to the new Law School in February 2017 for the start of Semester One.