Thinking outside of the box is a common way to innovate in any industry. In a building environment that is quite well-grounded, going in a direction that is new – or even slightly out of the norm – often garners greater results due to the simple fact that it produces buildings that are one of a kind.
Doing so becomes a little more difficult when breaking out of the mould becomes a real logistical challenge. That does not, however, stop industry members from trying and succeeding in endeavours of this nature.
This is exemplified in dual high-rises that currently stand out on the Gold Coast skyline. Developed by Niecon with contractors Grocon and engineer Robert Bird under the design of architectural firm DBI Design, the $850 million Oracle luxury apartment development at Broad Beach literally breaks out of traditional precast moulds.
The development consists of ‘twin’ high-rise buildings with a 10-storey difference between the two, as one of the buildings reaches 52 storeys while the other tops out at 42 storeys.
The multi-million dollar project has been developed using precast concrete, which may come as a surprise to those who see its undulating form.
Instead of a traditional geometric shape, the twin buildings are notable for kidney-shaped curves. While this allows them to hold their own in a sea of high-rises, it brought with it extra complexities when it came to both moulding and positioning the structural elements.
Ian Coulter of Precast Concrete Products, the precast manufacturer, explains that 1,540 precast exterior panels were used throughout the development process. These were then split into a staggering 518 different panel shapes. This meant that more than one out of every three panels would need to be developed with a different mould.
The panel shapes range from ‘hammerhead’ panels to ‘s’ shaped panels, both of which are self explanatory in their form. To add a further challenge to the development though, these shapes were then subtly changed in order to create the undulating aesthetic.
The key issue with manufacturing in this manner is that each piece has its own specific position that cannot be altered, meaning that panels cannot be stored and work cannot be continued until that panel is in place.
“The complicated thing was that there were typical hammerhead panels up to a certain point and then the kidney shape of the structure began truncating as we got higher, which gave a third dimension to the panels,” says Coulter. “This was not a job where you could cast and then store the panels, because their shapes meant they could not be stacked.”
This meant that 10 panels with individual moulding requirements needed to be manufactured daily in order to run productively and on time. This hectic work pace – not to mention the logistical challenges it created – could have become too great were it not for the great importance placed on communication between the precaster and the development team.
“There was a real sense of collaboration and teamwork on this site, with every challenge addressed and overcome through creative thinking and planning each step to the finest degree,” says Coulter. “And I think the end result speaks for itself.”
The key to the success of this development has been collaboration and innovation. Developing out of the norm is not a simple feat and without a strong team, a strong vision and an even stronger execution, developments such as these are simply not possible.