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April 20, 2017

Clever cooling tower access saves Hutchinson 28 per cent

Clever design has shaved 28 per cent off the cost of cooling tower access equipment, netting a Hutchinson Builders refurbishment project tens of thousands of dollars in material savings and thousands more in installation time.

The refurbishment of the gutted 22-storey building in Ann Street, Brisbane, included the installation of four large cooling towers on a rooftop tightly constrained by space.

Finding the access platforms recommended by the manufacturer unworkable, Hutchinson Builders took the layout to height safety specialist, Workplace Access & Safety. The resulting redesign yielded impressive savings and added longevity.

18 per cent material savings
While the cooling tower manufacturer’s drawings called for platforms encircling the towers, consultation with service technicians revealed that, although uncompromised access was essential, just four points on each of the cooling towers required attention.

Workplace Access & Safety’s redesign provided clear and easy access to maintenance points with compact, two-tiered platforms that worked within space constraints and slashed the amount of material required.

The durability of aluminium
The cooling tower access platforms were built from aluminium rated for 600kg loads rather than the fibreglass-reinforced plastic included in the original design.

Engineers were concerned the plastic’s protective coating would be compromised during fabrication, allowing the material to bloom and deteriorate under the harsh Australian sun.

The change of materials reflected Hutchinson Builder’s approach to the project, said managing director, Scott Hutchinson.

“We might only be on site for a few months but the quality of our work will be judged over the lifetime of the building,” Mr Hutchinson said.

“I’m really pleased that Workplace Access & Safety came up with a solution that was not only more cost-effective but built to last, too.”

Modular pre-fabrication saves months of on-site installation time
Construction’s traditional time pressures were amplified at the Ann Street site. Hutchinson Builders understandably wanted to minimise crane time.

Any lost time would be readily measured; the cooling tower platforms would be the last crane job following the installation of roof-mounted plumbing and electrical services.

“Hutchinson Builders is not wasteful and crane time can burn through budgets very quickly,” Mr Hutchinson said.

And the timing could barely have been more tricky. Workplace Access & Safety was given the order on December 7 and had the job complete by January 16. Installation of the 70-square-metre platforms took just 10 days.

The secret was a great deal of modular prefabrication, which Workplace Access & Safety’s Adam Wareing says reduced time spent on site by 70 to 80 per cent.

“We prefabricated everything in our own workshops – all but the smallest details needed to accommodate pipes and switches that were still being fitted to the cooling towers,” he said.

“We installed 70m2 of aluminium platforms in 10 days and took all the waste away in two wheelie bins.”

The efficiency of the installation did not go unnoticed by Hutchinson Builders, Scott Hutchinson said.

“Having Workplace Access & Safety do most of the fabrication in its own factory meant less crane time, reduced OHS risk and a smaller footprint for the works,” he said.

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