05 December, 2007

Just peeping above the ground

Progress on the building continues to be good. While there have been challenges on site (not the least of which is the huge pile of sand that will be backfilled soon), the building will soon be out of the ground. Some of the latest milestones achieved:

* The new roadway that provides access to Western Campus as well as our basement will be opened today at 5.00pm
* The stormwater retention tank has been completed (this big hole will capture overflow water from our stormwater tanks in extreme weather events and allow it to enter the aquifer)
* The walls on three sides of the basement are virtually complete (and the last one will be done soon)
* The lift pits and stairways to the ground floor have been poured
* The crane based (a 3o cubic metre block of concrete sitting on 4 deep piles) has been completed ready for the crane to be erected in January

The project is a little behind in terms of key limestones (perhaps by a week) but Lipman is hopeful that this can be caught up. Wet weather is always a risk but in spite of one of our wettest Novembers on record there has been minimal disruption at this stage.


15 November, 2007

What type of community will the NCV have?

Our aim in building the New College Village is to create a unique community for postgraduate students enrolled at UNSW. Many universities around the world attempt to provide designated postgraduate accommodation (although very few in Australia). However, not many universities have seriously given time to community building. I lived in a postgraduate residence consisting of 200 two and three bedroom apartments whilst a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University (Bloomington) in the early 1980s. Tulip Tree Apartments (picture opposite) was designed for postgraduates and their families. While it was a nice building, it had no common rooms, no shared facilities and virtually no support programs. The estimated 37 nations represented in the building had to find ways to make friends and support each another. At that time (over 20 years ago) the building offered little more than a mail service and its design did little to foster community building. Other than some long corridors, the elevator and a limited playground, there were few places where residents could meet one another. While I enjoyed my time in Bloomington it was because of the connections we made with other people through the faculty, community, school and the local Methodist church that our lives were enriched. Tulip Tree was just a place to live.

The New College Village has been designed to facilitate community building. We have attempted to recognize that single postgraduate students will want more privacy than undergraduates, but at the same time we have attempted to design the building to allow residents to mill and mix in many shared spaces. We do not want our residents to spend all of their time alone in their rooms. There are four key planks in our strategy to build a vibrant community:

1. We have designed the building to facilitate contact with other people - we will have 14 common rooms, two external courtyards, a rooftop terrace, a games room, business centre, large common room, reading room, private courtyard and convenience store.

2. We will have staff support - every floor will have a residential adviser who has the task of knowing residents, offering pastoral care and academic support and facilitating social interaction.
3. The residents themselves will be encouraged to build an active social programme supported by staff through a residents committee.

4. Alumni and friends of New College will act as mentors and supporters of residents through a fellows programme.

I will provide more details on some of these approaches in future posts.

05 November, 2007

A week of good progress

The last week has seen good progress on site in spite of some rain that would have stopped many construction projects. The first footings were poured on Saturday in the rain, and the bricklayers began to build the basement walls today. Stage 1 of the piers was completed today and the basement of the building will soon become more identifiable. The Lipman team is very keen to see the basement floor in place so that the site is clean, the mountain of sand (the 'big top') can be back-filled and stage 2 of the piers completed. The picture opposite shows the foundations beginning to emerge from the sand. Note New College in the background with the the green 4th Floor that was added in 2003-2004.

The sand has been both a curse and a blessing. Workers on site are developing their leg muscles as the move around and there is the constant problem of blowing sand that has been covered. But the good news is that even torrential rain quickly disappears on site, this was the main reason that concrete could be poured on Saturday and the site remains accessible.

27 October, 2007

Piles aren't just piles!!

My first job was as a trainee mechanical engineer at BHP (a short lived career) and ever since I think I’ve been a frustrated engineer at heart. My daily visits to the NCV site always throw up new things at which I can to marvel. The piling technique being used for the NCV has been chosen due to the very sandy ground on site. The Continuous Flight Auger (CFA) piles (also known as Groutcrete piles) are a non-displacement pile used where fast vibration free installation is required in difficult ground conditions. The drilling process is unaffected by ground water or collapsing soil conditions. The company completing the work is Advanced Foundation Solutions.

The pile is formed by first drilling into the ground with a continuous flight auger. Cement-sand grout or concrete is then injected under pressure through the auger's hollow stem as it is being withdrawn. On completion of this operation, a reinforcing cage is pushed into the fluid column of grout or concrete. Equipment is available to install piles up to 32 metres long but the NCV piles are generally about 10 metres in length. The diagram below shows the key stages in the process, including drilling, pumping the concrete into the hole as the augur is extracted and insertion of the steel reinforcing. For the more technically minded check out this link.

The building requires 170 of these piles and a skilled operating team can complete 10-15 per day when things go well. The first week of drilling had some dramas with teething problems getting the concrete mix right and the machine set. A major breakdown meant that the machine needed to be replaced and a full day was lost. The operators are confident that they can make up for the lost time. Our sandy soil has helped with no time lost this week due to rain. Lipman hopes to see Stage 1 of the piling completed by the end of next week with a second stage of piling slightly later for the non-basement section of the building. The picture below shows the AFP drill on the NCV site drilling on the Anzac Parade side of the building.


20 October, 2007

Under the New College Big Top

Progress continues to be good with the NCV. There have been a number of first in the last week:

* The Big Top was pitched (well it looks like one!).
* The first concrete was poured.
* The first piers were put down.

The movement of soil (more like sand) around the site continues mainly due to a change in the method for drilling the piers an extra metre of sand was taken out to allow pier caps to be constructed then back-filled. As a result a great mountain of sand will need to stay on site for the next 4-5 weeks. This has presented challenges for the contractors but this is the only practical thing to do. In order to control dust Lipman has chosen to cover the mound to spare the neighbours and students waiting for buses on Anzac Parade.


09 October, 2007

Foundations set to begin

Great progress being made

Progress has been good with the building. Bulk excavation is completed, although there is some level of 'moving stuff around' at the moment. The driveway has been dug to allow for an entrance to the basement of the building and sheet piling of the excavation will begin tomorrow with the first piers to be drilled from Monday 15th October.

People also continue to ask about the location on campus. If you can't visit then the next best thing is to look at the Google Earth image posted earlier. As an update, here's the view that resident's will have as they leave the building each morning to walk up the University Mall to classes or to undertake research.

A prime location on campus!


02 October, 2007

Bulk Excavation Begins

The bulk excavation of the site has now commenced. Like most sites there is always a risk of contamination. But the news from continued testing has been good with clean 'virgin' sand uncovered about 1.5 metres down. We were aware that we had a small spot with traces of mercury, but this has been remediated and was simply a 'hot spot' that has been removed. There was a small quantity of asbestos also removed that had been refuse from the packing of joists under the building.

Lipman has also established its more permanent site offices on the Anzac Parade side of the site. They have also re-fenced the site. While there is an RDO across the construction industry today (and hence no work) progress has been good. The photos tell part of the story.


20 September, 2007

The saga of the Bunya Pine ends

When we submitted our Development Application for the PGV there were some early obstacles identified. One of them was a large 15+ metre high Bunya Pine. This tree had stood on the site for 50+ years, but was right in the middle of where we wanted to build the North West wing of the building. Council initially said it would need to stay, but this would have been the end of the project as between 35 and 50 rooms would have been lost from the development making it unviable. As it turned out many people were keen to see the end of the Bunya Pine because it has the unfortunate habit of dropping 10kg pine cones every year. Two independent arborists supported us and recommended its removal. While the Bunya is a native of the Queensland rainforest it has a problematic past in urban areas in Australia (and even New Zealand as the report on a problematic tree in the early 1900s suggests) due to the risk of injury to people and property. In fact both the University and the University Army Regiment were keen to see the Bunya removed due to safety issues.

Eventually, when the DA was approved the Randwick Council agreed to its removal conditional on its replacement with another mature tree (no, not a Bunya!). As it is, the PGV will add a number of significant new trees to the campus which will more than compensate for the loss of the Bunya. As well, we will be preserving the row of Box trees on Day Avenue that provide an attractive streetscape to the south. While it was sad to see the big tree fall, it was a justified act based on development and safety issues. And fall it did! I was present to see the tree go down and expected a slow lopping process. But no, as the photos show our demolishers used a large bulldozer that took just a few seconds to push it over, snapping the trunk close to the ground.

17 September, 2007



The PGV site as seen using Google Earth

Here is a view of the NCV site that few would have seen. Note the position of the NCV site relative to New College. The NCV site is on the corner of Day Avenue and Anzac Parade. It is in the top left-hand side of the picture. The University Mall is visible as is the Round House. The site is shown here with a number of buildings (none will be standing by this afternoon).

12 September, 2007

Demolition nearing completion

Demolition of the existing buildings on site commenced just two weeks ago but most buildings have now gone. Three box trees that were approved for removal by the Council have also gone. Here are some more pictures to give an indication of progress. Demolition should be completed in a week (or less at this rate) and after that bulk excavation will commence.

11 September, 2007

Will the NCV be linked to New College?

The New College Village is just 200 metres from New College. It will be managed by New College but will also have its own reception and Office. Administrative staff will be shared across the two buildings, but each will have its own academic and pastoral care staff. Our aim will be to develop a separate, but equally rich community as that in the 'old' New College. There may some interaction between residents, but essentially, the PGV will develop its own community rich in social activities, supportive and stimulating. Our expectation is that there will probably be more overseas residents than at New College. While we would like the PGV to have a population similar in character to the UNSW student population, it is inevitable that we will attract slightly more overseas students in the early years.

10 September, 2007

The Postgraduate Village is Underway

The New College Postgraduate Village is finally under way. Randwick Council approved the Development Application on the 14th August, contracts were signed on the 25th August and demolition of existing buildings commenced on site on the 28th August. Progress has been good with demolition of all existing buildings expected by the 18th September.

The site is on the corner of Anzac Parade and Day Avenues, just opposite the University Mall traffic lights. This prime site has been leased to New College for 49 years at a peppercorn rental. The University is excited about the development as reported recently in News@UNSW.