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Taking Existing Building To New Heights

There is an increasing trend in building design to add floors to existing structures providing a new lease of life to a building and minimising the cost and time associated with a full scale redevelopment of a structure and site. Scott Clements of Inertia Engineering and Graham Upton of PEP Solutions look at how best to approach such a project as building owners and developers consider how to add value to their existing assets.

Scott Clements of Inertia outlines his teams’ approach to taking existing building to the next level. “Over the last few years we have seen an appetite for refurbishment and enhancement of existing medium and high-rise structures as a cost-effective way of breathing new life into a building that time and style has passed by.

“Some of the projects we have been involved in include adding two stories in steel framing to an existing 3 storey office building in Bowen Hills and a timber-framed scheme for an 8-level commercial tower on top of an existing 5 storey car park in Fortitude Valley.

“One of our major projects was the assessment of an existing 19 storey commercial building in Brisbane CBD, with a view to adding up to 10 additional stories. Although revised down to 5 storeys the Midtown Project promises to create an iconic structure from two old and fairly tired office towers.”

“From an engineering perspective this type of work is extremely satisfying, as it allows us to assess various construction materials and techniques for the new levels, including timber framing (CLT and Glulam), steel framing, steel frames with bonded slab, and both RC and PT formed structures.” said Scott.

It is true to say that no two projects are the same, with variations including existing building heights, capacity of structure and materials available for use in construction. However, according to Scott there are some areas that are consistent across all projects and should be considered when assessing any existing structure for new loading.

“We always look the three key areas: the bones, basically how good is the existing structure. Structural alignment, how complex is the structure, simpler is better and finally the proposed design as that will determine materials and regulatory requirements.

“Adding new floors will only be an increasing trend in Brisbane. When you look around the city you can pick out the structures that are overdue for an upgrade and rather than incur the expense of demolition and a new build, a refurbishment with appropriate additions can breathe a new lease of life into a building far more cost effectively.” said Scott.

Of course, there is a lot more that goes into the assessment of an existing structure, and subsequent choice of the most feasible option for developing new floors and Graham Upton of PEP Solutions outlines the key considerations from a commercial perspective.

“The activity of adding floors involves special thinking to ensure adequate budget allowances and consideration of the full implications on costs are tabulated and explored before embarking on such works.

By having an external cost plan completed by an experienced “crystal baller”, the level of risk in overrunning budgets will be reduced substantially and avoid the need to alter strategies part way through the project.

There is also a need to contemplate the effect on the “holding deductibles” such as maintenance and depreciation which are both dependent on design options which can be more helpful to the long-term ownership. Looking beyond the immediate development budget is a critical part of property ownership and sustainability, so involvement of advisers with experience and ability to think broadly is going to add value.” said Graham.

For more information on how you can plan a development strategy that incorporates adding to an existing structure, please contact Scott or Graham for more information.

Scott Clements is the Managing Director and Principal Engineer of Inertia Engineering, a firm of specialist structural, civil and water engineers who specialise in projects that require a different approach, a fresh perspective and an ability to use their passion to create a successful outcome.

Graham Upton is Principal of PEP Solutions whose core focus is to provide professional management of property assets to create client wealth. Our highly experienced team and support personnel work to create a positive difference to projects and clients.