Designed by Armstrong Parkin Architects, the new T Block building was recently awarded the highest honour for ‘Best Educational Building’ in the $20 – 50 million category at the 2018 Master Builders Excellence in Construction Awards.
A NEW IDENTITY
T Block offers students and staff a remarkable venue with architectural accents. Most notably, the building features a precast concrete screen façade that has fulfilled structural and aesthetic ambitions.
The screen’s dual function is to provide shade to the glass curtain wall and to stand out as an architectural feature. It also provides a 120 metre long veranda on the street frontage and offers privacy and comfort to occupants, without hindering the campus view.
Director of Armstrong Parkin, Stephen Parkin, says precast concrete was specified in the early design phase.
“The client wanted the building to provide a new identity for TAFE in the Murdoch precinct,” he says.
“We chose precast because it was one of the only materials that could achieve the lattice design.”
AN OFF-FORM CLASS 2 FINISH
The façade specifics were complex, and the resulting design is a uniquely-shaped lattice with a smooth Class 2 off-form finish to all surfaces. National Precast member, Delta Corporation, manufactured 76 irregular-shaped lattice panels for the project.
Delta’s Executive Director, Matt Perrella, says his team developed a successful mix design using white cement with the addition of white oxide.
“Two prototype panels were produced to ensure that manufacture was possible and that the specified finishes were achievable.”
Airey Taylor Consulting was engaged as the civil and structural engineer for the project and Director, John Taylor, says the elegant facade panels have inherent spanning capabilities of up to 3.6 metres.
“As the panels are transparent, it was intended to minimise the background steelwork, so they are supported near each corner. Vertical outriggers attached to the building were aligned with the panel joints and four arms extended out to pick up the corners of the adjacent panels.”
“The panels were arranged so that they could be rotated 90 or 180 degrees and so that the ribs matched the adjacent panels.”
COMPLEX DESIGN DRIVES REWARDING OUTCOME
During the initial manufacturing phase, the multiple shapes and thin walls within the screen meant that the panels could not be reinforced conventionally. Delta was invited to help develop a solution that hinged on the use of stainless steel fibre for the reinforcement.
The handling of the fragile panels presented a further challenge during delivery and installation. A special steel-handling frame was fabricated to minimise the stresses on the screen panels during the entire process.
The overall result of this challenging project is a building suffused with a conscious connection to education and industry, and one that fosters a sense of student gravitas.■
Designed and made using a unique precast concrete methodology, T Block’s screen provides shade to the glass curtain wall and is a striking architectural feature in itself. Image credit: Robert Frith.
Sarah Bachmann, National Precast CEO