PS Structures

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This month, one of PS Structures’ Project Managers, Nathan Phillips, sat down with Business World Australia to highlight one of the many award winning projects that they have been involved in – the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) Katitjin Centre in Western Australia. This building is a high-performance, environmentally-friendly educational facility and reflects both AIM and PS Structures’ goals toward investment in a sustainable future.

PS Structures itself is made up of a small group of professionals striving for excellence in the highly competitive construction industry of Perth. The company was founded in 2001, and from small roots has grown into a medium-sized management company that is capable of taking on some of larger, more skilled projects.

The right building, the right example

One of the best examples as to how PS Structures has delivered the goods is the aforementioned Australian Institute of Management (AIM) Katitjin Centre in Western Australia. “We have been very successful this year in regards to building awards, so we have two types of awards that we enter our projects into. The first is the MBA or Master Builder Awards, the second is the Australian Institute of Builders Awards.”

In the MBAs, PS Structures won six awards last year – three of which were for the Australian Institute of Management Katitjin Centre. The other three were for the work they did on the Viridian processing Centre, the Burswood Sky Salon / Pool refurbishment, and the Burswood Nobu Resaurant.

“The categories that we received recognition for AIM were the Best Education Building, Excellency in Energy Efficiency, and we actually won for the Best Overall Building in 2012,” Phillips reports. “In the Australian Institute of Building Awards we won two awards in Professional Excellence for AIM and the Sky Salon.”

Phillips says that this industry recognition serves to demonstrate not only the effort that PS Structures put into those projects, but in all of their work. “There are only a few builders in Perth that have successfully won the MBA overall project award, and for us to be competing with them on this – and considering the odds that we had against us – it really shows that we have grown and matured. We can now compete against some of the larger builders.”

“It is a great recognition to receive, as well, for the individual project manager as well as the site manager, and it’s a great reference for us to show future clients about our abilities to complete good projects,” he adds.

Laying the groundwork

“The construction day for the project began on the 12th of April 2010,” says Phillips, looking back. “It was completed on the 1st of July, 2011. So it was a 58 week construction period with a few minor extensions. The main thing about this project is that it is a Six-Star Design, built to that Six-Star rating. It is actually the first educational building in Australia to get the Six-Star rating.”

At the time of completion, the project was one of three buildings in all of Australia to be considered a Six-Star building. “It was quite an achievement; it is a leading building in the terms of Green Star and energy efficiency.” From the moment of their tendering, PS Structures was determined to make this building a reality. This meant that when they took the design they had to approach it as a living project that might need some fresh eyes to accomplish.

“When we were awarded the tendering, there were a few points that we didn’t think were going to be achievable. So we liaised with the design team on these points, some of which dropped. In the end the points system didn’t change, we just changed the way we approached it.”  To get a Six-Star rating, explains Phillips, the building design must score 75 points on the system, and by the end of the project they had achieved 87 points. “To get these 87 points when you only need 75 points is quite a phenomenal design and achievement.”

Challenges and success

The major challenge that PS Structured faced in constructing the AIM centre was adhering to the onerous requirements that the Green-Star rating required of the build. “It’s alright designing a building to Six-Star, but to actually build it, and prove that you have built it through paper work and evidence, auditing and checking in order to show that you are using the right materials and methods – that is something else entirely,” says Phillips. “We had to set up a new standard operating procedure based on just this project.”

Throughout the build they constantly reviewed and consulted on the project, making sure they could make the building a reality. “I would say that about 40 per cent of my time was spent on the Green Star requirements alone.”

Going into the project, the team at PS Structures found the concept very challenging. It was predominately Precast External walls and feature cills; Post Tensioned slabs with in situ beams and columns, structural steel and Curtain glazing to one full elevation. “The structure was held in place by massive precast stainless steel bolts that were 15 to 18 metres long. The idea is that if you need to demolish the structure, you can get in there and undo the bolts and strip the façade without any demolition work,” Phillips says.

The Green Star Building Code required that all concrete was to have cement reduction with Fly ash additive; this resulted in management and control of concrete procurement and installation and also led to issue problems of increased cure times and potential discolouration of prefinished elements. This was overcome with specific schedule and sample submissions and by working closely with the Architect, Engineer and Client to achieve a satisfactory but compliant result.

Important to this project, and all projects that PS Structures has been involved in, was their relationships with their subcontractors, trades, and the entire management team. “We sat down in meetings with all of the major subcontractors and trades in the very early stage of the project to go over the Green-Star requirements, to make sure that what was requested was achievable.”

This planning stage was vital to the success of the overall project and its goals. “The key was plenty of open meetings at the beginning and involving them in as much as possible in the Green-Star requirements,” confirms Phillips.

PS Structures tries to use preferred contractors in all of its projects, and the Australian Institute of Management Katitjin Centre was no different. It was PS Structure’s reputations that brought these contractors to them, and it was their contractor’s continued adherence to standards of excellence that kept PS Structures coming back to them, says Phillips. “Communication is key, and we want to get them involved early. In this case we got them involved even before we had won the contract,” he says.

Phillips sees that PS Structures will continue to grow from what it is now, and stride further down its road of success, marked by landmark projects like the Australian Institute of Management Katitjin Centre. “I enjoyed this project, it was certainly a challenge. It challenged me more than a normal project would have. Now that I have done one, and I am aware of the issues that can come up, I believe the next Green-Star project will be even more successful than this one since I have learned so much from the experience.”