THE NEW PARLIAMENT HOUSE
R.P.S. Dalgleish, ASTC, MIE Aust
A.E. Taylder, C Eng, MIMechE (UK),
Tony Ewart Taylder commenced his career as an apprentice with Rolls Royce Ltd aero engine division in England, then trained as a pilot with the RAF. Following World War II he worked with the National Coal Board and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. Arriving in Australia in 1966, Tony has worked with the NSW Public Works, GEC Projects Division and on such projects as Mt Isa mines, Westmead Hospital and Australia’s new Parliament House.
WITH Federal Parliament the reason for Canberra’s existence, the continued assertion was made that the Parliamentary building should be the city’s pre-eminent structure. This aim for pre-eminence, coupled with the extended vacillation on the selection of a site, had a major influence on the engineering considerations and the solutions incorporated in the development.
Walter Burley Griffin’s 1912 plan for Canberra located the Parliament House on Camp Hill, a substantial rise on the land axis of the Parliamentary Triangle, some 600 metres north of its apex.
The apex of the Triangle was referred to as Kurrajong Hill in earlier documents and more recently has been known as Capital Hill. Griffin’s intent for Capital Hill was for a people’s building in a garden setting. It was to be in an extensive hill park environment:
“for popular reception and ceremonial, or housing archives and commemorating Australia’s achievements rather than for deliberation or counsel”.
Once it had accepted the City Plan the Government was intent on establishing Parliament in Canberra as early as possible. In 1914, with a view to securing the services of an Architect, it invited submissions for the Parliament building design through an international competition.
The competition was withdrawn after the start of World War I and when it was reconsidered in 1916 it was postponed indefinitely.
The need to accommodate the Parliament in Canberra re-emerged after the war. By 1921 thoughts were turning towards a temporary arrangement with the permanent building being deferred for many years. The decisions of 1921 and 1922, to establish a provisional building, were to have profound effects on a wide range of uses effecting the subsequent planning and, hence, engineering in the Camp Hill/Capital Hill area.
The site finally selected for the Provisional House was to the north and immediately in front of the Camp Hill site identified by Griffin (and part of the approved City Plan) for the permanent Parliament building.
“The building on this site would enjoy similar central relationship to Canberra as would the permanent building have had” and that: “after use by Parliament the building might be conveniently used as departmental offices”. There was strong opposition to the proposal and vigorous debate. Burley Griffin himself claimed it: “would be like filling the front yard full of out houses”.
He rightly predicted that it would be a continued default on the approved Plan which would preclude the later construction of the permanent building on Camp Hill.
Other views were that the temporary building should be placed in a position from which it must, of necessity, be removed. While this approach may have given some comfort to much of the opposition to the provisional site, there was also a feeling that sentimental and historic interests would cause the temporary building to remain for all time.
As is history, the Provisional House was placed below Camp Hill, in the knowledge that this left both Camp and Kurrajong Hills free for later consideration for the permanent building. This temporary building, completed in 1927, progressively became a symbol to Australia, developing its own identity and character.
Selection of the Site
By the mid 1950s, the temporary building was under great stress to meet the present-day needs. Also emerging were pressures for a more co-ordinated and energetic development of Canberra as the National Capital. In view of the Government’s concerns and the September 1955 Report of the Senate Select Committee, Sir William Holford was engaged to provide ‘Observations of the Future Development of Canberra’.
From the Holford Reports (1957) came recommendations to:
- construct Lake Burley Griffin in its present form
- locate the permanent Parliament House on the lake shore, rather than Camp or Capital Hills, and
- to improve the city traffic circulations, to meet modem traffic needs.
Following the Holford Reports and the establishment of the National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) in 1958, planning and development of the Parliamentary Triangle for the next 10 years was on the basis of an approved lakeside Parliament House site.
The removal of the Knoll in preparation for the lakeside site (Figure 13.3), general upgrading of Parkes Place, construction of the National Library, development of the High Court and associated access proceeded to approved programmes on this basis. This, however, left the question of what to do with Capital and Camp Hills.
In 1963 the Government agreed in principle to establish a National Centre on Capital Hill, the first building to be the National Gallery. The concept at this stage was basically consistent with the Burley Griffin concept. In October 1967 Cabinet gave approval to proceed with the design and construction of the National Gallery and an architect was selected for the project through a competition.
Meanwhile traffic to the newly emerging Woden area required dramatic adaptation of the Griffin plan at the apex of the Parliamentary Triangle. This led to the construction of the Capital Hill ringroad. The Capital Hill site became an isolated small hill about 30 metres high inside a 640 metre diameter arterial ring road. While this proposal was consistent with a National Centre it was inhibiting for a building complex such as Parliament House.
Paradoxically, proposals were developed around this time for a full size replica of Captain Cook’s ship Endeavour to be placed on Capital Hill to commemorate the Cook bicentenary. Concurrently, planning continued for Parliament House to be sited on the lake edge in Parkes Place and for it to be partly surrounded by a moat. Incongruous as this may seem, the logic was that the Endeavour was to be part of the Maritime Wing of the Museum Section of the National Centre; Parliament House would incorporate a ceremonial access by barge along Lake Burley Griffin from Government House.
In August-October 1968 renewed debate in Parliament led to planning for the Parliamentary Triangle being thrown, once again, into confusion. The lakeside site was ultimately rejected and alternate sites were to be investigated by a Joint Standing Committee.
In May 1969, following these investigations, the Senate voted for Capital Hill and the House of Representatives favoured Camp Hill. The Government decided on Camp Hill. Once again planning in the Parliamentary Triangle was revised and further works committed on the basis of the revised plan.
This decision did not, however, resolve the question and after a further report, in August 1974, a Joint Sitting of both Houses of Parliament finally resolved the site. This time it was to be on Capital Hill.
This decision allowed the development of the Parliamentary Triangle, and particularly for the new Parliament House, to proceed more confidently. The site selection, however, raised a range of design problems for the engineering, as well as those foreshadowed in the reports to Parliament for the architectural and planning aspects.
Without detracting from the imaginative solution developed by Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp, the Architect for the new Parliament House, future generations may debate whether this decision may have downgraded the Griffin concept. It certainly led to the fragmentation of the National Centre, with components scattered throughout Canberra, and saw the total removal of Camp Hill.
DECISION TO PROCEED
By the 1970s the Provisional House was completely inadequate for the needs of contemporary government, despite having been extended to more than twice its original size.
In August 1975 the 29th Parliament established a Joint Standing Committee (JSC) to act on its behalf on all matters concerned with the planning, design and construction of the new Parliament House. It provided NCDC with functional information for incorporation into user requirements which would be the basis for NCDC’s planning, design and construction of the project.
The first report of the JSC, dated 30 March 1977, favoured a two-stage development and concluded that it was both feasible and practical for the first stage to be completed by January 1988, in time for Australia’s bicentenary. After further work on requirements for the brief, the proposal was consolidated to a single-stage development, with provision for future extensions.
The JSC’s third report to Parliament, in May 1978, stressed that for the 1988 date to be achieved the Government had to be committed to proceeding with the project by November that year. This report also recommended on the method for selecting the Architect.
Debate on the merits of the new House vis-a-vis yet further extension to the Provisional House, continued throughout 1978. Finally a Cabinet Ad Hoc Committee was appointed to review the brief requirements and to consider whether a decision really needed to be made by November 1978.
Subsequent meetings of the Government and Opposition Executives supported, in principle, the construction of the new House and on 22 November 1978, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser announced that the new House would proceed, at a cost of $151 million (May 1978 prices).
“because of the tight time frame for the project and economic conditions at the time”
decided to establish the Parliament House Construction Authority (PHCA) under the chairmanship of Sir Bernard Callinan. PHCA, under the PHCA Act 1979, was to design and construct the new building. It was to work in close liaison with, and use the resources of, NCDC and the then Department of Housing and Construction (DH&C).
The NCDC compiled the comprehensive user requirements and developed documentation for the competition to select the Architect. This was followed by a number of studies including engineering and specialist services. These reports formed part of the ultimate briefing of the selected Architect.
The project Architect was to be selected through a two- stage competition, with PHCA member Sir John Overall (the former Commissioner of NCDC) Chairman of the Panel of Assessors.
On 5 April 1979 Parliament cleared the first-stage competition documents and Australian registered architects were invited to register for the competition. When registrations closed on 31 May 1979, 961 applications had been received.
Stage I documents, requiring an initial concept for the building, were issued and 329 entries were received by the 31 August 1979 closing date. From these entries the Assessors selected ten: five finalists to be engaged for the second stage and five prizewinners whose work was recognised but who would proceed no further in the competition.
The finalists were: Bickerdike Allen Partner (London), Denton Corker Marshall Pty Limited (Melbourne), Edwards Madigan Torzillo Briggs International (North Sydney), Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp (New York) and Christopher Waite (British Columbia).
They were brought to Canberra for two weeks in November 1979 and were briefed on the operations of Parliament, the planning of Canberra and the proposed management of the project.
They then had six months in which to develop a much more detailed submission, including models. These submissions were of necessity still only in the concept stage.
The Assessors reassembled on 9 June 1980 and after a week were firm in their views on the submissions. Over the next week they sought advice from many government specialists and consultants on the workability of the designs. On 26 June 1979 PHCA announced the competition winner was the firm of Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp (MGT), with Richard Thorp the nominated architect.
SELECTION OF CONSULTANTS
In parallel with the architectural competition, PHCA considered options for implementing the work. The NCDC, in submissions to the Authority, favoured a project management/construction management approach, rather than lump-sum contracting. PHCA decided to seek the views of industry and through nationwide advertising invited submissions which described procedures the respondent felt would best meet the time and cost targets and which also detailed the respondent’s experience, qualification, organisation and personnel able to be involved in the project.
Sixty-four replies were received. They were from a broad range of individuals, associations and groups in the design and construction industry. They represented an extensive range of backgrounds and experiences.
The submissions were reviewed and analysed by a panel comprising senior officers of NCDC and DH&C. There was almost total agreement in the submissions on the need for a project management type arrangement but there was considerable variation in the advice about the relationship and responsibilities between the Architect, Project Manager and Construction Manager.
The submission of the Association of Consulting Engineers Australia best summed up the theme common to most of the submissions and reflected the earlier advice from NCDC:
“The Association is of the opinion that the public interest will be best served in respect to cost, quality, time and opportunity for participation by the following means:
- Project management by either an ‘inhouse’ project management group of personnel employed by or seconded to the Authority or by commissioning an independent professional practice for the purpose.
- Design, documentation and technical construction phase services by the competition-winning architect and various specialist architects, engineers, designers and other experts. They would provide services in accordance with briefs by the Project Manager who would also monitor and co-ordinate them.
- Construction by various contracts as determined and programmed by the project manager and let by competitive public and selected tendering procedures. Supervision, contract administration, site co-ordination, industrial relations and construction site services by a Construction Management Division of the Project Manager or by a separate independent Construction Manager to be briefed and monitored by the Project Manager.
None of the parties described above, except the contractors, should have any commercial interests which may in any way affect their independence in serving the Authority.”
All respondents accepted that the conventional system of sequential design, documentation and construction through a lump sum tender was inappropriate and impractical for the extent of work to be carried out in the required time frame.
The review panel reported to PHCA in September 1979, opting for a project management system. It recommended that:
- PHCA, as a matter of urgency, appoint an Executive Officer and a Project Manager.
- Immediately after the appointment of these officers PHCA procure the services of a Construction Manager, Project Planner and Cost Planner.
The report detailed the responsibility of various positions and consultants, as well as suitable firms which could be interviewed for the consultancies. The DH&C and NCDC would provide resources, advice and service as required.
The Authority accepted the recommendations and quickly appointed its Chief Executive (Gordon Peatey) and Project Manager (Rod Dalgleish). Interim agreements were made with a Construction Manager, Project Planner and Cost Planner. This enabled advice to be given to the Assessors on constructability, materials, program and costing of the Stage II competition entries and to quickly establish a realistic budget following announcements of the competition winner. It also allowed preplanning of work to get underway.
Advice from this group was incorporated into the Authority’s July 1980 Report to Government, resulting in Parliament giving the project approval to proceed in August 1980, with a revised budget of $220 million (May 1978 prices). This budget was for building only and did not include fitout and furnishing which is normally undertaken by Government services departments.
Following Government approval, the Architect (and his nominated design consultants), the Construction Manager, Project Planner and Cost Planner, were briefed and engaged for work on the project. Engagement of other specialist consultants was made as required as the work proceeded. At the end of this Chapter there is a full list of these consultants.
PHCA, in undertaking the project management role in- house, was intent on keeping the Authority to a small, efficient, expert but flexible management organisation using agents or consultants for the professional services, with construction being undertaken through publicly tendered contracts.
The project consultants were developed into a closeknit multidisciplinary team. The Project Manager, while providing leadership and direction, worked within the project team at peer-level to maintain a high level of interaction, informal communication and co-operation. Active encouragement was given to the particular abilities and flair of the various parties, to cross-fertilisation of ideas and contribution to the team effort, while working within accepted parameters of performance, time and cost.
To ensure this profitable interaction, the briefs of the major consultants were circulated to the other main team members. This ensured there were no gaps or overlaps and that the various phases of the work were fully integrated. Any concerns raised by the various teams’ members were resolved at this stage so that there was full agreement and acceptance of the requirements by all team members before contractual agreements were formalised.
While above 75 per cent of the project contained a predominantly engineering discipline, the work was essentially of a multidisciplinary nature. It involved a broad range of consultants and required free interaction between all parties, including the user, to ensure a balanced, high quality functional product within the Architect’s design intent.
The Architect (MGT) fulfilled the normal design role through to the tender stage. The Architect engaged his own design consultants and co-ordinated their work within the overall framework of the approved design. Construction services were, however, adjusted to that of ensuring the integrity of the design and to provide professional advice and service to other team members.
The Construction Manager was a joint venture between two leading construction firms, Concrete Constructions and John Holland. Known as Concrete Holland Joint Venture (CHJV) they were engaged as a consultant rather than a builder or contractor. In this role they were better able to function as an equal within the project team, providing building advice and service to the design agents, with responsibility to PHCA. The Construction Manager assembled the tender documentation, assessed and recommended on the tenders and supervised construction as ‘Superintendent’ for the contracts awarded by PHCA. The Construction Manager also provided, on PHCA’s behalf, the necessary establishment and common facilities such as site security and cleaning, workmen’s mess and toilet facilities, hoisting, water supply, access and the like. The items of establishment were provided through tendered contracts but the Construction Manager, although a builder, was not permitted to tender for any of these works.
The Project Planner (McLachlan Group) provided advice and service to PHCA on the development review and reporting on project programs at various levels; to the Architect on design activities; and to the Construction Manager on the detailed construction and integration, with the information supply from the Architect and other agents. Advice was also given on establishing PHCA’s computer system and on cost control services in the latter stages of the project.
The Cost Planner (Rawlinson & Roberts) developed and controlled the cost plan for the project, providing advice and service to the PHCA, Architect, Construction Manager and Project Planner. This was a cost engineering-type role, rather than the separate quantity surveying service provided directly to the architect.
The PHCA required all major consultants to be located and work in Canberra. Endeavour House, in nearby Manuka, was taken over for the design groups while management, planning and construction were located on the site.
A broad range of consultants was used to provide advice and service, and sometimes physical work, on security, building, weather and waterproofing, fire services, wind, sound, vision, communication systems, graphics, furniture and the like. The list of consultants at the end of this chapter shows the range of disciplines used and places the engineering advice received into the context of the whole project.
DESIGN The Concept
MGT’s design concept incorporated many of the visual objectives of the Griffin Plan for Capital Hill. It was an ingenious solution successfully arranging the planning, architectural and function requirements of a very large building on an extremely difficult site, while in appearance remaining consistent with Griffin’s intent.
The concept was simple in that:
- the land axis was the key element in the composition
- the two chambers were located symmetrically on either side of the land axis on a cross axis through the central hall
- support areas and offices were positioned around each of the chambers
- ceremonial, public, common areas, committee rooms were located along the land axis.
The plan effectively devolved into three, perhaps four, logical zones:
- the Central Zone along the land axis, which
- incorporated public areas, restaurants and common facilities to the north of the central hall; and
- incorporated Cabinet and Committee rooms, Executive area and Library to the south.
- House of Representatives Zone to the east.
- Senate Zone to the west.
The planned layout maintained clarity of function and grouping for easy comprehension of the concept’s essential simplicity.
The Central Zone is contained within two large curved walls. It is grass-covered, which gives the effect of retaining the hill and providing an approximation to a people’s building in a garden setting, as envisaged by Griffin.
The office wings are kept to two and three-storey height so that the building is sensitively adjusted to the terrain, rather than imposing upon it.
The two Chambers and associated offices are located on the transverse axis, forming a logical progression from the Representatives and Senate entrances through the Presiding Officer’s suites, vestibules, lobby areas and Chambers to the Members’ Hall of the central zone.
Identification and reinforcement of the apex of the Parliamentary Triangle was essential for the concept to succeed within the city plan. This was achieved with the Flagmast, ethereal in appearance, through fine design and choice of material, surmounted by a continuously flown national flag.
Provision for future growth was identified in the arrangement of the office layouts, while additional space was incorporated in the more rigid central spine, which could not be readily enlarged later.
The building has four front entrances: the main entrance to the north, Executive to the south, House of Representatives to the east and Senate to the west. Without a ‘back door’ the receipt of goods and despatch of waste occurs at basement level through a series of service tunnels to an external loading dock remote from the building complex. Access to the loading dock is independent of the main building.
The winning design, although conventional in technology and materials was different in that it required such a high quality finish to be achieved across a broad range of activities. Particular attention was necessary to raise the normally accepted standards of the building industry to those demanded by the design concept. The achievement of this through the materials used, trades, workmanship and construction techniques was a continuing theme throughout the project.
The PHCA Act required the design to be cleared through Parliament at nominated stages. Aspects of particular interest to Parliamentarians and those with visual impact or affecting the Chambers, were cleared through the JSC.
Detailed design was reviewed at working level by the user departments (and within the project team) and was approved within PHCA before being documented for tender . These reviews were undertaken at concept, pencil and final stage.
Approval within PHCA was by the Project Manager where consistent with earlier approvals or through the Design Subcommittee to the Authority for items of significance, those nominated by the Authority or requiring further submission to the JSC. Professor Len Stevens (Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Melbourne), although not a PHCA member, was co-opted to this subcommittee to provide independent high level engineering advice.
It is pertinent to note that throughout the extensive review process during the competition assessments, schematic and developed design phases and tender documentation, the concept stood up extremely well. It required minimal, insignificant adaptation.
As an indication of size, scale and diversity, the building provides a working environment for 224 politicians and some 3,000 staff, facilities for visiting Heads of State and VIPs as well as annual access to more than one million members of the public.
There are 19 Committee rooms and a large suite of Cabinet rooms as well as the two Parliamentary Chambers, a major Library complex, Theatre, Post Office and shops. Dining facilities range from silver service to cafeteria, catering for about 8,000 meals per day.
For control of the design process, the building complex was subdivided into 25 zones allowing convenient identification of the various parts. Separate design teams developed documentation for logical grouping of zones, allowing a number of areas to advance concurrently. For consistency in design approach across the project, separate co-ordination groups established design continuity and ensured that this was applied logically by each design team. The zoning was also used in the cost planning, programming, commitment, construction and commissioning of the work.
The design brief required the use of conventional tried technology and materials consistent with the capabilities of the local industry.
Reinforced concrete was selected as the main structural material because:
- Concrete is well suited to architectural solutions, being flexible and adaptable.
- Attachment of non-structural components, particularly external wall panels, is greatly simplified.
- here was greater potential for economy and rapid construction with a technology common to the ACT industry and capable of pump placement which would relieve pressures on crane hoisting.
- It was more adaptable to ‘fast track’ documentation through minimising the need for shop drawings in the fabrication phase which are normally required in large numbers with other methods.
- It is inherently fire resistant.
Foundations for the building are on sound rock, mainly Black Mountain sandstone. Some bored piling to rock was used on the western side where the building bench was infill.
The majority of the structure is of traditional reinforced concrete footing, column and floor construction. Post tensioning was used to provide additional stiffness in long-span situations and in localised areas to ensure waterproofing in the water retaining elements. Plate web steel girders were used at roof level to provide long clear spans for the Great Hall, the upper floor in this area is suspended from these girders by a series of concrete-encased hangers. Structural steel is also used in the roofing of the Senate and House of Representatives Chambers.
Design was in accordance with the Australian Standard (Loading) Codes with earthquake allowance at Category 1, due to the long life expectancy of the building. The structural design was undertaken by Irwin, Johnston & Partners, which was led and managed at partner level by John Fowler.
A waffle pan system was adopted for the floor construction to provide appropriate effective depth for structural rigidity and to allow greater clear spans between columns. This system minimised slab weight with the effect of a two-way beam system, yet allowed the use of a simple, quickly erected flat slab formwork technique. It also resulted in a more uniform soffit for underfloor servicing runs for the complex mechanical and electrical service system.
Stiffening near the columns to allow for greater shear was achieved by infilling selected waffle pans. Variability in span was achieved by increasing rib widths between the waffle pans, thickening top slabs and local prestressing where spans greatly exceeded the basic grid dimension.
The curved walls are constructed with a hollow webbed core containing services, lifts and stairwells. These walls together with the sloping ramps from each corner of the central spine, contained lateral movement and provided long-term stability for the facade and stone cladding.
The unusual horizontal extent of the individual buildings required effective permanent jointing. This jointing on sliding bearings or split column details was provided at 50 to 75 metre centres.
Insitu band beam arrangements, using techniques and layouts common for economic carparking construction, were adopted for the underground carparking structures to the east, south and west of the building. The western carpark, built in a former gully, is subject to substantial unbalanced ground pressures. These are resisted by large prestressed buttresses at close centres, forming a buttress retaining wall on the eastern face.
Cracking of concrete structures had been the bane of building construction in the ACT. This was due to a number of factors previously recognised and to a large extent corrected on buildings such as the High Court of Australia and the Australian National Gallery. With these buildings batching was carried out on site with the full process, including materials, under the supervision of the Design Agent/Superintendent.
Because of the proposed offsite concrete production for the new Parliament House, extensive work was undertaken on concrete technology. Specialist consultants were engaged by the Structural Engineer to report on the status of the materials, concrete batching facilities and practices in the region and to advise on procedures to remedy deficiencies. The design and specifications gave particular attention to:
- Infill joints throughout the floor and wall systems at about 25 metre centres, to allow shrinkage movements to be stabilised before they were infilled 90 days later.
- Upgrading the performance of the readimixed concrete industry to Standards Association of Australia codes and guidelines.
- Careful selection and close monitoring of the aggregate source and handling methods. The majority of aggregate sources within the ACT have, to some extent, minor fracturing and sulphate problems. Performance of aggregates even from the same quarry varied extensively and continual review was essential to ensure materials of quality suitable for a building with a 200-year life.
- The formwork preparation, reinforcement location and concrete placement. Here the Structural Engineer’s role included full quality assurance arrangements and advice to the Construction Manager, to ensure standards were met.
The external wall cladding is granite on the curved central spine. Grit blasted, sandblasted or phosphoric acid etched precast concrete is applied on the office wings, Chambers and Executive areas. Stainless steel was used for attachment angles and bolts, to guarantee long life.
The proposed external cladding and window arrangements for all areas were developed and tested under extreme weather and pressure conditions on a specially constructed prototype with the assistance of CSIRO’s technical building service and its specialised equipment.
The flagmast is supported by a structural tower joining the four slender triangular shaped legs sloping from the top of the curved walls. The flag is flown permanently with the night-time lighting source located in the top of the four tower legs. Maintenance access is via a hoist running on the south-east supporting leg. The flag was originally flown using a series of lines from winches recessed in the top of the eastern curved wall but it was revised in early operation. Control is now from the lower webb cluster of the supporting structural tower, with access via the maintenance hoist.
Waterproofing, particularly of the roofs, has presented serious problems for some major buildings in the harsh, variable Canberra climate. Normal considerations were compounded on Parliament House where the central spine was to be covered by lawn-watered grass and the building has extensive basement and carpark areas below a wellwatered, landscaped garden setting.
While the central roof of necessity had to be concrete to support the earth covering, PHCA asked the Architect to give consideration to metal roofing as an option for the offices and Chambers. After considerable investigation concrete was chosen and detailed work then concentrated on achieving effective waterproofing, appropriate roof slopes and effective drainage.
Industry responses to the required membrane system varied and, in spite of in-depth work earlier by CSIRO, reflected the uncertain state of this art in Australia. A major concern was the industry’s separation of the supplier from the installer, which compromised guarantees and responsibilities coupled with a low level of expertise and care in installation.
A number of effective modern systems were available; however, most offered an unprotected single membrane type with little history of performance and with long-term durability unproven.
Following protracted investigations and debate, a system using well tried conventional materials with a long proven track record, carefully laid and well protected was proposed. The Authority asked the designers to obtain a second opinion and Mr Robert Moore of ARMM Consultants, New Jersey, provided this service. The CSIRO was also invaluable in its high-level advice and assistance.
An IRMA, or Inverted Roof Membrane Assembly system, was adopted for the project. This consists of a fourlayered (ply) high-shear bituminous felt membrane system, progressively built-up on the roofing slab. The membrane is covered for protection with a durable sheeting (Barrister board) followed by rigid waterproof polystyrene insulation topped with a filter fabric. Washed river gravel was placed as surface cover to hold and protect the system over the office areas whilst 0.7 metres of filter and top soil or paving was placed over the membrance on the central spine.
An advantage of this type of roofing is that it keeps the membrane and structure at about the same relatively constant temperature, minimising differential movement — something not achieved with the more frequently used internal insulation. The four-ply high shear system is much stronger and more reliable than the normally used singleply membrane.
Below ground waterproofing required a continuous welded bituminous membrane beneath the onground slabs to replace the normal vapour barrier, and Barrister-board protected bituminous membrane on the backfilled walls. The membrane is of high penetration bitumen reinforced with a spun-bonded polyester mat providing high tensile strength and puncture resistance.
The provision of engineering services was greatly influenced by the unique configuration of the buildings, necessary to fit the landform yet not impinge upon it and to suit the multifunctional, intermittent peak use of the buildings.
By its very nature, the grouping of two and three-storey buildings, spread over a large area in a landscape garden setting required a vastly different approach to the servicing than is common for normal large office developments of a medium to high-rise type.
- need for a large number of satellite service facilities with ring interconnections and trunk service runs over vast distances, rather than functionally placed zone service floors
- long horizontal service runs at basement level on trays in service tunnels, access corridors and below-ground crawl spaces, rather than through a neat dedicated service core with easy vertical installation and access
- circulation and transportation requiring a large spread of individual isolated lifts and hoists rather than centralised dedicated lift cores
- hydraulic pressure zoning of individual buildings on a hill site requiring different considerations from the conventional high-rise zoning arrangements
- broad landscape setting with individual self-contained courtyards which introduced urban development type surface runoff and floodway considerations into the conventional building roof and basement stormwater disposing arrangements
- fire evacuation requiring a zoning approach not common to Australian practice. International standards were adapted
- security requirements which were unique and varied considerably over a number of areas, both within and outside the building
- “no backdoor” approach to the design which required an elaborate loading dock access tunnel and basement circulation facilities to cater for the day-to-day servicing of the building.
The services were supplied and installed to “Good commercial quality”. Technology was the most up-to-date available at the time of design. With technology advancing so quickly, enforcement of cutoff dates for decisions, to ensure commitment and installation to programme, required a tight discipline.
While further advances may have occurred by the time of commissioning, the project is indicative of state-of-the-art at the time of design. Electronic services were the most affected by technology change.
The services system evolved in light of the latest energy conservation techniques and was applied for operations to be within tight energy budget limitations for most areas of the building.
The main component of the Building Energy Management System is the computer-based Building Monitoring System (BMS). This BMS interfaces with the air, refrigeration, heating, lighting and fire safety systems with a multiplicity of operational modes, optimising the energy use related to the internal and external conditions.
Applications available from the system include:
- lighting remotely controlled to reduce the intensity during unoccupied periods or programmed maintenance and cleaning schedules
- air-handling equipment programmed for the latest possible start-up time compatible with comfort in the various spaces at nominated occupancy periods. Variations in occupancy times for the Sitting and Non-sitting periods, recess periods, public holidays and the like are also programmed
- building cooling cycle programmed to select the mix of outdoor and return air to meet the required cooling load, thus minimising refrigeration requirements from the central plant
- night purging under suitable external conditions to precool the building overnight using cooler outside air. Under ideal conditions the fans may be used on full outside air
- optimising energy use in production and distribution of chilled water which ensures that condenser and chilled water temperatures and flows are best suited to the load requirements and external ambient conditions
- electrical demand and load shedding programmed to minimise peak demand tariff charges
- duty cycling to non-critical equipment items to spread usage on a rotational basis.
Other energy saving modes were considered but could not be justified because of the high capital costs and present or foreseen fuel pricing. They may be reassessed against changing energy conservation and cost considerations. They included:
- thermal storage tanks of about 8 million litres capacity for hot or cold water. These tanks were to store offpeak production of chilled or hot water and recovered heat from the condensing system for use during peak demand periods. (Space has been allowed in the south-eastern ramp basement for installation at a later date should this become justifiable.)
- solar collectors which would be capable of contributing low-grade heat to the presently installed system.
Preventive maintenance was deleted from the Building Monitoring System and is carried out using a Building Operation and Maintenance System installed by the user.
Heating/Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
The air conditioning system is low pressure, variable volume with hot water reheating coils on each variable air volume box. Constant volume systems are provided to certain specialised areas (eg computer rooms). High level humidity control is provided to both Chambers, the Great Hall and Members’ Hall but not for individual rooms or offices.
Ventilation only is provided to carparking, loading dock, substations, plantrooms and the like. These areas use either mechanical and/or exhaust supply.
The system provides filtered air supply, heated or cooled to nominated temperature. There are twenty-seven variable air volume systems and eighteen constant volume systems plus more than two hundred ventilation/exhaust systems within the building complex.
Required temperatures are maintained through a pneumatic control system directly from space thermostats. The BMS output is integrated with this pneumatic control system so that it does not obstruct the control system’s ability to stand alone. Manual temperature adjustment is also provided in areas such as the Chambers, Great and Members’ Halls, entry foyer, Prime Minister’s suite and Cabinet/Committee room areas.
Major air handling units are located in nine basement plant rooms. Air distribution from these units is through medium velocity rectangular ducting. Branch ducts are of low velocity to VAV boxes of low pressure (less than 125Pa).
In the event of fire, the system provides smoke control. With a fire alarm, all air conditioning and ventilation equipment servicing the affected area is switched to the appropriate mode for smoke clearance.
The system is heated and cooled from equipment in the central plant room, towards the southern end of the building spine at basement level.
Hot water (at 82�C) is provided by six low temperature boilers with a total capacity of 12,940 kW. These boilers are gas fired and provide domestic hot water as well as that for the building’s heating. Supply and return headers are sized to allow all boilers to operate simultaneously.
Chilled water (at 6.5�C) is supplied by five chiller units with a total capacity of 15,000 kW. Provision has been made for later installation of a further unit of 700 kW. The chiller cooling towers are located in the landscaped bosque outside Parliament Drive and well clear of the building, in order to avoid the winter condensation plume problems of Canberra.
The power supply system was developed on the basis of four separate 11 kV routes required by the then ACT Electricity Authority. These were located near each corner of the site with the supply to be sourced from Kingston, Lyons and the city. These separated supplies would ensure integrity, flexibility and continuity of supply.
At the time of commissioning and occupation, the permanent supply was from the Kingston substation only, via two of the four nominated routes. Underground conduits have been laid for all four routes, each ultimately with 5/7.5 MVA capacity.
Bulk supply by the ACT Electricity and Water Authority (ACTEW) is via two main high voltage switchboards located in separately fire rated spaces adjacent to the central plant room. Each has the latest type circuit breaking equipment, bus-section isolators and metering.
Internal distribution is initially via three 11 kV ring mains connecting eleven satellite substations and sub-distribution switchboards located near the basement fan and plantrooms. One of these ring mains is for emergency use to provide for essential loads in case of breakdowns and is connected to the emergency generators.
All high voltage equipment in the switchboards, transformers and cabling conforms with that used by ACTEW for interchangeability and ease of maintenance.
Internal low voltage reticulation is at 415 and 240 volts. Reticulation is mainly at basement level in wall and ceiling mounted cable trays with detailed distribution in the ceiling spaces of the building.
Lighting has been provided generally in accordance with AS 1680 “Interior Lighting Code”. Lighting loads are generally 25 watts per square metre, although this was exceeded in areas of high ceilings, prestige areas and those with specific television requirements. Lamp and source types vary over a range of metal halide, tungsten halogen, and incandescent to meet the architectural requirements in the major areas. Office lighting is generally single or double 40 watt fluorescent in light/air fittings for suites and smaller offices or combined with a grid of air-handling linear slot diffusers in larger areas. Mercury vapour lamps are provided in the corridors.
To minimise unnecessary energy use, major lighting subcircuits have controlled switching from the BMS with emergency over-ride in case of failure. Offices, Members’ suites and detailed areas are further controlled by individual wall switches, to meet independent needs.
Emergency power supply for essential services is provided by two 1,000 kVA diesel generators connected to the bulk supply switchboards. Space has been allocated for a further two diesel generators should they be required at a later date.
Ten battery inverter systems are provided for the emergency lighting and the emergency warning and intercom systems, to cover the assessed mains failure period.
Hydraulics and Fire Services
HydraulicsWater is supplied from connections to two independent city mains in State Circle. Supply to the building is via a 250 mm diameter ring main at Parliament Drive.
The ring main feeds into three radial mains servicing potable water, fire hydrant and fire sprinklers. High capacity fire hydrants are located at strategic intervals around the ring main. Potable and irrigation water are metered at the two diagonally opposite points of connection to the ring mains.
Domestic hot and cold water is connected to some 1,600 faucets throughout the complex. Internal loops are supplied from the radial mains with pressure boosting if required. The one hour recovery hot water calorifler system, with separate pumps circulating closed circuit loops, delivers water at 50�C. Main kitchen supply is boosted to 82�C.
The flushometer system with break-tanks and separate pressure pumps services some 1,000 toilet and urinal installations. This system also charges floor wastes automatically to eliminate permeating odours.
Independent treated water reticulation systems servicing a heated swimming pool, spa bath and 18 water features are also supplied from this system.
Garden and lawn irrigation systems are supplied from the ring main through backflow preventer valves with automatic pumping where necessary for rooftop sprinklers. This automatic irrigation system, using soil moisture sensors, is operated from 18 computensed control centres monitored from a central control room.
Fire ServiceAn integrated fire protection and life safety plan was developed especially for the building configuration, based on ACT, Australian and International Standards and the requirements of the Commonwealth Fire Board. The building construction achieves at least Type 2 as defined by the ACT Building Manual.
Emergency egress uses both fire stair exits to grade and horizontal exits to refuge areas. The horizontal exit areas (adjacent sections of the building complex) have two-hour fire separation and are smoke protected areas with separate access to grade.
Control of the fire protection system effectively divides the building into four separate regions, each with its own valve station and separate sprinkler water supply coming directly from the external hydraulic service ring main. The building is fully sprinklered except for telephone and electrical equipment rooms.
Each control room contains that region’s main fire indicator board, fire fan control panel, control valves and main and standby booster pumps for the various sprinkler systems. Each fire indicator board automatically identifies the source and transmits alarms to the Fire Brigade.
Smoke detection systems of various types are provided in electronic rooms, Members’ Halls, Chambers and Library areas and are wired directly to the indicator boards for the region.
Photo-optical-type smoke detectors are provided within the Air Handling System and these are wired to separate sub-fire indicator boards located adjacent to the main mechanical switchboard in each plant room. The sub-boards are wired back to their respective main fire indicator boards.
Superimposed on the fire considerations are the conflicting requirements for security. The building’s security system monitors all fire alarms which are displayed on its screen. Egress doors for fire affected zones with electromechanical locks are security released and affected zones are alerted for maintenance of security functions. The system has inbuilt fail-safe provisions to ensure life safety.
Lifts and HoistsWhile the two/three-storey nature of the project, with generously sized stairways, would normally minimise the need for vertical transportation, extensive use of lifts was necessary. Reasons included:
- basement delivery and distribution of inwards goods requiring hoisting to individual areas, including library, post office and printing offices
- centralised basement kitchens with need for accompanied distribution to satellite kitchens and serving areas
- providing access for disabled and elderly people
- accessing the basement, parking areas and roof increased travel above the three-storey walk-up situation
- controlling access to restricted areas.
Lift motor rooms are located in the basement adjacent to the lift shaft to avoid the normal above roof protrusions. The lifts have variable voltage AC drive. Passenger lifts travel at about one metre per second while the goods lift speed is 0.75 metres per second.
Document MovementMovement of documents around such a dispersed building requires special arrangements. Two types of Document Movement Systems were installed.
- The Tracked Container Sysem (TCS) moves documents, mail, books, reports, etc between 32 stations throughout the building. The document containers of 525 mm x 400 mm x 130 mm are mounted on selfpropelled trolleys which run on tracks with automatic switching to required destinations.
Travel speed varies with track configuration but gives an average transit time of five minutes and maximum of twelve minutes between any two stations. Container loads are up to 10 kg. The system capacity can be increased when necessary by adding passing loops, track duplication and additional container units.
As well, dedicated systems are provided to move documents to both Chambers and for Library use. To minimise movement of attendants in the Chambers a dedicated document transfer system is provided between the sub-table office station behind the Presiding Officer’s chair and the Attendant’s table at the other end of the Chamber. Quick connection from the second-floor library to the Information and Newspaper Reading Room on the ground floor is essential and this connection, with a travel time of about one minute, is separately tracked in the same shaft and ceiling space as the overall building system.
- The Pneumatic Tube System gives high frequency and rapid transfer of small documents for Hansard-type purposes. This system links Hansard, both Chambers, Record and Research and the Executive area. The system, serving eight stations in all, is via an 85 mm diameter PVC tube conduit.
The original pneumatic tube link between the Old Parliament House and the Government Printing Office in Kingston has been extended to an interchange point with the internal system at Hansard in the new building.
Goods ConveyorA conveyor belt link is provided for inwards goods from the scanning/despatch point in the Loading Dock to the goods receiving area in the basement below the east wing. This 800 mm wide conveyor carries items up to 25 kg each, moving about 2 metres per second. The belt runs in a tunnel beside a narrow carriageway capable of carrying small vehicles and forklift units.
Waste DisposalEvery week an estimated 25 tonnes of waste leaves the building, with about 16 tonnes of it being paper suitable for recycling.
General office waste is disposed of down five vertical gravity chute units with access from each floor. The chutes terminate in basement waste collection rooms where the material is shredded to uniform size then transported to the loading dock by an automatically operated vacuum tube system. The waste is cyclone separated, compacted and baled at the Loading Dock for despatch.
Classified waste is shredded at source and transferred under security to the Department of Defence’s Russell incinerator.
Kitchen waste from an average 8,000 meals prepared each day comprises:
- soft food waste (up to 500 kg daily) which is mulched in 37 garbage grinders and disposed of through the sewerage system
- hard materials (such as bones) which are broken down by compactors and held in refrigerated storage until they are despatched via the Loading Dock.
The user requirements were developed in an environment of escalating international terrorism and followed Australia’s first real experience with terrorism, the Sydney Hilton bombing. Whereas in the early 1950s one could enter any section of the Parliament House uninhibited or checked, by the late 1970s many restrictions were in place.
In this changing environment, the new building had to satisfy the conflicting philosophies of open access and satisfactory levels of physical protection. The fundamental principles taken into account were:
- There is an undeniable right for people in a democratic society to observe their Parliament at work.
- It is in the essential interests of all Australians that the democratically elected Members of Parliament are able to meet freely and without fear for their personal safety.
- The operations of the Parliament and Executive Government are not hindered or jeopardised by the actions of unauthorised people.
- The safety of local and overseas dignitaries and internationally protected people visiting the Parliament House is maintained.
- The fabric of the building, classified material, and items of national, historic and Parliamentary significance are protected against theft, vandalism and acts of espionage.
The design of the new Parliament House endeavours to satisfy those principles by differentiating between the levels of security required in various parts of the building and by providing separate circulation patterns within and to these areas.
A prime objective was to achieve the appropriate level of security commensurate with the perceived level of threat, in a cost-effective manner. It was necessary to combine building design with technology in order to contain the high annual operating costs associated with a large manpower component.
The consistent aim was to achieve a range of options based on a low-key, unobtrusive approach with provision for adequate and proper control in areas of special need and provision for a higher level of control at times of increased threat. Security, while being effective, had to give an impression of freedom of movement within the various precincts, particularly in the public areas of the building.
Responsibility for security in the Parliamentary precincts rests with the Presiding Officers, under the authority delegated by their respective Houses.
In turn the Security Controller is responsible to the Presiding Officers for maintaining security policy, administering security arrangements and co-ordinating protective services. The latter services are provided by the Parliamentary Security Force (PSF) and the Australian Protective Service (APS).
The PSF is responsible for the interior public areas of the Parliament House and for entry to non-public areas of the building. APS is responsible for external security, security of the Executive Government (Ministerial Wing) area and assists, when requested, the PSF with law enforcement within the Parliamentary area.
There are two separate levels of security:
The Public Circulation System covers the Foyer, Great Hall, public facilities, visitors galleries in the Chambers and Members’ Hall Gallery, with tourists and casual visitors entering through security controlled check points. The General Circulation System covers those areas of the building restricted to Parliamentarians and passholders.
A third level, separating the Executive (Ministerial Wing) can be activated readily if required.
Public and general areas security is controlled from an operations room in the northern basement, while that for the Ministerial Wing is controlled from an operations room in the southern basement.
Each control room manages security using a computerbased Central Supervisory System linking four satellite stations, a closed circuit television system, a dedicated intercom system and a two-way radio system. About 2,000 devices are connected to the Parliamentary Security System and 400 devices are connected to the Ministerial Wing system.
Each system can control and monitor doorlocks and door status, receive duress alarm signals, control the closed circuit television system, monitor fire, security and other alarm signals, and advise on action required in response to any alarm. The system can unlock selected locked fire exits.
The security forces also respond to fire alarms. In response to any alarm condition, the security system will display alarm type, location, routes, access details, special precautions, together with detail and overall floor plans on a coloured dynamic graphics display. The operator can quickly assess the situation and initiate action.
The Parliamentary System controls the emergency warning and intercom system, commanding it to issue an alert tone in any one or more of the 49 fire zones, in response to a fire alarm in that zone.
A summary of the overall fire situation is presented on a fire mimic high resolution colour VDU display to keep the building fire warden or Fire Brigade Chief informed of any developments.
The microprocessor-based Closed Circuit Television System has about 180 monochrome cameras, either fixed or pan-tilt-zoom, controllable from either Security Operations Centre, satellite stations, or by the security system. Cameras are solid state or tube type to suit the particular application.
The output of any CCTV camera can be relayed to any screen connected to the system. The security and CCTV systems can be manually operated from any one of the four satellite stations in the event of loss of central control.
Every entrance to the building has a baggage and goods x-ray screening device and walk-through metal detectors.
Sound and Vision System
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation was the agent responsible to PHCA for designing and installing the sound, vision, paging and public address systems for the House.
The sophisticated PA system incorporates 12,500 speakers throughout the building and is able to carry the Division Bells, emergency warning signals, the paging service and a localised tourist function.
Speech reinforcement systems, electronically controlled to automatically adjust speakers to give the illusion of voice direction to the person whose microphone is switched on are provided for the Chambers and main Committee Rooms.
Time and notification of Divisions in the Chambers is of prime importance. About 3,000 clocks, controlled by a Rubidium Standard Master Clock System, and featuring Division lights have been installed throughout the building. In recognition of the more-spread nature of the new House, Division bells ring for four minutes, instead of the three in the Provisional House. The system is used as a reference for the television system and for timing speeches in Chambers, Committee Rooms, etc.
The design and building fabric provided facilities for television cameras, microphones and associated control systems in both Chambers and the various Committee Rooms, allowing ‘instant’ coverage of proceedings in these areas. The system allows predetermined cameras to home- in on the speaker (and the Opposition counterpart) within one second of a microphone being operated.
Camera pickup points installed at prime locations, eg, the Prime Minister’s and Ministerial offices, forecourt, theatrette, press conference rooms, allow programme recording or “live-to-air” on-the-spot interviews. Signals can be passed to any of the media bureaux within the building.
The final system will allow full-scale television programme production of network quality with facilities more extensive than the majority of television stations. A 100channel cable television and FM radio distribution system already reticulates proceedings to Chambers, Committee Rooms and ceremonial spaces, “on-air” television and radio station programmes, “off-air” pre-recorded programmes to in-house television sets or radio receivers.
To provide for hearing impaired occupants or visitors in major public areas, induction loop and the newly developed induction field FM transmitting systems are installed.
In addition, broadband and baseband coaxial type cable information systems networks have been installed. Provision and connection to information system equipment will be by the user, to meet specific and changing requirements.
ACCESS, TRAFFIC AND PARKING
The Parliament Buildings are surrounded by a ringroad. Called Parliament Drive, it serves as a collector/distributor road, fed at a number of points from the city network, and provides access to the four main entrances as well as to the carparks to the north, south, east and west of the building.
This ringroad forms part of the servicing bus route.
Access to the site was initially from Kings, Commonwealth and Adelaide Avenues, via the land axis from Queen Victoria Terrace and from State Circle to the east beneath the bridge on Capital Circle.
There was considerable opposition to the landbridge connection along the land axis by the Presiding Officers for the first years of the project. The eventual acceptance of this connection by the JSC followed the more detailed design of the forecourt and formal approach to the building, coupled with updated traffic circulation patterns. This formal broad, treelined landbridge approach was named Federation Mall.
The Adelaide Avenue connection proved to be virtually unworkable for access to the Lodge, Yarralumla and Deakin areas. It would have caused serious conflict with express bus lanes and merging high speed traffic on Canberra’s busiest arterial, particularly during Royal and State visits.
Melbourne Avenue became a far more promising alternative. It resolved these traffic concerns, improved circulation on Parliament Drive and provided more suitable access from the Executive area to the southern suburbs, as well as reinforcing the land axis extension with a symmetrical internal road layout. Again there was stiff opposition within the Parliamentary Committee on the ACT. However, it was overcome in consultation with the JSC, following further development of the original proposal.
The existing eastern connection to the ring road from State Circle was not ideal because of the gradients and sight distances. With the main thoroughfare already accepted, and fully meeting access needs, this then became the “backdoor” access to the loading dock, for which it was ideally suited.
Visitors to Parliament House are encouraged by the road layout to approach the building along the land axis, via Federation Mall. Parking for cars and tourist buses is provided below the forecourt, with easy access to Federation Mall. Stairs lead to the forecourt for an approach across the loosely paved area to the Grand Verandah Entrance.
MGT’s competition submission located much of the parking underground, although this was not required by the competition brief. As well as public carparking beneath the forecourt, the priority parking at the four entrances and the western structure, built in a large gully, were also shown as underground.
The brief required parking for 1,900 vehicles, a number which proved difficult to achieve throughout most of the design development. Early in the design stage the forecourt area parking capacity fell considerably short of predicted capacity. The shortfall was overcome by enlarging the western structure. At this stage, surface parking still remained for the south and east of the building.
The original landscape design had the full quota of eight tennis courts on the western side of the House. However, the JSC decided there should be more equitable placement of the courts and half were shifted to the eastern side. To accommodate these courts the parking spaces were placed underground and enlarged to meet requirements. The need to fully meet the parking requirements was confirmed by updated traffic and parking predictions.
Only the southern parking remained on the surface as this had been constructed as part of the early landscape and screen planting and was then used for contractors’ parking. All the underground parking has been kept clear of Parliamentary buildings for security reasons, as a result of a car bombing incident at the House of Commons in March 1979, and for fire safety reasons.
When the building was commissioned there was parking for 1,940 cars and 12 buses. The bus capacity can readily be doubled, without additional work.
General The project commenced at a time when the building industry was in recession. This had a bearing on some early decisions — the low prices tendered for the standard of work required — and on the union/labour situation as the economy improved.
Completion by 1988 was always extremely tight. Following Government approval to proceed there was a need to quickly establish a workforce on site, obtain necessary agreement with the unions, excavate the building bench and prepare the local industry for a project of such size and complexity. With the lead time required from concept to detailed construction drawings, short cuts were necessary in moving the initial work to the field.
While the American-based Architect organised consultants, established offices in Canberra and finalised the agent agreements, a separate local engineering consultant was used to document the site earthworks from the competition drawings. This allowed the 12-months excavation contract to be placed in the field quickly, with adjustments necessary to suit the detailed building design being accommodated through the schedule of rates contract.
The project was undertaken through publicly tendered lump sum contracts, wherever practical, although use was made of schedule of rates and longterm supply contracts where this was appropriate. Rise and fall was included for contracts over 12 months duration.
Concrete production was originally to be undertaken under close supervision on site. However, with the downturn in the building industry in the early 1980s, most local batching plants were idle and longterm supply contracts which spread the work across the industry, were adopted for employment, cost and industrial reasons. This offsite production did, however, require a detailed appraisal of the technology being used within the industry, which from past experience, contained some questionable aspects.
The spread nature of the building prompted various options being considered for method of construction. These ranged from the use of the ramps at each corner of the building for access to the various levels, to the use of cranes. The configuration of the building, with its extensive above and below ground interconnections, limited access and movement around the site which led to a combination of crane and pump placement of the structure with internal and external hoisting for the fitout and finishing. The large floor heights, spread nature, limitation on access and rate of construction, required eight tower cranes supplemented by extensive mobile cranes to maintain programme.
Building construction commenced with the non-critical underground carparking to the north and west. This approach was adopted as:
- It required minimum distraction of the Architect from the main design task.
- Structural design was relatively straightforward,requiring minimum User interaction and clearances and was able to be issued to the field quickly.
- The carparks were an ideal base from which to establish the longer term supply contracts.
- It allowed a quick buildup of site workforce and facilities, finalisation of union site agreements and a buildup of contractor confidence.
- Being non-critical, the carparks allowed time to solve difficulties and properly prepare the project organisation before the more complex design critical main building elements reached the construction phase.
- Resulted in early provision of stable areas of the site suitable for workers’ carparking, offices, messing and ablutions.
Construction of the carpark areas started immediately the foundations were available and proceeded in parallel with the balance of the bulk earthworks.
Documentation for the project encouraged much of the work to be undertaken offsite. Many major components, such as precast facades, structural steel elements, windows, internal joinery and furniture, as well as major plant and electronic items, came from interstate.
Spreading the workload throughout Australia had many advantages for the industry. This was particularly fortunate for the project when the local industry became heavily overcommitted midway through the project. Other work overtaxed the accommodation and resources of the area, causing severe competition for labour, industrial pressures and the inevitable increased allowances and less-than-desirable work practices.
Two decisions on the structure of the building taken after the project was underway had major influence on later construction.
Firstly, in 1981, it was decided to reduce the building height as an architectural and cost saving measure. While significant savings were made through reduced allowances for facades, walls and partitioning, the smaller dimensions between floors created difficulty with installation of services in the restricted ceiling spaces. This quickly absorbed and, indeed, exceeded the initial savings.
Secondly, in 1984, the Parliament decided there should be increased office accommodation for additional Senators and Members. This decision occurred after many contracts had been awarded and much of the work was in an advanced stage of construction. Heavily affected were the services, with the central energy plant well-advanced and many major service runs already installed. Hold orders, redesign, removal or changes to recent and currently installed work with the usual flow-on effects occurred over a wide range of services contracts.
The need to reintroduce the Architect to the office layouts, structure and facades resulted in serious delays as well as some demolition of work and discarding of facade panels. Rescheduling and inconvenient delays to other time critical design works resulted from design teams being redirected to this work.
Deferment of the office enlargement, for later treatment as an extension, rather than to change midstream, was identified as being more cost-effective but was not acceptable to Government.
Throughout the construction policy was to keep a clean, tidy and safe site. The special efforts directed through specification, education and example toward these separate although interrelated objectives were effective and well worthwhile.
Capital Hill in its original state was at elevation RL611.7 metres. The project required the removal of up to 21 metres from the top of hill, to form the building bench at groundfloor level. Basements were excavated a further six metres below most of the building.
The Hill had been subject to extensive investigation work in a number of progressively more detailed stages, from Olik’s work in 1958 to the detailed site investigation by Coffey & Partners in 1979. Geological notes on the excavation were made by the Bureau of Mineral Resources during the course of the works.
Essentially, three rock formations made up the site. These were Black Mountain sandstone, State Circle shale and Camp Hill sandstone. The Black Mountain sandstone occupied most of the central section and the core of the original hill.
Numerous faults, of various types and differing displacements, crossed the site. The faults generally contained fractured material but in some places were clean cut. There was an angular unconformity between the Camp Hill sandstone and the underlying Black Mountain sandstone. Efforts to preserve and expose sections of this older formation where it overlayed the more recent, were not practical because of the location and level, as it related to the building and landscape concept.
The strike and dip of the bedding, coupled with the fractured nature of the hard rock, caused considerable over break on detailed excavation. It was also necessary to remove large volumes of potentially unstable rock by battering on some high vertical excavation faces and to design support for others.
The ability to excavate by mechanical earthmoving equipment proved to be far less extensive than anticipated in the Black Mountain sandstone, with only two-three metres depth being achieved in spite of the extensive fracturing. Much of the excavation required large-scale drilling and blasting, which considerably altered the balance of the contract work.
The level of the building bench was raised 1.5 metres from the original design submission early in the excavation stage, to reduce the quantity of the more costly hard rock excavation and to provide a more even balance of cut to fill.
The hard rock blasting required close control because of the closeness of residential and Embassy areas. Oddly, the main effect from the blasting occurred because of particular atmospheric conditions with low cloud cover rather than by transfer through the ground. Charges and firing took account of these conditions as they became apparent.
An extensive public awareness exercise was undertaken and properties within a substantial radius of the hill were surveyed and photographed prior to and following blasting. This data was used as a basis for compensation claims. There were a number of claims which, except for the isolated extreme, were settled quickly and satisfactorily.
On the positive side, the hard but fractured Black Mountain sandstone was suitable for crushing and reuse as open granular backfill between the structure and the excavation. This resulted in a substantial saving as it had been expected that commercially available porous backfill quarried elsewhere would have to be brought to the site for this purpose.
The excavated material was mainly redistributed around the site. What material was not used on site was used to lift industrial land above the Jerrabomberra floodplain in the Fyshwick area and for the approaches to the Dairy Flat and Canberra Avenue bridges.
With reinforced concrete the main element in the building structure, a substantial amount of effort was applied to improving the concrete practices in Canberra. Detailed specialist reports identified serious shortfalls and for the design to be effectively implemented the appropriate concrete technology had to be followed from design through to construction, and in a consistent manner.
In the construction phase particular attention was directed towards:
- upgrading the ready mixed industry to code and specification requirements
- careful selection and strict control of aggregate source, cleanliness and handling
- specification of cement type and chemical composition and use of nominated air entraining agents to achieve a targeted entrain air content of 4.5 per cent.
- specification of extensive trial mix procedures,including pumping trials using nominated large capacity pumping equipment and detailed submission of production procedures at all stages of manufacture, delivery and placement
- nomination of responsible technical representatives and] attendance at fortnightly co-ordination meetings chaired by the Structural Consultant, with approved concrete technology specialists representing the supply consortium
- production at all times being rigorously restricted to approved computer and test-evaluated mix design. Control of water content with consequences upon workability, ease of pumping and shrinkage was a top priority. Strict control and union supported penalty conditions were applied to all delivery drivers, in respect of delivered water content
- sound placement, effective curing and protective membranes. Thermal blankets were used to overcome severe frost or winter conditions and hot dry evaporative summer conditions.
- education, advice to and quality control of the concrete placement contractors.
The office precast cladding, produced offsite and interstate, required low slump concrete with accurately controlled water/cement ratio and air entrainment. Galvanised reinforcement was used to enhance durability.
The Structural Consultant’s engagement included total quality assurance responsibilities. His team was supplemented with a fulltime experienced concrete technologist who had continuous access to all offsite production and testing facilities.
Water stops were used at major joints in the roof slab to minimise free water penetration during the construction phase before the permanent roof, tanking and membrane was placed.
Apart from the tight time frame and the special attention given to the reinforced concrete components to raise performance and ensure required tolerances and finish, construction work was quite conventional.
The low-rise spread nature of the building provided its own challenges in the service reticulation. Experience had shown that dedicated, easily accessible service tunnels were necessary to ensure efficient installation, operation and maintenance of services, as well as to readily accommodate future upgrading, augmentation and change in technology.
The nature of the building dictated that the goods access, waste disposal and basic internal transportation also occur at basement level. Therefore this required a system of interconnecting movement tunnels and corridors.
While the Construction Manager vigorously sought separate dedicated service tunnels, based upon experience at Westmead Hospital and Geelong Animal Health Laboratory, the Service Design Agent, Architect and Cost Planner felt that both the service reticulation and internal basement access requirements should be combined for the most economic solution. This was achievable as the large basement height allowed substantial ceiling space for the corridor service runs. Only minor lengths of dedicated service tunnels seemed to have been needed.
The space available for services in the access corridors at first appeared generous. The decision, however, required a high level of co-ordination for services installation. It necessitated working in confined spaces at ceiling level, requiring tight programming of access to work areas, which resulted in severe conflict at cross-connections in interconnecting corridors and reduced flexibility for future change or augmentation.
As work progressed, inevitably the decision to combine services into the same corridors was questioned. In retrospect a more extensive use of dedicated service tunnels, particularly in the areas of concentrated service, would have been prudent.
Crawl space was provided beneath the building where there were no basements and where future service adjustments or upgrading with new technology was likely.
Packaging, tendering, installation and supervision of services basically followed the zoning used in the design, programming, costing and control of the project. This zoning provided appropriate sized packages of work while allowing flexibility in the grouping of zones containing similar work for tendering purposes. Of necessity, there were also a number of services, stretching across large areas of the project, which in themselves were complete entities requiring treatment on a global basis.
The four basic building services, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), power/lighting, hydraulics and fire protection fitted well into the zoning system. The global packaging was used with HV ring mains, document movement systems, waste disposal, communication and audio visual systems, which threaded throughout the kilometres of corridors and required close co-ordination with the basic building services in the limited space available.
Tender documents were prepared by the Construction Manager, based on the formally approved designs and using conditions of contract consistent with Commonwealth Government and PHCA policy. Standardisation of documents was essential, particularly for co-ordination of works with other contractors, for industrial matters and for the site conditions and facilities. The documentation was reviewed for gaps, overlaps, special conditions, form of contract etc before being approved by PHCA for tendering.
Tenders, following assessment by the Construction Manager and Design Agent, were recommended to PHCA for award of contract. The user was involved in the Authority’s review processes on the more important equipment items, to make sure that they met operational and maintenance requirements.
The contract documents were specific in their requirement for services co-ordination, provision of shop drawings, contractors’ responsibility in the joint drafting of co-ordinated service drawings, commissioning and handover of works and the provision of ‘as constructed’ drawings. The HVAC contractor took the lead in the development of the combined building service drawings which were co-ordinated over light tables.
The extent and complexity of the services co-ordination was foreseen at the start of the project and the feasibility of using computer-aided design (CAD) was considered. The Architect had initially favoured the use of CAD for the building design, finishing and fitout but retreated from it because of the cost of equipment, the learning time for staff and the reluctance of the user to accept the documentation in this form. Consideration was also given to using a commercial firm to provide a computer-aided services co-ordination drafting service. A number of contractors were keen to proceed this way but with commercial software for the HVAC (the lead service) unavailable by the cut-off dates and with the expressed wishes of the user for conventionally drafted records, PHCA was forced to proceed using light table co-ordination techniques.
This manual co-ordination, although a lengthy and tedious task, was a well worthwhile effort as service clashes experienced in the field were minimised and where they did occur were readily overcome.
By completion of the work both computer programmes and technology were becoming available in a form which would have eliminated the majority of manual co-ordination and possibly have overcome the many conflicts in the search for scarce services space.
Commissioning and handover of the complex involved considerations not normally encountered in the floor-byfloor occupation of conventional high rise office development.
For Parliament to move from the Provisional House required that all services and support facilities move to the new building at the same time. To achieve this the transfer of staff and backup facilities was arranged during the Winter Parliamentary Recess, so that the complex was up and running for the August 1988 Budget Session.
Much had to be done to ensure the move took place with the building providing an acceptable environment. Major equipment had to be run in, commissioned, adjusted and handed over before the movement date.
The PHCA Act made no provision for the running in, operation and maintenance of the facilities—handover of the individual components was required at practical completion of the contracts. To overcome this omission, arrangements were made at the start of the project for the user to build up an establishment consistent with the programmed progressive handover of the works. The indicative programme for this activity was provided to the user in 1983.
The intention was to have skilled people available to work with the contractors on all major plant items during final installation, testing and commissioning so that they would be completely familiar with equipment and have it properly functioning by the time of occupation.
Major service contracts included the pricing of a separate schedule covering an operation and maintenance service to be provided by the contractor. This schedule was available to be taken up by the user/owner under separate contracts if required.
While the early indicative handover programmes were somewhat optimistic, for a variety of reasons, the user seemed to have underestimated the size and complexity of the operation and maintenance task. This resulted in a slower than necessary buildup of establishment staffing, resulting in many of the contractors being required to operate equipment well past their contract completion dates.
Services, plant rooms, parking areas etc were progressively handed over from 1986, while the building structure handover started in January 1988.
Quality and high standard of finish was a major feature of the design. While established technology and materials were required, these were used to fine tolerances and intricate detail to achieve a consistently high standard on a structure required to last two hundred years.
Achievement of quality and standard of workmanship was the responsibility of each contractor. Although the Superintendent was responsible for ensuring that the contractor met his obligations, quantum and time were an integral part of the contract and even with the best will by all, the ever-present conflict between time, cost and quality continued to emerge.
The rate of progress required close attention by the Superintendent and frequently inhibited standing back and spending time analysing problem areas. Contractors also tended to fall back on what they regarded as an industry or ‘Canberra practice’ which was not what was specified or required by the contract and which did not, in many cases, meet codes or Australian Standards.
With construction occurring concurrently across a number of zones and with considerable off-site work spread through Australia, the maintenance of a consistent overall approach to testing, quality, and quick resolution of problems was imperative. Advance warning of problem areas and the dissemination of solutions to all affected zones of the work was essential, especially where a number of contractors were undertaking similar or inter-related work.
To meet the pressing and foreseen needs in a positive way, the establishment of a Quality Assurance Group (QAG) was examined in late 1982. Although construction was then still in the initial stages, the group was established mid-1983, tobe operational before the more detailed works were committed.
As there were no Australian experience, codes or standards covering such activities, procedures were adapted from the Canadian Standards Association Special Publication Z299.0—1979. Procedures did, however, exclude design aspects because of the special competition base and Parliamentary approval of the design.
The Architect and Design Agents provided advice and service to the QAG, whose role include ensuring prompt technical resolution of problems as well as the overview and analysis of control, testing and inspection.
The group proved to be extremely effective and resulted in a consistently high quality product throughout. Perhaps more importantly, the project resulted in a better trained construction workforce and improved standards of workmanship across a whole range of building activities in Canberra and perhaps Australia.
The cost of the new Parliament House project was, in round figures, 1.1 billion dollars.
Costs for major Government projects had received critical exposure over many years, largely because of the methods used in authorisation and budgeting. These methods were quite different from those used for private developments or general overseas practice.
Public sector finance departments require that all estimates and predictions be in “present day costs” and that no allowances be made for escalation, rise and fall or contingencies, these being covered by adjustments to authorisation and budgets as they occur.
While this presents no problems in comprehension for relatively short-term projects, the media and public’s perception is severely stretched on long-duration projects, particularly when a budget is established prior to concept and additions and changes are made during the course of the work. The new Parliament House project was no exception.
The initial estimate of $151 million was developed in 1977 before the user requirements were fully established and without a design concept. This figure was for building only. It did not include furniture or any of the detailed equipment normally installed by the owner, user or Commonwealth services departments. The competition to select an Architect, launched in 1978, was based on that figure.
During the competition, an indicative costing of the brief was independently undertaken by a leading firm of quantity surveyors. This assumed a hypothetical arrangement for a national building to high standard office quality, applying realistic efficiency factors of usable to gross floor areas consistent with circulation movements. An order of cost slightly above $200 million emerged. This indicative costing could not be given exposure, even within the project team, as the competition had not closed.
The competition entries all, predictably, ranged around the $151 million mark. The winning design (number 177) was for a gross budget of $156,417,000.
Once the competition winner was announced, the full documentation was made available to the project team which undertook a preliminary analysis of the cost and assessed it between $230 million and $240 million. The project Cost Planner believed that the figure should be higher, while the Architect’s Quantity Surveyor maintained that a figure around $185 million was appropriate.
When the Architect arrived in Australia, intense detailed discussions were held over a concentrated period to determine the precise design intent for the various components of the building, the materials used and the quality and finishes to be applied and to place a realistic costing on the project.
The figure reached included allowances for contingencies, industrial action, and miscellaneous adjustments inevitable in the detailing of the design. These allowances were removed from the costing as directed and a project budget of $220 million emerged. This figure was the basis of the Parliamentary Approval for the project and became the Approved Budget.
The costing was based at “May 1978” prices for comparison with the competition budget and all subsequent reporting on the Approved Building Budget was to this base.
Costs were controlled to a comprehensive cost plan, detailing the various items and trades for each of the 25 zones of the building. This control covered all preliminaries and establishment, as well as the building design and included allowances for variations to awarded contracts. Control of contracts was in accordance with the conditions of contract and was exercised by the Superintendent, with the assistance of the Cost Planner and later from the Cost Control Services.
|Date||building budget (may ’78) $M||NBI Approved additions (accumulated) $M||Escalation (accumulated) $M||Industrial insolvencies & Cumulative exchange rate $M||Project Budget $M|
- Additional user requirements to provide, for example, dining facilities and relocate security areas.
- Additional user requirements for southern security.
- Additional funds to enlarge the capacity of Eastern Car Park and place it underground.
- Increase in funds to add extensions to both House of Representatives and Senate wings following increases in the number of Members/Senators.
- Increase following overall budget review based on a report by an Interdepartmental Committee, comprising $62M of additional requirements and $87M which would normally come from contingency allowances but which were excluded from the original budgets.
- Net reductions of $12 million following assessment of budget and Government budget decision to reduce costs.
- Additional $5 million for landscaping.
- Increase of $7 million associated with the costs of reinstating some works deleted or deferred in 1986.
- Increase of $1 million for two additional Ministers’ suites and further reinstatement of deleted works.
- Increase of $1 million for third additional Minister’s suite and cost of decision not to continue using rainforest timber.
Other major factors influencing cost was additional work, namely:
- Additions approved by the Government, such as increased number of members’ suites, enlarging and placing carparking underground, etc.
- Non-building items, such as furniture, art-works, security devices, telephones, 11 kV supply and the like. When introduced in 1981, the estimated cost of these non-building items was $82 million.
Industrial action, insolvencies and exchange rate fluctuations also considerably affected the costs.
The detailed break-up of these various costs is shown in the tabulation (Fig. 13.13) and graph (Fig. 13.14).
OCCUPATION OF BUILDING
The building and fitout was progressively handed over to the Joint House Department from January 1988.
Formal opening of the Building by HRH Queen Elizabeth II occurred on the 9 May 1988. Occupation and transfer of facilities from the Provisional Parliament House occurred over the Winter Parliamentary Recess to be avail for the first session of Parliament in the Budget Session of August 1988.
Major consultants who worked on the project were:
Architects—Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp Architects;
Interior Design—Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp Architects;
Structural Engineer—Irwin Johnston & Partners;
Associated Consulting Engineers for the Parliament House (ACEPH)_Joseph R. Loring and Associates, Norman Disney & Young, W.E. Bassett & Partners Pty Ltd, Leadingham Hensby Oxley & Partners;
Landscape Architect— Peter G. Rolland & Associates;
Quantity Surveyor—Donald Cant, Watts, Hawes & Lee Pry Ltd;
Civil Engineers— Maunsell & Partners;
Construction Manager—Concrete Holland Joint Venture;
Project Planner—McLachlan Group Pty Ltd;
Cost Planner—Rawlinson Roberts & Associates;
Cost Advice—McLachlan Group Pry Ltd, Rawlinson Roberts & Associates, Cost and Data Support Services Pry Ltd;
Sound and Vision—Australian Broadcasting Corporation;
Security—Department of Housing and Construction/Department of Administrative Services;
Window & facade weather testing—CSIRO (Csironet);
Acoustics and Vibration Engineers—Louis A. Challis and Associates Pry Ltd;
Stonework—A ustralian Mineral Development Laboratories (AMDEL);
Earthworks,—Scott & Furphy Engineers Pty Ltd;
Refreshment Services—Commercial Kitchen Consultants Pry Ltd;
Insurance— Sedgwick Ltd;
Lighting—George Sexton Associates, GEC/Philips Opera House Lighting Co Pry Ltd;
Architectural Hardware— Keeler Hardware Pty Ltd;
Life Safety— Rolf Jensen & Associates mc;
Water Feature—Robert Woodward, Peter Rolland & Associates;
Rooflng_ARMM Consultants Inc, CSIRO, Flag Hoisting— Alan Payne & Partners Pry Ltd;
Flagmast Access—Johns Perry Lifts;
Geotechnical—Coffey & Partners Pry Ltd;
Concrete Technology—Bemac Laboratories Pry Ltd;
Wind—Professor W. Melbourne;
Steel Pre-order—Johns Perry Ltd;
Welding Inspection— Metlab Mapel Pry Ltd;
Flagmast Elastic Stability—Professor P. Grundy, Professor L.C. Schmidt;
Irrigation—Irrigation Design Consultants;
Operations & Maintenance Manuals—Australian Industrial Publications Ply Ltd;
Contractual Consultants—Bill Guy & Partners, Construction Contract Services;
Solicitors—Australian Government Solicitor, Morris Fletcher & Cross.
The authors express their appreciation to the Parliament House Construction Authority, for the use of files, reference materials, reports and diagrams, and to the Library of the National Capital Planning Authority.
Special thanks also go to Mr John Fowler, Director of Irwin Johnston & Partners Engineers Pty Ltd for review and technical comment on the text, and to the partners of Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp Architects for their comments and the use of diagrams from their competition winning documentation.
- Aust. Parliament. Standing Committee on Public Works Report together with minutes of evidence, appendices and plans relating to proposed erection of Provisional Parliament House, Canberra. Melbourne, Govt. Printer 1923.
- New Houses of Parliament: misc material: Parliamentary and Commission reports, Nat. Cap. Planning Committee, appointment of architect etc. NP 1912—1965.
- National Capital Development Commission, Holford, William, Lord Gray, Richard W. Putting Parliament on Capital Hill. Canberra, NCDC 1963.
- McMullin, Alister, Sir, Aust. Parliament. Observations on the Permanent Parliament House by the President of the Senate Senator The Hon. Sir A. McMullin. Canberra, Cwealth Govt Printer 1965.
- National Capital Development Commission. Aust. Parliament. Joint Select Committee on The New and Permanent Parliament House. Parliament House: Material for the consideration of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House. Canberra, April 1968.
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- National Capital Development Commission, Overall,John, Sir. Precis of the submission by NCDC on the New & Permanent Parliament House: Comparative study of Capital Hill & Camp Hill. Canberra, March 1969.
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- Parliament House Competition — Stage II Report and Attachments, Entry No. 177 by Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp.
- Aust. Parliament House Construction Authority, Overall, John, Sir. Two-Stage Design Competition for Parliament House, Canberra: Assessors’ Final Report, June 1980, Canberra. Parl. House Construction Authority 1980.
- Parliament House Construction Authority—Parliament House Design Competition—Report by Construction Authority July 1980.
- Aust. Parliament House Construction Authority. Australia’s New Parliament House: The Schematic Design Report, Canberra. Parl, House Construction Authority 1981.
- Inland Architect, Vol. 25, No. 1. From Chicago to Canberra, from Griffin to Guirgola. Chicago, Inland Architect Press 1981.
- Design Development Report, New Parliament House. Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp. April 1982.
- Parliament House Construction Authority—Developed Design Report, New Parliament House. May 1983.
- Fitzgerald, Alan, Muller, Peter, Quarry, Neville. Canberra and the New Parliament House. Sydney, Landsdowne Press 1983.
- Project Managers Forum—Managing Electronics into the Modern Building—Case History of New Parliament House. March 1988.
- Parliament House Construction Authority — miscellaneous reports and files.
- Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics. Geological Notes on the Excavations for the New Parliament House, Capital Hill, Canberra, A.C.T. By G.A.M. Henderson. Record 1982/13.
- Parliament House Construction Authority, Services Design Summary, New Parliament House, January 1987.