Northrop scores an ‘A+’ on challenging school projects

When you’re the engineers of choice for school projects for numerous managing contractors and architects, all vying for your services, you know your report card is scoring top marks.

Northrop has successfully delivered hundreds of school projects across NSW, ACT, Queensland and Victoria over the last 40 years” says Principal/Senior Structural Engineer, Todd Bailey.

In Todd’s opinion, “without doubt, we have the ability to provide a team of the most experienced engineers along the eastern seaboard.”

Todd’s preference is design and construct school contracts. “I like teaming up with managing contractors and exploring structural systems in order to provide them with the most competitive tender,” Todd said.

“I prefer these types of contracts as we work closely as a team to achieve the desired outcome. I like problem-solving so, quite often, I’ll take a design and ‘value-add’.”

Todd has a passion for creating open spaces in school buildings for students to use, saying he enjoys designing structural systems to create such spaces.

“I like using alternative construction materials and coming up with an efficient design that utilises construction techniques/materials which are appropriate to the site,” he explained.

Challenges arise on almost every school site. Northrop has developed a suite of skills that assist with many challenges including extreme heat, flooding, contamination, expansive clays, flora and fauna.

“We had a flooding issue at a school where we had to increase the floor level of the hall by one metre from ground level on a highly expansive clay site,” Todd said.

“We designed a slab system from first principles, which was effective against potential flood damage. It formed a solid concrete foundation stiff enough to cope with the shrink/swell of the clays, yet strong enough to support the full masonry construction.”

“We also had a project where the site was heavily contaminated,” Todd explained. “We designed a slab system supported with driven timber piles, thus reducing the need for the contaminated material to be removed from the site. It was then capped using residual clay won from another school project.”

“Other challenges can include alterations and additions to existing schools, especially when required to avoid existing in-ground services, whilst having minimal impact on the school’s functionality.”

“Durability is also a major design consideration for schools located close to the coast” Todd said. “Vandalism is yet another challenge with structures needing to be non-combustible and robust. Northrop successfully design schools with these ongoing maintenance issues considered.

While Todd enjoys the challenges in school projects, he enjoys seeing them being constructed.

“I like seeing the end product, knowing that we provided input into a design which has achieved a positive outcome for all,” Todd said.

For more information on the services we offer, our team and recent school experience, click here.


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