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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 6

I Construction During The Settlement Years

II The Use Of Timber As A Structural Material

III Structural Steel

IV Concrete Technology

V Housing

VI Industrialised Pre-cast Concrete Housing
i Industrial Precast Concrete Housing - Singapore

VII Ports And Harbours

VIII Roads

IX Heavy Foundations

X Bridges

XI Sewerage

XII Water Engineering

XIII Railways

XIV Major Buildings

XV Airports

XVI Thermal Power Stations

XVII Materials Handling

XVIII Oil Industry

XIX The Snowy Mountains Scheme

XX The Sydney Opera House

XXI The Sydney Harbour Bridge

XXII Hamersley Iron

XXIII North West Shelf

Sources and References


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Industrialised Pre-cast Concrete Housing

The development of industrialized precast concrete housing in Australia reflects the economic and development conditions prevailing over the past 35 years. The influences which fostered this type of construction were shortages of skilled labour, manufactured building materials and remote locations.

In the early 1950s George Wimpey & Sons Ltd. of the United Kingdom was invited by the Australian Government to introduce their precast 'tilt slab' housing construction methods to help overcome the acute shortage of accommodation then existing in Canberra. Whilst a large number of houses were constructed in the West Lake area, public acceptance was poor and the programme was halted.

The Victorian Housing Commission, under extreme pressure to re-develop inner city suburbs, introduced a precast, post-tensioned system for high density flats of 20 and 30 storey height. Based on an old Department of Defence tank manufacturing factory at Holmesglen, Melbourne, components for some twenty of these high rise buildings were constructed. Eventually this type of development fell into disrepute, mainly for sociological reasons, on an international basis. Having already developed a major production unit, the Victorian Government directed its production capacity towards a large programme of low rise walk up and single dwelling units. In all, about 10,000 homes using locally engineered design and erection methods were constructed by the Victorian Housing Commission.

During the period 1960-1975 a number of major housing projects were constructed by the Australian industry. These included Australian Army bases at Port Moresby and Wewak, comprising housing, barracks, schools, workshops, warehouses and other buildings; over 1300 housing units on the island of Nauru from components prefabricated in Melbourne. The township of Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory was a major achievement and required the production of 23,000 precast concrete components and highlighted the adaptability of this type of construction to remote locations. The development of the Pilbara, W.A. iron ore industry in the 1970s saw some 1250 bungalows constructed at Newman in record time using an Australian design and on-site production of the units.

Once again the speed and strength of precast concrete structures became evident after the devastation of Darwin by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day of 1974. At the rate of over a house a day, 425 cyclone proof precast concrete dwellings were constructed, designed to withstand wind speeds of up to 200 kph and at the same time retain their aesthetic appeal.

In spite of this achievement, the Australian public does not widely accept industrialised housing construction, preferring the more conventional methods so well established.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Victorian Housing Commission

People in Bright Sparcs - Rowell, L. E.

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© 1988 Print Edition page 336, Online Edition 2000
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