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

VII Ports And Harbours

VIII Roads

IX Heavy Foundations
i Hawkesbury Railway Bridge
ii Impact of Floods
iii Hydraulic Jetting
iv Development Between First and Second World Wars
v Foundations Post-Second World War
vi Victorian Arts Centre
vii Bowen Bridge

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

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Heavy Foundations

The early settlers brought with them experience and techniques of heavy foundation construction which had stood the test of time in many countries. A number of these techniques had remained unchanged in principle since the days of the Roman Empire (though of course the change in motive force from muscle to machine was well in progress). Thus large footings were constructed in strutted and timbered excavations; available timber was used for piling; bridge foundations were constructed within earth and timber cofferdams.

For many years engineers and builders were obliged to rely on the use of available natural resources, or to accept the delays and costs of imported materials. Fortunately many of the Australian hardwoods have good strength and durability and are eminently suitable for piling and other engineering use; thus a large number of early bridges and wharves were founded on timber piles. In the early development of the Melbourne docks, for example, the Harbour Trust's engineer, J. Brady, proposed the substitution of timber piles for the masonry and concrete foundations recommended by the eminent British engineer Sir John Coode. Brady's proposals were finally accepted, with a resulting cost saving of some 340,000. Many of today's Australian engineers would sympathize with Brady's search for economical alternatives and his readiness to question the conclusions of overseas experts.

After the exciting years of the gold rushes in the middle of the nineteenth century, a period of major development occurred, with heavy expenditure on public works. Expansion of the railways along the Eastern seaboard required major bridges over the numerous wide and flood-prone rivers. Many required large cylinder and caisson foundations, a number of them involving work of daunting magnitude.


People in Bright Sparcs - Brady, J.; Coode, Sir John; Sewell, A. P.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 349 - 350, Online Edition 2000
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