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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

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

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The Sydney Opera House (continued)

The rigging required to present the precast items in the right attitude for joining with the already erected elements took the combined efforts of a very able and experienced Australian engineering team. The co-operation between the contractor, the panel of architects and the consulting engineers, was of the highest order and only this spirit of mutual co-operation permitted the completion of this complex structure. One construction technique which was quite new at that time, was the significant use of epoxy resins, as both an aid to construction and as a construction material in its own right. 93,000 Ibs. of epoxy resin formulation was used on the project. The use of the epoxy joint between the arch segments, ensured that 100 per cent compression would be obtained, thus eliminating the danger of point loadings. In addition to its structural use, various types of epoxy compounds were used for water proofing and ensured 100 per cent effective water seal on the tile lids.

The curtain walls facing the forecourt and the harbour probably represent the most challenging and unique application of glass to an external structure that could be envisaged. The glass blanks were brought out from France and cut to size by a computer programme on the site. The edges were then bevilled and polished by automatic machinery. The glass panels were erected by using vacuum pads on adjustable rigging to pick and place each individual glass pane. The joint between the glass panes was then sealed with a silicone material that had been developed especially for the Opera House.

To accurately locate the 6,000 odd pre-cast units in their final position in the complex spherical geometry of the structure presented a most difficult problem in precise surveying and necessitated the use of computers to control the programme. At the time there was no computer in Australia of sufficient size to cope with the requirements. It was therefore decided to send the programme to England to the Atlas Computer -which was the largest in the world at that time. In order to prove that men are still the master of machines, it was decided to hand-calculate and check four of the co-ordinates on one of the shells, and it was indeed fortunate that this was done, as an error was discovered which would have put the peak of the arch on the tallest shell to within 16 feet of the surface of the moon! Consultation with the government resulted in this adventuresome approach being abandoned in favour of a much more conservative and earth-bound one!

The result of all of the above on Bennelong Point, created a magnificent structure which is an architectural triumph and a masterpiece of engineering design and construction. For those wishing more detailed information on the complex and interesting problems presented by this structure, a list of relevant publications is included at the end of this chapter.

People in Bright Sparcs - Noe, G. W.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 424 - 425, Online Edition 2000
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