Featured in Meinhardt Magazine: Tall Building Trends – The Business of Designing Skyscrapers

George Argyrou, Managing Director of Hickory Group, was one of the keynote speakers at the recent imagin8 seminar in Melbourne. Here he writes how he believes self-performance is crucial in ensuring optimum efficiency when constructing tall buildings:

Building super tall buildings and getting it right takes collaboration, dedication and know-how. More so than any other type of construction project, following best practice processes and having experienced professionals on the team is critical. 

For us, it also means ensuring tight control of the project to mitigate risk and ensure projects are built safely and remain on program and on budget. 

Currently constructing 568 Collins, one of Melbourne’s tallest and leanest residential towers (structural, civil and facade engineering by Meinhardt), we have employed several key self-performance capabilities to ensure an optimised construction programme and streamlined approach to building methodology. This includes using Hickory’s established formwork division to construct the building structure. 

From the ground-up, our process is that of a project builder, not a project manager. 


Like structures, façade procurement and installation is one of the most risk intensive facets of tall building construction, with the late delivery of internationally sourced façade systems frequently contributing to late contract delivery. We have not been averse to this issue, and recently created a risk mitigation strategy in the form of a 60-person façade division dedicated to the design, procurement, fabrication, warehousing, transportation and installation of façade systems. By sourcing facades through our own Chinese based procurement officer, the new streamlined supply chain enables greater control of the façade process on high-rise projects. 

The architecturally complex 568 Collins glass façade features geometric vertical strata that accentuates the tower’s slender form. Our façade division has optimised the construction sequence on the project by enabling façade and formwork to be performed concurrently behind the protection screens, deploying a 22 man project façade team to install the 29,000 square metres of glass curtain wall. To date this new approach has proved successful, with the project consistently hitting targets and tracking successfully towards an on-time delivery in 2015. 


In line with this emphasis on bringing key componentry in house, we have also established a manufacturing division producing modular buildings and building products. Using UB technology we have erected complete modular projects in record time, like the recently opened Schaller Studio Art Series hotel in Bendigo that went up in 6 days, and the 9-level One9 apartment project in Moonee Ponds that materialised in just 5 days. 

Realising however that not all buildings lend themselves to being built in a completely modular fashion, and the height limitation inherent in most modular systems, we are now concentrating on delivering key prefabricated elements to our conventional projects, rather than complete off-site builds. 


Our newly formed Sync bathroom pod product has been instrumental in the on-time delivery of 568 Collins Street, creating significant buildability advantages and improving delivery and site logistics by removing up to 12 trades from the restrictively small site footprint. 

All 794 of the 65 level tower’s project bathrooms have been fitted and finished to completion in our Brooklyn factory then simply trucked to site where they are craned onto a loading platform, wheeled into position, connected to services and sheeted with plasterboard. On a compact site such as 568 Collins, taking bathroom trades off the critical path (including plumbers, tilers, carpenters, electricians and shower-screen installers) has enabled 12 – 18 day reductions on each cycle and ensured a consistent quality product across the 224 metre project. 


We are now planning to employ these prefab efficiencies on a much larger scale for future high-rise projects. Built on our learnings refining and manufacturing the UB System, we have developed a new system for tall-building project delivery that blends the best of modular and conventional construction practices. The new Hickory Integrated Structural System uses the principles of modular delivery, breaking down a high-rise structure into individually assembled units, however the essential make-up of these units is quite different. The integrated system creates a chassis-style structural unit beginning with a light-weight concrete floor with pre-determined slab penetrations to which load bearing columns and curtain wall (or other specified façade) is attached. A fully finished bathroom pod is also integrated into the structural unit, which is then deployed to site for assembly. 

Using this structural system we can overcome the height limitations of conventional modular systems, which are generally based on panelised steel container structures that are self-supporting and have limited structural integrity over 10 – 15 stories. Instead this system enables structure to be prepared ex-situ, with added strength delivered by shotcreting between the units on taller builds. 

Whilst the majority of fit-out (with the exception of bathroom pods) can still take place on site, the benefit is that all onsite work happens behind the protection of a prefinished façade, removing the need for protection screening and the potential risk of delays due to inclement weather. 


Hickory see this new structural technology as a logical extension of our self-performance capabilities, to be employed on a best-for-project basis. Combining structure, façade, subassembly and fit-out capabilities, we hope that this methodology will provide a catalyst for further exploration and change in the industry. 

By investing in continuous innovation, the construction and engineering industry can enable Australia’s significant pipeline of new tall buildings to be delivered faster, more safely and sustainably and to a higher quality than ever before, showcasing our considerable homegrown talents to the rest of the world. 


George Argyou, Meinhardt Imagin8 Magazine

Read the full issue.




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