Quick thinking delivers to schedule
Seismic strengthening for an old brick building might look easy to the untrained eye, but Marlo Bromley, one of the directors of Wellington-based Don Thomson Consulting Engineers (DTCE), says a myriad of factors and problem solving come into play.
A project completed on the five storey brick building at 13 Leeds Street in Wellington is a case in point. Around 100 years old, it was originally a Hannahs shoe factory before being converted into apartments in thec 1990s.
Preventing bricks falling off the building in the case of an earthquake was a priority after the destruction caused by such objects in the Christchurch earthquakes, says Marlo.
The bricks needed to be secured back to the building using an outer steel structure designed in collaboration with Goodson Architects.
A major problem was the fact that the original drawings for the building held by council did not always match what had actually been built.
“This required us to be ad aptable and flexible, coming up with solutions quickly to problems as they arose so the project was not held up,” he says. Another challenge was the fact that in order for the bricks to not fall off, the structure had to have little movement.
“In this case, the bricks become the main seismic bracing system for the building. There is then a stiffness incompatibility between the bricks and the steel frame structure. So, we added a sprayed concrete shear wall to the outside of the building and concrete piles 18 metres deep into the ground,” he explains.
Marlo says the successful completion of the project demonstrates the practical solution-focused approach of DTCE: “We are not just desk engineers – we understand how to make things work in the real world and liaise with the architect and the builder to get the job done.”
DTCE has been operating for over 30 years in the Wellington region after being started by the other company director, Don Thomson, in 1987. The structural and civil consultancy specialises in residential and commercial works.
Marlo says a key point of difference is that DTCE takes pride in offering clients a personal service. “We are all passionate about engineering and delivering a quality result that helps our clients achieve their objectives.
“We employ a high ratio of Chartered Professional Engineers and one is dedicated to each project, along with one of the company directors,” he says.
This has allowed DTCE to establish a strong reputation for producing quality engineering solutions for a large range of projects from designing specialist structural systems for large commercial buildings to small retaining walls.
Marlo says the company is also proud to be Wellington based, which led it to assist Wellington City Council on strengthening projects for parapets around the city after the Kaikoura earthquakes.
“Many other companies were hesitant to take on these projects due to perceived commercial risk. But because it was a public safety issue we felt we should step in as we see ourselves as local structural engineering specialists serving our customers and the communities in which we work.”
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