• How are Queensland's engineers responding to housing demand?

    Thursday, January 07, 2016

    It's reasonable to conclude that South East Queensland (SEQ) is becoming a desirable place to live, given the median home price is expected to increase 17 per cent in Brisbane, according to a report by BIS Shrapnel on behalf of QBE.

    Basic economics suggests that the price of a commodity will rise when the demand for that asset increases. Unless the supply for that product increases or demand declines, its value will remain consistent. As one can imagine, the market is responding in kind:

    Rising home prices in Queensland may prompt property developers to invest in constructing new multi-unit dwellings, as they know demand for such housing is prevalent. This interest sparks the need for structural engineers knowledgeable of Queensland's market

    Fostering appeal in SEQ

    Developer interest in residential construction is more than a supposition. The Valuer-General's 2015 Property Market Movement Report discovered the number of property lodgements recorded in the first half of the 2014-15 financial year increased 4.3 per cent from 2013-14. This figure equates to more than 2,800 daily lodgements.

    The Valuer-General's study notes that major urban areas in SEQ have been characterised by rising residential values. People view Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast as attractive markets because of their rising commercial esteem and liveability. 

    In the capital, for instance, the city council has implemented a long-term infrastructure development plan spanning the period between 2012 and 2031. The strategy details projects that cumulatively amount to more than $44 billion in funding.

    This means that Brisbane's leaders are calling on civil engineers and city planners to develop the capital's water, traffic, waste management, telecommunications and other social necessities. When such a project comes to fruition, it will increase the city's appeal, thereby raising demand for housing. It's a linear trend that ultimately drives interest in residential development and construction. 

    Building already underway

    Master Builders' Building Industry Outlook 2015 study suggested, the high rise, multi-unit sector has performed quite well in inner Brisbane. 

    Can structural engineers help investors craft green multi-unit apartments? High rise apartments are growing more popular in Brisbane.

    Overall, Queensland's total dwelling unit approvals rose 22 per cent from September 2013 to the same month in 2014. Of those residential properties that received the go-ahead from authorities, 32.5 per cent were for multi-unit structures. 

    It's safe to say that SEQ's engineers are designing apartments to sate residents' appetite for convenient housing located near Brisbane's CBD. The question is, what sort of properties are these experts developing? 

    ​Gravitating toward sustainable housing? 

    Green buildings consume 26 per cent less power than conventional structures.

    Green building may be surrounded with a lot of hype, but there are plenty of reasons why property investors and engineers would gravitate toward sustainability.

    The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) acknowledged the Redfern Housing Redevelopment project in Sydney, which received a 5-star Green Star rating under the Multi Unit Residential category. The structure used rainwater collection systems, photovoltaic cells, passive ventilation and greywater treatment.

    Due to its design and on-premise energy assets, the Redfern project is expected to save approximately $26,000 in power costs on an annual basis. In addition, the building will save an estimated 4,700 cubic metres of water every year. 

    Overall, the case for green housing is just as much about protecting the environment as it is receiving a return on investment. The GBCA noted that green buildings, on average, consume 26 per cent less power than conventional structures and produce 33 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions.

    When considering the implications of constructing multi-unit green buildings in Brisbane, Gold Coast and surrounding areas, investors should seek advice from SEQ's reputable engineering consultants

  • Where is infrastructure in Australia heading in 2016?

    Friday, December 18, 2015

    Infrastructure is the life and soul of a nation's economy. As such, civil and structural engineers are crucial to the effective and productive working of Australia's industries.

    The Lucky Country is currently faced with a range of challenges in relation to its rising population and the impacts this is having on infrastructure. Nevertheless, there is a number of organisations and agencies working on the problem.

    Infrastructure is more than your bridges and motorways, it is also the networks within which these features sit.

    Traffic infrastructure and Australia's growing population

    Infrastructure is an essential element in any developed economy - especially as it allows people to travel to and from work. Australia, like many nations, is experiencing population growth throughout its major cities.

    According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the population of Australia has increased by 317,100 between 2014 and 2015. Additionally, the rate of natural increase recorded in 2015 was 5.1 per cent.

    In Queensland, the population currently stands at 4,722,450 persons as of June 2014, while natural increase contributed just over 34,510 people, according to the ABS. While the rate of increase was slower than the previous year - 1.5 per cent and 1.8 per cent respectively - the rising trend remains the same. 

    As such, transportation infrastructure remains a high priority. However, it also presents a number of challenges.

    What does the future hold for infrastructure in Australia?

    According to a new report by Engineering Australia, infrastructure is not only a prized asset for Australia but also a key area of practice for the nation's engineers. As such, the organisation released eight key principles for the effective governance and development of the country's infrastructure.

    Some of these include:

    • Infrastructure is crucial to good governance and not an auxiliary process
    • Infrastructure must be managed throughout its life, not just during one cycle
    • Acquisitions planned for short-term gain should not be prioritised over whole of live considerations

    Additionally, the report argues infrastructure is a key indicator of economic and social health as well as environmental sustainability. Quality infrastructure can help generate greater productivity and can improve the standard of living of all citizens.

    Engineering companies play a central role in the technical responsibilities for infrastructure management as well as its development. As such, infrastructure is not simply the prerogative of the government but should include the input of all sectors, including private industry.

    Quality structural engineers and civil engineering specialists are regularly involved in the design, procurement, tenders, construction and review processes that are crucial to quality infrastructure.

    Infrastructure is more than just roads. Infrastructure is more than just roads.

    Technology and the future infrastructure

    In today's modern world, infrastructure no longer simply refers to developments created by bridge designers and quality civil engineering solutions, it now includes smart infrastructure.

    According to the University of Cambridge, smart infrastructure are engineering developments that embed sensing and monitoring technologies to attain data and analyse it for future feedback. For infrastructure providers, this information is crucial to making informed, insightful and meaningful decisions in relation to the structural well-being and maintenance of these assets.  

    Additionally, smart infrastructure can respond in real time to the needs of its users as well as control their own maintenance processes that can improve the amount of time it spends out of action. 

    Could smart technology offer a positive solution to the problem of infrastructure?

    Access to better information can also lead to an augmented understanding of the multitude of user and environmental impacts on infrastructure, the University of Cambridge reported. The feedback loop created can work to improve and even evolve the contemporary approaches to design and construction.

    Smart technology can also have a major impact on a country's productivity and drive sustainability in urban planning and management. If you would like to know more about innovative infrastructure design, talk to the specialists in the field. 

    Contact Burchills Engineering Solutions today and find out how they can deliver innovative infrastructure solutions to your next development. 

  • Could Queensland see more high-rise apartments?

    Wednesday, December 02, 2015

    As of June 2013, a little more than 70 per cent of Queensland's total population resided in the southeast corner of the state, according to a report from the state Treasury.

    During the same time period, Brisbane accounted for almost one quarter of all the people living in the state. The Gold Coast grew at a rapid rate between June 1991 and the same month in 2013 - 17.2 per cent.

    These figures allude to a time of higher congestion and changing metropolitan composition. Based on the capabilities of South East Queensland's (SEQ's) infrastructure, people may opt for an inner-city lifestyle, obligating structural engineers and building planners to draft facilities capable of housing new residents.

    People who rent are 150 per cent more likely to use public transportation.

    Multi-unit apartment buildings rising

    Multi-residential structures have been gaining momentum across Australia for the past half decade. As noted in a report from IBISWorld, the multi-unit apartment and townhouse construction market has been growing at a compound annual growth rate of 6 per cent between 2011 and 2016.

    There are a number of positive outcomes associated with this trend, one of which is lower traffic. A study conducted by the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO) analysed how multi-unit residential buildings impacted metropolitan travel trends.

    Released in 2012, the report discovered that people living in apartments commute, on average, 10 kilometres fewer than those who live in houses. This may be due to the fact that the majority of people living in apartments rent, and renters are 32 per cent less likely to own cars. In fact, people who rent are 150 per cent more likely to use public transportation.

    Engineering principles and high-rise apartments 

    Developing large, multi-storey buildings for city residents compels engineers to apply the same principles as they would when planning for smaller structures. 

    One of the first rules of structural engineering is to ensure that forces acting on floors, walls and roofs are both equal and opposite. This balance must be resilient to extraneous elements such as high winds.

    Given that Brisbane and the Gold Coast are subjected to strong natural forces, it's clear that structural engineers will have to design high rise, multi-residential structures to withstand them. In February 2015, Cyclone Marcia reached peak wind gusts of up to 295 kilometres per hour, according to AccuWeather. 

    If you want to know how Burchills Engineering can develop high-rise apartments for your next project, speak with our consultants today.

  • How do civil engineers mitigate flood risks?

    Thursday, November 26, 2015

    Many Queensland residents remember the intense flooding that hit the state on January 13, 2011. According to Risk Frontiers, insurers with clients around the Brisbane River catchment received more than 56,200 claims after the natural disaster, amounting to $2.55 billion in payments.

    While many of the people who lost their homes were insured, this coverage does little to hamper the negative economic impact these floods had on local communities. Flooding damages business property and prevents employees from getting to work, thus halting production across multiple industries.

    This concern has prompted civil engineers to design structures capable of containing stormwater, two of which are described in this article. 

    Retarding basins 

    Typically natural establishments, retarding basins are areas of low-lying land that temporarily store stormwater during times of frequent, voluminous rainfall. The video below, from Melbourne Water, details their role in stormwater mitigation strategies: 

    The Australian National Committee on Large Dams (ANCOLD) noted that many urban planners factor retarding basins into their strategies. Their composition differs depending on their location, the frequency at which floods are expected to occur, existing ecosystems and other factors. Above all else, retarding basins must provide security to downstream civilians. 

    During the design phase, it's important engineers consider the chances of a basin failing and measure the consequences associated with that event. This is done by calculating the maximum possible flood and assessing an existing basin's ability to contain that water.

    Retarding basins vary in size. While some may comprise vast wetlands, others may be low spots of ground next to playing fields. Developing them entails creating dams that possess a robust structural stability.

    While many levees are made from earthfill, there are others made of concrete.

    Channel levees 

    The Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines defined a levee as an artificial embankment or structure that reduces or prevents water flow onto land. Levees are typically placed around rivers that are prone to flooding during times of intense rainfall.

    While many levees are made from earthfill, there are others made of concrete. However, due to the expenses associated with this material and the desire to mitigate disruption to ecosystems, it's more common to use clay, gravel, sand, silt and stone to construct these structures. 

    Levees and retarding basins are just two engineering creations used to contain stormwater. If you want to know how Burchills Engineering can provide consultation on how to develop these structures, speak to one of our consultants today. 

  • How Queensland is pursuing engineering innovation

    Wednesday, November 11, 2015

    In regard to engineering, innovation consists of introducing concepts and practices that are different than existing design principles. For example, a hydraulic assessment of conveyance may lead a water engineer to propose a somewhat unorthodox dam design. 

    The Queensland Chief Scientist outlined a six-step plan to promote engineering innovation.

    The Queensland government is trying to encourage this kind of thinking. Between 2002 and 2012, the number of professional engineers working in the state increased 40 per cent, according to the Office of the Queensland Chief Scientist. This figure correlates with the state's recent focus on revamping its resource industry and investing in infrastructure. 

    What does innovation mean to Queensland? 

    The Chief Scientist outlined a six-step plan to bolster the state's overall engineering expertise. The second point in the strategy alluded to leveraging innovation:

    "Procure to encourage innovation through a demand driven innovation policy for Government as an intelligent and demanding customer."

    From this quote, we can deduce that the state government is:

    • Dedicated to educating itself on the latest engineering principles and civil needs 
    • Committed to providing engineers from the private sector with the resources and materials they require to develop inventive solutions
    • Prepared to open tenders for high-value projects

    The main message constituents can glean from this statement is that Queensland wants to position itself as the ideal client; one that trusts the expertise of Queensland's engineers to launch and manage projects that ensure the region's operability. 

    The goals of the Queensland Innovation Subcommittee 

    The Institution of Engineers Australia is comprised of several subcommittees, one of which is made up of specialists operating in Queensland. The Queensland Innovation Subcommittee revolves around promoting inventive ideas and practices throughout the state's engineering community, and outlined five objectives:

    1. Acknowledge and advertise statewide engineering innovations.
    2. Encourage ingenious behaviours among engineering firms.
    3. Educate industry experts on why innovation is essential and how they can integrate it into their practices. 
    4. Share and analyse success stories to understand why they were outstanding. 
    5. Promote innovative engineering ideas and principles throughout greater Australia. 
    Innovation is what drives progress across Queensland. Across structural and civil engineering, specialists are aiming to innovate.

    Specific innovative endeavours 

    The Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads isn't a stranger to the concept of innovation, either. In September of last year, it released a document briefly describing how it wants to encourage inventiveness when developing traffic engineering solutions

    One of the ways in which it will promote innovation is to accept and work with the risk and costs associated with the idea. The Department recognises the importance of allowing changes to components, materials and processes is necessary to reinventing solutions for the better.

    Across the board, Queensland's rhetoric clarifies that the state is ready to support engineers who display a willingness to push the metaphorical envelope. 

  • Infrastructure driving Gold Coast employment

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

    Civil and structural engineering solutions are a key driver of employment. Public transport developments recruit a high volume of workers and a wide range of occupations, from construction workers to building designers

    Queensland is currently enjoying low unemployment and a burgeoning public transport network.

    Queensland is currently enjoying low unemployment and a burgeoning public transport network stemming from infrastructure improvements.  

    Job creation a positive outcome

    A recent Queensland government release shows the Gold Coast has created 14,800 new jobs over the previous 12 months. 

    Using figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the government says that the annual unemployment rate has fallen by 0.7 to 5.3 per cent.

    "Just yesterday I was on the Gold Coast to announce the successful tenderer for the $163 million heavy rail duplication project between Helensvale and Coomera which will support another 200 jobs when construction commences in March next year," Treasurer Curtis Pitt said.

    The figures show the Gold Coast is the state's leader in employment. This may be a result of increased infrastructure construction that has been ongoing over the last few years. 

    If the South East fully utilises the region's public transport system, there could be an even greater need for more jobs and quality engineering solutions

    What does engineering solutions mean for unemployment?What do engineering solutions mean for unemployment?

    South East Queensland's public transport infrastructure showing popularity

    According to the Queensland government, public transport use in South East Queensland has increased in the July to September 2015 period, in comparison to last year.

    Minister for Transport Stirling Hinchliffe said the figures were collected as part of the TransLink Tracker quarterly report.

    "The government's decision to release the TransLink Tracker is about restoring accountability and transparency in our public transport network," he said. "It's fantastic to see that after three years of stagnation, patronage on our public transport network is growing and is up by 3.1 per cent."

    The report focuses on a number of variables, such as patronage, on-time running, customer feedback and satisfaction, smart card use, safety and service kilometres. It aims to provide a cross-section of the South East Queensland's public transport services for the public.

    Its findings  also showed there was an increase in journeys using the network to over 47 million, which is an expansion of more than 1.4 million trips over last year. 

    Additionally, there has been an overall increase in public transport use - 430,000 more bus trips, 305,000 train journeys and 40,000 more ferry voyages. The 640,000 extra trips on the Gold Coast Light Rail is evidence that it has also become more popular with Gold Coast commuters. 

    To find out more about infrastructure solutions, for both government and private developments, talk to Burchills Engineering Solutions today

  • How important is road infrastructure to economic growth?

    Saturday, October 03, 2015

    The basic role of transport infrastructure is to generate connections between geographically separated locations for both commercial and individual needs. Essential to this aim is the civil engineering sector. However, for most Australians, their experience of civil engineering and transport infrastructure comes in the guise of highways, bus lines and railways.

    Yet, transport infrastructure can have a major impact on a country's economic state, leading to improvements in productivity and economic indicators. 

    Transport infrastructure and better economic activity

    The impact of transport infrastructure on economic development has been studied in detail. One of the most encompassing investigations was conducted by Sir Rod Eddington for the UK government in 2006. The extensive report, published in four volumes, highlighted the positive long-term links between transport and the country's economic activity.

    Transport infrastructure can have a major impact on a country's productivity and economic indicators.

    The report found that the UK's transport system will be a key catalyst for the country's continued productivity and competitiveness. For instance, a five per cent decrease in business travel time on the UK's roads could lead to a £2.5 billion reduction in wasted business costs, representing 0.2 per cent of the country's 2006 GDP. 

    There are two main ways transport infrastructure can facilitate economic growth. They can create connections between businesses and input sources, other businesses and their markets. It also facilitates the movement of raw materials to and from companies as well as the transportation of finished products to distributors and retail outlets.

    On the other hand, an effective network is able to move large volumes of human capital to and from their places of work, to educational institution, social events and locations where individuals can buy products and services, such as shops.

    What is being done to better transportation networks in Australia?

    The government is aware of the importance of transport infrastructure.

    For instance, the 2015-16 budget put a lot of emphasis on infrastructure investment. According to the Australian government, the Roads to Recovery Programme will invest $350 million in the construction and upkeep of local roads with a further $350 million in 2015-16, while more than 2,000 projects have been identified for funding between 2014-2019.

    Specifically, the federal government invested in developing the countries freight industry by upgrading major transportation pathways, such as Queensland's Bruce Highway.

    How can road networks improve a country's economic state?How can road networks improve a country's economic state?

    Civil engineering companies in Australia will be crucial to the continued development of transportation networks and thus improvements in economic activity.

    If you would like to know more about civil engineering and how it can help facilitate productivity, talk to a team of experienced of engineers today. 

  • What kind of cities do you want to live in?

    Tuesday, September 22, 2015

    It’s an important question that carries more weight if we think of “what kinds of cities do we want our children to grow up in?”

    More than two thirds of Australia’s population live in our major cities and cities are growing faster than regional centres. We all enjoy the positive aspects of growing cities like improved physical and social infrastructure but we fear the negative aspects. We desperately want to preserve our amenity, lifestyles, and natural environment and rightly so. These factors are important for our cities reputations and brands and whether we think about it or not, they are also important for our personal health and wellbeing.

    How do you achieve growth while maintaining quality of lifestyle? Burchills Engineering Solutions and Atlantis Aurora hosted a seminar on “Vertical Gardens and Green Roofs” in Southport recently to show how this emerging technology can change the face of cities for the better.

    What kind of cities do you want to live in?

    Continue the discussion or find out more via our social media sites LinkedIn and Facebook. We welcome you to comment and post up some examples of vertical gardens and green roofs what you would like to see in your city. For more information contact our Principal Environmental Scientist Caroline Kelly on 07 5509 6400. 
  • 4 functions of a well-designed university campus

    Friday, September 18, 2015

    Making a campus look good is one thing, but ensuring it can accommodate students, faculty, administrators and visitors for years to come is another.

    Dozens of factors make a world-class campus. Listed below are four characteristics university engineering solutions should embody: 

    1. Accessibility 

    When designing university grounds, engineering consultants must prioritise accessibility. The modern student ventures off campus quite frequently. A survey of 25,950 students, conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research, discovered that:

    • About three-fourths (73 per cent) of later-year pupils have off-campus jobs.
    • Most first-year students work between six and 20 hours per week, while more experienced undergraduates spend between 11 and 15 hours on the clock.

    Given that the majority students are travelling to and from campus on a weekly basis, it's imperative for universities to engineer facilities that support this lifestyle.

    2. Environmental resiliency 

    South East Queensland is no stranger to environmental disruptions. The Bureau of Meteorology noted the January 2011 flooding that impacted an estimated 200,000 people, causing approximately $1 billion in damages. More than 8,600 properties (both residential and commercial) were in some way affected by this event.

    How can engineers design universities so they intuitively guide students to destinations?Campus grounds should be easy to navigate.

    Universities are responsible for the safety of their students, meaning their facilities must be resilient to extreme weather, especially if they're located in South East Queensland.

    3. Navigable

    Closely related to the first characteristic, students must be able to find their way around the campus intuitively. Doing so involves employing a logical design.

    When reason takes over, and students quickly figure out how to get from the first-year dorms to the dining hall, to the engineering building and so on, you have the basis of a more secure educational experience.

    Bike paths and spacious walkways are staples of any university. If a school's size or location make it difficult for students to reach specific destinations on foot within a reasonable amount of time, transit engineers should consider implementing shuttles. 

    4. Adaptive 

    When university administrators forecast a surge in enrollment, the sustainable solution lies in reusing or renovating existing properties to support more students, faculty, vehicles and so forth. Purchasing more land and developing it won't fix the problem, and may disrupt the navigability and rhythm of the existing campus.

    Therefore, civil engineers must design university grounds with forethought given to future investments. Sewage and drainage systems, electrical assets, roadways and other solutions must be able to support expanded or renovated structures. This enhances a school's long-term sustainability and tempers expenses. 

  • Why simplicity, not complexity is the key to effective engineering

    Friday, September 11, 2015

    When we think of innovative engineering, we often regard solutions that are incredibly complex, featuring thousands of components working harmoniously to support a single function.

    However, it'd be a disservice to the industry to ignore simple, effective plans. There's something admirable about making do with what you have without sacrificing operability, and that's exactly what frugal engineering is all about.

    Bridge designers, civil engineers and other experts working in the field can apply this concept to their practices. In a nutshell, frugal engineering - also known as frugal innovation - refers to decreasing the intricacy and expenses associated with creating something.

    When does frugal engineering make sense? 

    India has largely been the center of frugal innovation. As London Business School professors Nirmalya Kumar and Phanish Puranam wrote in Ivey Business Journal, Indian engineers have developed products that their native country needs while considering its fiscal constraints. 

    "The beauty of the Indian market is that it pushes you in a corner ... it demands everything in the world, but cheaper and smaller," said former GE Indian Managing Director Guillermo Wille, as quoted by Mr Puranam and Mr Kumar.

    The video below discusses the open-mindedness with which many Indian entrepreneurs approach constrained innovation:

    The authors repeatedly acknowledged the budget-constraints of the average Indian consumer. With a population of more than 1.2 billion people (according to Trading Economics), companies such as Siemens need to develop X-ray machines, fetal heart monitors and road traffic management systems that are completely devoid of frivolities.

    The basic reasoning is that as long as these devices get the job done and can be provided to the market at affordable prices, why add features that are "nice to haves"? 

    Does frugal engineering make sense in Queensland? 

    Queensland isn't experiencing the same economic challenges as India, but that doesn't mean the state couldn't benefit from making the most out of its budget. 

    Queensland is currently contending with $80 billion of debt.

    The state government maintained that Queensland is currently contending with $80 billion of debt. Of course, this has prompted authorities to develop action plans that will stabilise the state's financial situation. 

    It's a tricky dilemma, given that officials need to find a balance between cutting services and updating a constrained infrastructure. In this respect, applying frugal engineering to city planning isn't necessarily the worst idea. 

    Obligating engineers to abide by strict budgets offers long-term benefits as well. Some would suggest that the industry is currently at a turning point: One mentality calls for developing complex, resource-heavy solutions, while the other values simplicity and affordability. 

    The next generation of engineers need to change their way of thinking - cost-efficient systems don't have to translate to cheap implementations.