News

  • How can stormwater prepare Queensland for the next drought? - part two

    Friday, May 22, 2015

    While a large part of Queensland (approximately 80 per cent) is contending with a severe drought, the southeast region has experienced heavy rainfall that caused flooding in many townships. 

    There's a certain criteria stormwater harvesting systems must adhere to.

    This poses a question of whether engineers knowledgeable of water management can find a way to reroute southeast Queensland's storm water to the state's drought-affected areas. On a practical level, such a concept is incredibly ambitious, but is it viable? 

    Assessing Brisbane's outline 

    The Brisbane City Council developed a plan for water engineers to apply when drafting stormwater harvesting plans. The purpose of the outline is to help council members and other officials deduce whether their infrastructure could feasibly support such systems. 

    Before detailing the steps necessary to assessing a proposed stormwater harvesting solution's feasibility, Brisbane named several outcomes that should be realised as a result of their implementation:

    • Protects public health and safety
    • Provides an alternative water source
    • Decreases the effects of stormwater pollutants
    • Supports the natural water cycle through sustaining environmental flows
    • Alleviates flood impact

    Once the purpose of stormwater harvesting systems are understood, cities can determine if installation is a reasonable endeavour. 

    Analysing the existing infrastructure  

    The Brisbane plan asserted that the feasibility of a stormwater harvesting solution is largely based on how much heavy rainfall a particular area receives on a consistent basis. Implementing a complex irrigation and distribution system may not be economically sustainable if infrequent or sporadic storms are the norm. 

    Can runoff be harnessed to assist drought-affected communities?How can cities harness the power of stormwater?

    Not surprisingly, Brisbane's suitability test starts with assessing slope and drainage, filtration and discharge rates, land availability and vegetation. For example, it's preferred that the slope of the application site should be less than 15 degrees. In addition, ground contents (clay, sand and ledge) will impact natural water flow. 

    From there, a water balance calculation can be made. This consists of identifying regular water supply and dividing it over demand. 

    What are the risks? 

    The challenge with managing stormwater is that it usually contains pesticides, hydrocarbons and other substances that compromise the cleanliness of the resource. For example, poorly-designed systems can cause sewage to mix with runoff.

    A study conducted by The University of Queensland's Advanced Water Management Centre aggregated 23 samples from six urban stormwater harvesting systems throughout Australia. Human adenovirus was found in 91 per cent of the specimens. 

    Is it feasible? 

    Filtering and distributing stormwater to drought-affected areas isn't an easy prospect. Some experts would stray away such a project.

    What can be done to make these initiatives feasible? Education and innovation. Working with research-focussed engineers can make for progressive projects that improve the livelihoods of Queensland's residents. 

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  • How can stormwater prepare Queensland for the next drought? - part one

    Friday, May 15, 2015

    Every farmer relies on a steady water supply to sustain his or her operations. The resource is an essential part of life - it doesn't take a scientist to figure that out.

    However, the world does need engineers knowledgeable of water conservation and distribution. Right now, Queensland is in need of such experts.

    When will drought relief come? 

    80 percent of Queensland is experiencing severe water shortages.

    Billy Byrne, minister for agriculture and fisheries, released a statement on behalf of the Queensland government, stating that four council areas were recently added to the state's list of municipalities officially suffering from drought.

    These inclusions mean that more than 80 percent of Queensland is experiencing severe water shortages. The state government has responded to this challenge by offering farmers in certain municipalities Drought Relief Assistance. 

    "The Palaszczuk Government made a commitment before the state election in January and I have made numerous announcements since promising that we will not leave Queensland's drought-affected farmers in the lurch," said Byrne.

    Can storms offer salvation? 

    For some people living in Queensland, particularly in the southeast, it may be difficult to imagine that a drought is even on the state's list of concerns.

    In an April 30 press release, Police, Fire and Emergency Services Minister Jo-Ann Miller issued Severe Weather Warning, citing heavy rainfall throughout Southeast Queensland. 

    "As a result, areas along the coast from about the Sunshine Coast to the New South Wales border could experience localised flash flooding," said Ms Miller. 

    The video below shows the effects of the storm on a homeowner's property: 

    This activity brings up an interesting question, one that water engineers have been trying to answer: Is there some way to use stormwater and redistribute it to drought-affected areas? 

    Is such an idea feasible? 

    Although the idea of re-routing stormwater to regions experiencing severe water shortages is quite attractive, some may challenge the concept's practicability. 

    Stormwater harvesting has shown promise in many municipalities. Can engineers find a way to reroute stormwater?

    Suppose a team of engineers wanted to figure out a way to distribute stormwater in the Sunshine Coast to the Banana shire, one of Queensland drought-declared regions. By road, the distance between these two areas is 505 kilometres. 

    This distance may cause the team to write off a water distribution project as unfeasible. Even with modern assets and resources, it would probably take an incredible amount of energy to allocate the stormwater, thereby making such a hypothetical endeavour unrealistic. 

    However, this is only one example. Engineers who aren't daunted by the limitations of modern technology may accept the challenge and figure out a way to establish efficient water distribution networks that span over great distances. 

    In Part Two, we'll discuss a stormwater management plan detailed by the Brisbane City Council and compare it with challenges such systems face. 

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  • Brisbane's new sky-high plans

    Wednesday, April 01, 2015

    Brisbane's skyline could soon be changing, as the Queensland government looks to approve a radical new direction for the CBD. The Draft City Centre Neighbourhood Plan outlines the possibility of scrapping mandatory height restrictions in certain areas, which is exciting news for those planning tower blocks in Brisbane's busiest sectors.

    Brisbane City Council recently submitted the plans to the state government, which brings the scheme one step closer to fruition. Created under the Brisbane City Centre Master Plan 2014, the draft reform is aligned to meet growing residential and commercial needs in the burgeoning Queensland capital.

    Overall, the Master Plan sets out various strategies for five key precincts in the CBD, as outlined in the official council video below:

    The draft strategy focuses on the distinctive architecture category, driving public space investments in the business district and inspiring more innovative use of CBD land.

    According to the Brisbane City Council, there are three key objectives for the area that have been threaded through the neighbourhood plan, which include:

    • Accommodating population and economic growth
    • Responding to a changing climate and urban sprawl
    • Improving the city from the 'ground plane'

    The Council expects the five selected areas of the Brisbane CBD to be home to around 50 new skyscrapers over the next 20 years. Speaking to The Brisbane Times, Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said he believes this period of transformation will drive top-class architecture in the city, regardless of the number of actual projects on the go.

    Could Brisbane's skyline be about to change?Could Brisbane's skyline be about to change?

    Reaching for the sky - to a point

    Despite the proposed removal of mandatory height limits, skyscrapers in Brisbane are unlikely to climb to extreme heights. Any new buildings in the area will still need to comply with local aviation regulations.

    In Queensland, this law states that buildings in Brisbane cannot exceed 274 metres. However, what could change is where these towers are located as, under the Draft City Centre Neighbourhood Plan, taller buildings could be built anywhere - aside from the Quay Street or Howard Smith Wharves precincts.

    While the plan is still in its draft stages, the exciting prospect of higher skyscrapers could soon drive demand for more comprehensive engineering planning and strategies. Getting a building above a certain height is challenging, but with the right plans almost anything is possible.

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  • Mexican stand off at UDIA Golf Day!

    Monday, December 15, 2014

    140 industry players take aim on Gold Coast icons ....

    Despite the uncertain weather 140 enthusiastic  urban development industry players got together at Palm Meadows Golf Course to battle it out over 18 holes at the annual UDIA Gold Coast/Logan Corporate Golf Day. 

    Burchills Engineering Solutions were proud to sponsor hole number 1 complete with a Mexican themed marquee. Burchills team members, Nicky and Jenny hosted players with a Mexican stand-off game which targeted some of our key projects. With a 40 year local history providing civil and structural consulting engineering for iconic Gold Coast projects, there were plenty of targets to aim for.

    Congratulations to our fast drawing amigo, Brian Henningsen from Australand who took out our hole prize of a 3 course dinner for 2 at the Palazzo Versace. 

    Thank you to everyone who participated we look forward to seeing you again at the next year’s event!


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  • Environmental Offsets Made Easy

    Tuesday, December 02, 2014

    Environmental Offsets are a complex and changing issue for those undertaking development projects

    1      What is an Environmental Offset? 
    Environmental offsets are a tool used to compensate for impacts that cannot be otherwise avoided or mitigated. The basic premise of environmental or biodiversity offsets is to achieve a ‘net gain’, or at a minimum, no net loss of biodiversity on the ground. 

    So putting the matter into perspective, when a project proponent wants to develop land – there may be a loss of biodiversity[1] (depending on what was there) which may trigger requirements under the relevant legislation and or planning scheme. Offsets transfer the responsibility of the biodiversity loss to the party causing the loss, by incorporating it into the development conditions of the Project. 

    Offsets were introduced in the 1980s to facilitate development following Australia’s agreement to a number of international treaties addressing the worldwide decline in biodiversity. Offsets are now widely used in all States and Territories, at the Commonwealth, State and Local levels of government. However, before a developer or proponent can utilise offsets on a project, it must be demonstrated to the regulators that the ‘impact’ cannot be avoided or further minimized during the design phase of the Project. 

    2      Why Offset? 

    Australia has seen drastic losses to biodiversity in the last 200 years as a result of land clearing. Queensland’s rate of clearing alone has recently averaged about 100,000 hectares each year and koala habitat in Australia is now less than 10% of what it was 200 years ago. 

    So by halting the decline in biodiversity while allowing development to proceed - Environmental Offsets maintain biodiversity to the benefit of greater society and future generations. 

    3      How do I Offset? 

    The first step in any project is to determine the potential environmental impacts resulting from the proposed development.  During this stage, should there be potential impacts on a Matter of National Environmental Significance (MNES), protected under the provisions of the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), the developer or proponent is legally obliged to refer the project to the Department of Environment (DoE) to determine whether or not the project is deemed a ‘controlled action’ and therefore require assessment under the provisions of the EPBC Act.  This advice should be sought in the first instance, to ensure an efficient and timely ‘referral’ process. Projects that are deemed controlled actions, may have offsets conditioned to mitigate impacts on the affected MNES.

     If offsets have been conditioned by the Commonwealth – offset requirements cannot be duplicated at the State and/or Local levels for the same activity and the same matter (environmental matters are listed in legislation and or regulations by the various administrating authorities) … i.e. no double dipping!! Likewise if the Commonwealth or State assess an activity’s impacts on a matter and determine offsets are not required – offsets cannot be conditioned by any other level of Government for the same matter and activity. 

    At the State level, Offsets may be required when a Matter of State Environmental Significance is impacted by the activities of a project. The Qld Offsets process has recently been overhauled – replacing a complex, multi-policy system with a new framework. The ongoing amendment to other legislation to align with these changes is a work in progress.   

    The new Offset framework introduces “Matters of State Environmental Significance” (MSES) and “Matters of Local Environmental Significance” (MLES). MLES are not yet clearly defined but the Qld Environmental Offsets Act 2014 (EOA) identifies them as a matter that is protected by a Local Government Offset Policy. The Qld Dept. of Environment and Heritage (EHP) have an online mapping portal that allows the proponent to gain an initial understanding of the MSES that may occur on or near a project area. It is recommended however that all mapping be ground-truthed, since based on our experience, it is often inaccurate.  This particularly applies to “MSES – Wildlife Habitat” which was drawn from a number of mapping sources that were not designed for use at the property scale. 

    In terms of delivery – offsets can be provided through a financial settlement or a proponent delivered arrangement usually land-based…. Or a combination of both. 

    The financial settlement option can be a quick and easy way to move to the next stage of development – payment must be made prior to the activity commencing.  A financial settlement calculator is provided online for proponents wishing to calculate the potential cost of their offset project: 

    https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/offsets-calculator/ 

    However, in our experience and under the current framework, financial settlement is often not a financially feasible option and can have a significant impact on a projects viability. 

    Which brings us to the second option – a proponent driven offset package. This may take the form of a land based offset or a Direct Benefit Management Plan (DBMP). The land based option involves finding a suitable land parcel that meets all the defined offset criteria for the matter that is being offset. Wallum Froglet and Wallum Froglet Habitat   

    For example, if Wallum froglet habitat is being impacted by a project, then the offset area will need to be Walllum Froglet Habitat -  or an area of land that Wallum Froglet Habitat   could be returned to Walllum Froglet Habitat (meeting certain criteria) after habitat restoration works and an ongoing management regime. 

    The Direct Benefit Management Plan Option differs from traditional land based offsets and is simply a plan of priority actions that will benefit the specific species or ecosystems that are being affected by the project. This may take the form of funding for an indigenous ranger program or a PhD scholarship that addresses some of the treats. 

    So in summary – tips for avoiding a long and complicated assessment process:  

    • Get in early – determine your projects’ environmental impacts and avoid / reduce those impacts where possible 

    • Ground truth – don’t believe the official mapping! 

    • Get in touch with Burchills and Earthtrade to determine the best offset options for your project. The proponent driven options will usually save a lot of money in the long run.

     

    For further information and assistance with your project please contact Caroline Kelly or Alan Key

    Caroline Kelly, Principal Environmental Scientist – Burchills: 07 5509 6479 or caroline.kelly@burchills.com.au 

    Alan Key, Managing Director – EarthTrade: 07 4194 5009 or alan.key@earthtrade.com.au 

    [1] Biodiversity is the full range of plants, animals and micro-organisms, the genes they contain and the ecosystems of which they are part. Biodiversity sustains both our lives and much of our quality of life by providing valuable ecosystem services such as nutrient and water cycling, maintenance of healthy soils, and plant pollination, and as a direct source of raw materials and food.

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  • Creating a Winner - Palm Beach Heights

    Tuesday, December 02, 2014

    "The UDIA judges made special mention of the winning team's ability to tap into the surrounding natural features and local and regional infrastructure while cleverly dealing with a range of complex site constraints."  

    Demonstrating an ability to turn a bold project vision into reality, Palm Beach Heights Estate has been awarded the winner of the small residential category at the prestigious 2014 Urban Development Institute of Australia (Queensland Branch) gala awards. Beacon Builders and Burchills Engineering Solutions jointly submitted the project for the awards and joined other project team members Storey & Castle Planners and B&P Surveys in overseeing the total transformation of the site to create client Beacon Builders’ project vision of “Coastal Living, Urban Vibe”.

    A key factor for success was the project's integration with, and enhancement of, the surrounding neighbourhood which has benefited from the new public open space areas, walkways and bikeways, and neighbourhood connectivity. The steep terrain demanded well thought out engineering solutions involving detailed earthworks modelling and featured retaining walls to create attractive level building sites.

    Director of Beacon Builders, Peter Beaconsfield commented "We are thrilled for Palm Beach Heights to have been recognised by the UDIA as an example of urban development excellence. Out of all of the projects our company has completed to date, this has to be one of the most challenging and the most satisfying".

    Mr Beaconsfield said "the award is just recognition of the attention to detail in the design of all facets of the estate and he is looking forward to working with the consulting team again on the next project".

    For further information:

    - Contact Paul Kelly, Burchills Project Team Leader paul.kelly@burchills.com.au
    - See the full UDIA Awards Palm Beach Heights feature article here
    - Visit the Palm Beach heights website here
    - See all of the 2014 UDIA Award winners here 


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  • Reaching for the stars - the new Burchills

    Thursday, July 03, 2014

    The clients and guests of Burchills Engineering Solutions took to the night sky last Thursday as the company celebrated it’s relaunch of the Burchills brand and 40 years of heritage. Held at Skypoint Q1 “the top of the Gold Coast” guests enjoyed great views, fine food, cold drinks, and great company.

    Managing Director, Steve Coote thanked clients and industry partners for their support noting the significance of the evening’s celebrations “Tonight is a special night for the company as we celebrate the return to local ownership and the Burchills brand, and also the significant 40 year heritage and service history of our team…. There is 267 years of continuous service held by just 10 members of our 30 strong team“.

    Steve also took the opportunity to outline the future plans for Burchills Engineering Solutions “We will be focusing on our strengths in helping to get projects up and running in the property and urban infrastructure markets, leveraging our depth of experience and local knowledge for the benefit of our clients, and mentoring our young talent to be the next generation of “go to” professionals”.

    Rob Molhoek, MP for Southport also spoke congratulating the firm, outlining local infrastructure projects & initiatives, and explaining the improving economic & tourism outlook for the Gold Coast & Queensland. Rob made particular note that employment growth in Queensland was the strongest in Australia and within 12 months Queensland’s GDP growth is expected to reach 6-7%.

    The formalities of the evening culminated in the cutting of the Burchills 40 year cake by Tony Parker, industry icon and 40 year service Burchills team member.

    If you would like to have Burchills Engineering Solutions working with your team, please contact Steve at steve.coote@burchills.com.au.


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  • UDIA Congress Wrap Up

    Wednesday, April 09, 2014

    Thank you for visiting our trade booth at the UDIA National Congress and for playing ‘Burchills Bullseye’. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting you all and watching you try your luck at hitting our projects (with some being more successful than others!).  

    Congratulations again to our lucky prize winners. 
    Major Prize Winners:  
    - David Donaldson – Land Partners  
    - Grant Bass – Lauders  
    - Greg Comiskey – Whelans  
    Runners Up:  
    - Peter Leeson – Star 8  
    - Bronwyn Linder – SA Water  
    - Scott Roberts – IBN  
    - Joshua Yates – Golder Associates  
    - Simon Paxton – PICA  

    With more than 250 years of experience, you are in safe hands with Burchills Engineering Solutions. We have completed projects all around Australia and are willing to meet you wherever you are.  Whatever your specific requirements are, we aim to have them satisfied.  Where relevant, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss how Burchills Engineering Solutions could partner with you on your next project.   Thank you again for your eager involvement at our Trade Booth. We look forward to meeting you again soon
    .


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  • Join us at the 2014 UDIA National Congress and share your story!

    Monday, February 10, 2014

    The National Congress of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) will be held in Brisbane between 26th and 28th March 2014 and incorporates an impressive line-up of speakers, study tours, networking events, and the National Awards for Excellence. Burchills Engineering Solutions are proud to be a sponsor partner for the congress and will be showing off our wares as a trade show exhibitor.

    We invite you to visit us at the conference and participate in our booth activities, demonstrations, and chance to win prizes. We are particularly keen to reconnect and share stories with clients and industry partners who have worked with us over the years spanning back to the old Burchill Partner days. If you haven’t booked for the Congress you can here

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  • Residential Development finally on the move

    Saturday, February 01, 2014

    It is about time, but residential development in Queensland is on the move. Our clients and industry partners are consistently reporting increased sales rates as market confidence continues to improve. The graphs above from Prodap show that a return is long overdue with a virtual sales vacuum since the GFC.

    Rapidly increasing prices in NSW and the forecast of improving economic conditions driving employment in Queensland over the next year may see interstate migration once again on the increase adding pressure to the current low stock levels. According to Queensland Government statistics the most popular lot sizes are between 350-600m² followed by 600-800m².

    Burchills Engineering Solutions has undertaken preliminary work on hundreds of sites in the SEQ growth corridors and can provide advice on civil, water, environment, and structural aspects of development. Our experienced team provides solutions for residential, commercial, industrial, and government clients from concept to completion.

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