Award winning shade structure

The customer, a catholic school in Sydney’s Northwest, came to us with an unusual problem. As part of the school BER programme, they had commissioned a new school hall adjacent to a COLA (covered outdoor learning area), with the idea that the COLA would provide overflow seating to the hall by way of huge vertically operated folding doors.

The problem was that in times of inclement weather, the 6m gap between the structures meant a wet seating area with the added risk of damage to the hall’s timber floors plus an OH&S risk created by slippery wet floors.

The request then was to come up with a membrane structure which would effectively join these two very different roofed structures – one which created a large continuous auditorium protected from weather.

Our Site Production Manager took care of this enquiry from first phone call to the end; tackling all the problems and issues encountered along the way – not the least, joining two buildings of different roof structure and shape which were not even sited squarely next to each other.

These problems saw many businesses approached, decline the opportunity – not so with us, where we ensured the customer’s expectations were met every inch of the way.

What was the purpose of the project?

The purpose of the project was to design, fabricate and install a structure to join two different shaped roofs between the school hall and covered outdoor learning area, with the client’s end vision being to create a large continuous and more open waterproof area for the schools students and hall.

Another key aspect was to minimise potential OH&S issue arising on wet weather days, whereby rain would blow in the school hall creating a hazardous and slippery floor surface.

Why was it manufactured?

By installing this 6.2m x 22m infill PVC membrane between the two existing structures we were able to successfully open up their outdoor under cover area, so the school and its students can now fully utilise this quadrangle and hall area in all weather conditions.

Where it was installed?

This structure was installed at St Angela’s Primary School in the North West Suburbs of Sydney. As this structure was installed on school grounds the utmost care was taken to ensure that there was very minimal disruption to the school students throughout design, installation and clean up.

What is Unique or complex about the job?

To overcome the challenge of successfully joining two very different pitched roofs we had to come up with a solution that was going to be functional and at the same time visually appealing. This was extremely challenging due to many factors; from the existing buildings not being square, to the variances in degrees of the slopes in the skillion roof of the COLA to the hip roof of the hall.

The resultant design is very unique as the final membrane structure itself consisted of varying radius curves, lengths and angles in steelwork and required the PVC membrane to fit like a glove. In the final design none of these elements were exactly the same – not once piece of steel was the same length or bent to the same radius and not one seam on the membrane was straight or parallel to another member or seam.

In order to achieve this, we first had to survey the area to determine the final rafter properties – lengths, angles & curves. We then also had to make sure the eaves were clear of overhangs, but at the same time staying as close as possible to the roof to minimise any wind driven rain that may blow in the sides of the structure.

Once the steel frame was installed, the assistance of a professional surveyor was enlisted to survey the structure under the nominee’s direction – this was challenging due to the structure’s twisted shape and amount of steel required; there was no clear line of site to the Theodolite and therefore three different reference points had to be picked up to take all of the measurements. Then of course, there was the height at which the work needed to be performed. The data was then patterned and converted into a plot file for us to weld together. None of the resultant panels were the same, nor were any seams straight or parallel.

Another degree of challenge on this project was that the structure was custom built on site with the aid of machinery to work at heights and also to lift materials into position.

The hall had a skillion with a pitch of 15 degrees, whilst the COLA had a hipped roof with open gable, with a pitch of 30 degrees.

The client also had an OH&S requirement on this structure to incorporate digitally printed warning signs (danger do not walk on structure) on the membrane itself to highlight a potential OH&S issue if the membrane was misused. Although this wasn’t difficult in itself, it just added another element of detail to the structure.

How did the project achieve the clients needs? What were the results of this project?

Our production manager displayed excellent customer service skills and a determined ability to see the project from initial enquiry to final completion. This is evidenced through the client being very pleased we has successfully solved the school’s issue of creating a more usable continuous covered area, effectively joining the hall and adjacent COLA in an innovative way.

Is there any other relevant information?

We managed this project from the very beginning to final customer satisfaction follow up with the client. This entailed many site visits and concept drawings back and forth to the client; quoting; final design; managing other trades, surveyors, and engineers; organising, overseeing and giving guidance to our work team on site, and the manufacture of the membrane.

The award winner determined and coordinated the design and procurement of all materials and services that were used on this completely customised structure.

This project took a lot of commitment by our team, especially dealing with the school & education system to make sure that all of their requirements were met including understandably, a rigorous approach to health and safety. There was a great deal of problem solving as different concerns arose from different education panels regarding this structure. In the end all concerns where addressed and the project was approved with the majority of the work taking place during the school holiday period (the steel work) and the membrane installation once school returned, involving closing off one section of the playground to work safely.

We enjoyed this project and all of its challenges – from meeting all needs and requirements to the complexity of the building itself including dodging the rain over a particularly wet summer in Sydney. Both he and the client are very pleased with the end result and we as a business are proud of the finished product which demonstrates the versatility of fabric in addressing a unique building challenge!