Andrew Pettifer

20 May 2014 — Arup’s Andrew Pettifer has moved up the ladder a notch as part of staffing restructures to better position the engineering group for a growing order book in Sydney. There’s work in a crop of new buildings, including a new head office in Investa’s redevelopment at 151 Clarence Street, road and light rail contracts, and an emerging trend in office to residential conversions.

According to Pettifer, who is now Sydney office leader (he was previously building services team leader), the Sydney market is now looking good and Arup’s Sydney office is back in “growth mode”.

“We’re bullish about this year,” he told The Fifth Estate. “Our level of activity across the office started to increase about six months ago and now we see more opportunities and work coming in so it’s looking more and more positive.”

Among the new batch of work is on the upgrade of the Pacific Highway, but it’s not just roads that are stoking the infrastructure order book, Pettifer says. “We’re working on the light rail in Sydney and Canberra. Light rail is a strong suit. And we’ve still got a lot on in the building side.”

Major building projects include the new library and plaza at Green Square, not far south of the city centre, and a number of commercial developments including One Carrington at Wynyard and 100 Mount Street in North Sydney..

New offices come with the services contract

Another important tranche of work will be Arup’s new offices at 151 Clarence Street, where a deal struck with developer, Investa, signs up Arup to lease four floors in the new building and to be multi-disciplinary engineers for the base building as well. And yes, the two deals were interconnected.

“They invited us to provide a fee proposal so whether we moved in or not, we put forward a normal commercial fee, but if we took the building then we wanted the job,” Pettifer says.

Pettifer will combine his new Sydney office leader role with another new title, group leader for buildings in NSW where he replaces Paul Sloman who is now Australasian regional group leader, with Rob Saidman replacing Mr Pettifer as building services team leader.

Architectural Engineering

Another change is the establishment of an architectural engineering team, headed by Kerryn Coker.

Pettifer says the new profile packages the ESD, building physics and façade teams. But the architectural side of the tag doesn’t mean Arup is moving into architecture; it’s more an acknowledgement of the interrelatedness of the disciplines, he says.

“Architects know that to design a building they need structural and services engineers but they also need to be supported with a lot of other technical skills.”

“When you think about it”, Pettifer says, “a lot of how the building performs is about the façade, so how you analyse the physics of the building and how the façade performs is very much linked to the overall performance of the building. A lot of the work we do is around analysing how heat and light interacts with thefaçade.”

Such as the intensive modelling needed at Barangaroo, with its prolific use of sun shading, he says.

“With building physics we do a lot of clever analysis. For instance at Barangaroo the commercial towers will use a lot of shading devices, and the shading is tuned to the orientations of the curved facades… a lot of detailed analysis goes into that. We wrote some new scripts and worked out how to fine tune the design of the shades to achieve a really cost effective design.”

Partly the move also came in response to a rise in questioning of what’s coming next for sustainable development, which was also discussed at a recent Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, or CIBSE, event, Pettifer says.

“A lot of people are asking where ESD is going and where the market is heading post Green Star, and it is seems the market for those services is in a state of flux.”

“I’m not saying ESD is going off the agenda but people in that space don’t know where it’s going and what services clients will be demanding in the future”.

“When [ESD] started it created a profession in its own right but now there’s One Planet Living and Living Building Challenge… everyone is looking for a bit of an angle on it.”

Arup’s response is to focus on the interrelatedness of the various disciplines that generate high building performance.

Resi conversions

This is another challenging area in building work – converting offices to residential uses. The business case is simple: a new crop of A and Premium grade office buildings, such as at Barangaroo, is enticing tenants out of older premises, with little in the way of office demand left to soak up the empty spaces. But that’s a market opportunity the resi developers are quick to spot.

“We’re starting to get enquiries,” Mr Pettifer said. “Obviously the residential market is quite hot and with the new premium and A grade stock coming on, of course everyone shuffles up – and you end up with [empty] stock at the bottom.”

But though these conversions make sense from a market point of view, from an engineering point of view they are “pretty major interventions”.

There are advantages – generous floor to ceiling heights, that make installation of new services relatively easy, but the downside is creating a whole array of distributed plumbing and drainage, especially as most offices have centralised services.

Pettifer says a recent office conversion in Melbourne opted for hotel use instead of residential. The result is a new Space hotel that minimised bathrooms but pitches its dormitory style rooms and private rooms with shared bathrooms as “glam-packing”, or upmarket backpacking. Part of the winning formula is a much more affordable price point, he says.