White Hat believes that the building currently (April 2010) under construction in Russell Place in the centre of Melbourne is of major significance. Its name is Little Hero. The architecture firm of Fender Katsalidis has taken a major step in the realm of modular building with a concept they call Unitised Building. The ‘units’, typically the size of a moderate city apartment, are produced with a wide range of options for exterior and interior fitout. They are then transported to the prepared site a set of apartments can be constructed in remarkably quick time with all the advantages of energy savings and quality control that factory production can confer, together with much reduced disruption to neighbouring homes, businesses and traffic. However the crucial point is that these units can be reused. If and when the building needs to be demolished the units can be unbolted, refitted or repurposed as necessary and used again. The implications for carbon footprint are significant. Below you can see a unit being lifted from the back of a semitrailer to its position on top of the growing building.
The units are being lifted into place between at the rate of about typically 3 a day. White Hat believes it could be at the rate of about 8 a day if disrupting traffic in Bourke Street were not an issue.
The first units in place
The site which has been chosen possesses interesting challenges and has been passed over several times by developers. It is up a narrow lane and the and the units have to fit under tram wires and avoid causing too much disruption to city traffic, If the project can proceed under these under these conditions it provides a good testing ground and if successful it has important implications for creating affordable, attractive, environmentally responsible housing along the transport corridors of our major cities and beyond.
The second layer of units commences - note the narrowness of the lane
A specially made 'cradle' is attached to the fixing points of the units. This cradle absorbs the lateral inward pressure from the cranes cables. Once the unit has been lifted into place the cradle is removed and used for the next unit.
The cradle being lowered
The underlying principles of Unitised Building