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RMD Skytower

Skytower and Olympic TV Coverage

Location: Australia
Client: WCG

If you were one of the 30 billion people glued to your TV set throughout the Sydney Olympics, you might like to say a silent ìthank youî to WCG [Walter Construction Group] and RMD Australia. Without both companies' commitment to adopting a partnership approach to the construction process, and their engineering inventiveness, you may possibly have had to rely on day-old reports in the newspapers.

Why? Because it was WCG's determination to devise the best possible solution - the company's strapline is Constructive Thinkers - and RMD's equal resolve that enabled the $ billions of TV equipment in the huge IBC - the International Broadcast Centre - to be linked to Stadium Australia, the SuperDome and the news-hungry outside world. WCG was the main contractor for the $90 million project, and RMD Australia's Sydney office designed and supplied the support structure that carried 300kM of essential cables and fibre-optics. RMD also built the TV Skytower - known by most Australians as the 'Cockatoo Tower' - that soared above the IBC.

The original plan was for the work to be carried out using conventional structural steel. However, this decision was overturned when WCG was able to demonstrate to its clients, the Olympic Co-ordination Authority and the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, that the RMD Australia solution was not only technically feasible, but was also in tune with the 'Green Olympics' theme adopted throughout the Games. By hiring equipment from RMD Australia, Walter Construction had minimal capital outlay, the client had the work completed within the fast-track timescale, and the environment benefited as the 180 tonnes of equipment was dismantled and removed within the stipulated one-month period and without any wastage.

The solution proved so successful that, while initially RMD Australia was commissioned to design, erect and ultimately dismantle the work associated with fitting out the IBC, it resulted in the company also winning the contract to construct the 24.5-metre high Skytower. The ease with which last minute changes could be accommodated was also a major factor that convinced the client of the suitability of the RMD Australia solution. RMD Australia's project managers, Ben Wassens and Tony Dutton, also cite the inherent flexibility of the modular system.

The IBC is a huge structure; the statistics are awesome. Originally the largest warehouse in the Southern Hemisphere, it was converted into the largest broadcast centre ever built. Within its 70,000 square metres, 15,000 TV engineers and broadcasters beamed the Olympics to the eager world. The building was big enough - it is twice the size of Stadium Australia - for NBC for example, which reportedly invested $1 billion in the event, to construct 70 fully operational studios within its walls.

The 190 radio and TV companies were unanimous in their verdict that the Sydney Olympic Broadcasting Organisation [SOBO] had provided facilities that surpassed anything previously staged.

So managing the kilometres of cables was a real challenge. While, like all of the TV equipment, it was destined to remain for just the duration of the Games, it had to be supported and distributed throughout the IBC building, and beyond. RMD Australia's solution was to construct support frames throughout the building to carry the cable trays at high level. Standard Megashor stanchions that varied in height from eight metres to 10.7 metres were used to carry four specially designed and fabricated cable trays in two groups of four. The Megashor uprights were dynabolted to the existing concrete floor and fixed to the IBC's roof beams with special connectors that provided vertical movement of plus or minus 40mm. The cable trays were connected to the webs using standards web brace connecting pins.

According to David McKnight, Walter Construction Group's senior design manager on site, the use of Megashor stanchions ensured more than adequate load capacity. He says: "At some points the arms, which were placed six metres apart, had to support up to eight trays, each one loaded with cables weighing more than 100kg a metre, that was a total load of 4.85 tonnes"

Externally, between the IBC and Stadium Australia, the cables trays were supported on purpose-designed portal frames constructed from RMD Superslim Soldiers, where each frame supported eight cable tray support arms. These four-metre high gantries varied in width between

2270mm and 2940mm. Longitudinal bracing was provided by 90mm by 90mm by 8mm angle, while cross bracing took the form of scaffold tubes that were fixed to the Superslim Soldiers using specially designed angle connections.

Megashor and Superslim Soldiers were also used to build the Skytower, a temporary structure constructed solely for the Olympics. It incorporated an interview platform at Level One, two commentary studios at Level Two, and a Level Three viewing platform that supported receiver dishes and doubled as camera positions, as it provided panoramic views over the Stadium, the Olympic Village and Homebush Bay. Access to each level was provided using Kwikstage access scaffolding and the platforms themselves were constructed using Alform beams with plywood decking. Each platform was constructed at ground level, prior to being crane lifted into position.

WCG's project manager for the IBC, Rhett Webster, attributes the success of the RMD Australia solutions to ìthe fact that the company provided a complete solution, which was coupled with an engineering design service that really gave it the edge. As part of this service, RMD Australia had a 24-hour maintenance agreement whereby a qualified person was on site at all times.

Related Links

Download the Megashor Brochure here

Download the Superslim Brochure here

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