Home News Continued development creates new construction technology

Continued development creates new construction technology

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New Zealand based company believes it has the solution to modular flooring systems that could be used worldwide


Australia’s modular building operators are demanding suppliers meet very stringent design scopes to meet their continued expansion.

And it’s these demands that are proving fertile ground for companies whose building products and systems can be produced with extreme accuracy and at the breakneck speed that modular building owners and operators stipulate.

The answer is in the use of innovative machinery that can create cold formed steel floor chassis, using highly accurate steel sections and joists, that transport in kitset form to outlying locations and allow on-site concrete placement, in this case, for modular building accommodation.

The floors are a marriage of the Speedfloor Composite Flooring System and the Howick Steel Floor Joist System which provides floor units with the flexibility of a steel system and the mass and durability of a concrete system. The Floor Cassette kit is a bolt together system with concrete slab options of 65 mm to 95mm that allows for floors up to sizes of 14.4m x 4.2m.

Other benefits of the Speedfloor Transportable Floor include the ability to cast features into the floors such as foundation connection details, set downs for showers and penetrations for services.

An additional benefit of the rollformed perimeter channel is the ability to punch service holes and frame hold down locations saving much of the labour required with the current systems available.

Already the first four  floor units developed and built by Howick Engineering and Speedfloor in New Zealand, have been manufactured in Auckland and shipped to Melbourne for assembly and casting.

Once the building is completed, they are transported via road train at a startling 14.4m long by 4.2m wide, with the finished single level building weighing in at 18 tonnes.

Their final destination is Port Headland in the northern outpost of Western Australia and the use of this innovative technology marks another first for the industry.

Nick Coubray, of Howick Engineering explains.  “The job was well underway when we had to pause and redesign to take into account a change to the design regarding wind loading.  The Australian regions classed in the category of Region D produce the highest wind loads known in the world. The ability to meet these requirements is a positive endorsement to the time invested in developing this system for the modular building industry.

“What it has done is ensure that our buildings are signed off for the worst possible situation – and that capability has created increased interest in the company and what we do.  We’re working to secure an order for ten times the initial requirement and feedback from the market indicates this is just the start.”

Howick Engineering has sound credentials in design for worst possible conditions; its products are currently being used to build Russia’s winter Olympic village. Four machines are at work there, producing cold rolled frames able to withstand loads of up to 650kg/m2 to cope with the high snow loads in the mountains as well as the seismic constraints.

Russia, Siberia and Afghanistan are all reference sites for Howick Engineering’s H560   Framing Machine, and show a marked change from its  more usual market of hotels and houses.

Instead, large industrial buildings are being created in around a third of the time of the traditional process of bringing in hot rolled steel.

The latest, in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert is a two-part office and workshop building for a mining company, created in two months instead of six, by using the H560 to manufacture the steel framing on site.

The design highlights that Light steel framing extends the range of steel framed options into commercial construction which has traditionally been in hot rolled steel and masonry in Mongolia.

There are two distinct parts to the Gobi Desert building, the Office area and the Garage area; measure 18.15m x 24.15m and 46.15m x 18.15m respectively.  All light gauge steel and sections were designed and calculated in compliance with Euro Codes EN1993-1-3, of which imposed loads were also accordingly calculated but based on loads provided by the client, Newcom.  Wind loads were advised as 0.7 kN/m², with the Roof loads as 0.66 kN/m² Dead (Permanent) and 0.6 kN/m² Live (Variable).

Coubray says the Perth mining accommodation order sprang from viewing a prototype in Auckland and visiting engineers in Melbourne, but interest is running high in Australia for the company’s steel framing capabilities as well.

Interpod in NSW has just completed a project comprising 300 bathrooms of 35 different types, using Howick’s unique framing system. Interpod is running their framing machine for as  little as 1-2 hours a day whilst still meeting its production target of 25 bathrooms a week.

A large Interpod project in Carlton, Victoria has gone very smoothly with over 230 bathrooms delivered so far. The company reports the Howick system is impressive, noting it is extremely simple to operate, produces high quality and consistent frames, and makes frame manufacture a breeze with pre-cut, punched and labelled components.
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