University of Sydney Engineering and Technology Precinct

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Sydney CBD, NSW

University of Sydney Engineering and Technology Precinct

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Austral Precast Double Wall

Laing O’Rourke

Engineering and Technology Precinct Phase 1 (ETP), University of Sydney, Maze Crescent, Darlinghurst NSW

Austral Precast Double Wall provided Laing O’Rourke with a safe and effective method for constructing a new Engineering Building in the heart of the University of Sydney campus.

The University of Sydney’s Darlington campus is conducting a redevelopment of their Engineering Technology Precinct, which will deliver the systematic refurbishment of their existing facilities to provide an environment that fosters world-class teaching and research. The precinct renewal, which commenced in February 2019, will include the addition of a new Electrical Engineering building, and will consist of approximately 11,000 m2 of new or shelled space, 6,000 m2 of refurbished facilities. The redevelopment involves a BCA upgrade of the existing Southern J03 building, and the addition of a new 10-storey wing to the building’s North. The building is characterised as a contemporary and collaborative facility, and will include teaching labs, research spaces, a school hub and academic workspace. The new Engineering Building will enable increased research opportunities for students attending The University of Sydney, and improve amenities for students, staff and the wider Darlinghurst community to enjoy.


A key consideration throughout the construction of the revitalised Engineering Technology precinct was maintaining operation within the existing building, with minimal disruptions to staff and students. To do so, Laing O’Rourke maintained clear segregation between the operational learning areas and the building site, and developed a clear plan for the demolition and construction processes to ensure all activities were staggered. To ensure the safety of all persons on site and prevent disruption to the wider university community, a decision was made to use the Austral Precast Double Wall system in the new building. As an offsite precast product, Double Wall provided a solution to concerns around disruption and safety, as well as increasing the speed of construction.

‘Our first priority throughout the construction was to minimise disruption to students and staff,’ says Joe Thompson, Laing O’Rourke Project Leader. ‘The Austral Precast Double Wall system allowed us to reduce the noise and activity associated with traditional construction of vertical elements, which created a positive outcome for the build and the wider university community.’


Austral Precast Double Wall is a structural system consisting of a pair of precast reinforced concrete shells connected by lattice reinforcement trusses to form a cavity that is filled once installed on site. Steel reinforcement, edge forms and built-in components can also be factory assembled and transported to the construction site as part of the system. Once on site, edge forms and reinforcement connections are completed and the hollow cavity is filled with premixed concrete to create a solid concrete structure, tying the Double Wall panels to adjacent walls and floors. With less weight than solid precast panels, the Double Wall enables savings in installation costs and time, proving beneficial for Laing O’Rourke as they are set to complete the build by the end of 2020.

The decision to use Austral Precast Double Wall for this project came about by Project Leader Joe Thompson, who frequently used the system during his time at Laing O’Rourke’s UK operation. After seeing its success with various projects overseas, Joe decided to introduce it to their Sydney operation, where it was welcomed with open arms. The University of Sydney Engineering Building is the first project where Laing O’Rourke have used Double Wall in Australia.


‘We are always looking for innovative solutions to make our projects more streamlined, particularly through products that are manufactured off-site,’ Joe Thompson says. ‘By using Austral Precast Double Wall we have achieved savings in installation costs and time, providing certainty to our ability to complete on or ahead of program, and minimising disturbance to students and staff.’

To reduce disruption to stakeholders, Joe and his team operated the construction site on a fast program, which meant seeking efficiencies in every trade to minimise the time each required on-site. Double wall significantly reduces materials handling on site such as scaffold and reinforcement, liberating space to improve site logistics. It reduces the critical time spent on the construction of vertical elements and avoids the need for scaffold – both supporting Laing O’Rourke’s drive for safety and efficiency on its construction sites.


‘Working on a 10-storey building, with basement, on a tight footprint with a challenging program meant that conventional formwork methodology was not viable for this project,’ Joe says. ‘The Double Wall system provided all the benefits of off-site factory production, freeing valuable space around the perimeter of the build. The reduced weight of the panels could also be installed with smaller capacity cranes, which contributed further to space and cost savings.’

Austral Precast Double Wall provided Laing O’Rourke with an efficient, safe, and cost and time saving methodology for building a new Engineering Building at University of Sydney, in the heart of Sydney CBD. Double Wall allowed Joe and his team to minimise disturbance to stakeholders throughout the process of the build, which was their first priority. As their first time using Double Wall in Australia, Joe says that the experience was a great success, and will continue using Double Wall in the future.

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