What springs to mind when you read the words ‘off-the-shelf’? Generic? Standard? Inflexible, perhaps? Here at Fleetwood Urban we’ve been working hard to change this stereotype by actively encouraging our clients to explore the possibilities of customising our off-the-shelf solutions – often with head-turning results. This approach can certainly bring many advantages, especially from the perspective of cost and time efficiencies.
One of our recently-completed Access projects for the Blacktown Workers Junior Rugby League Club is a great example. It saw us tailor our existing Balmoral™ system to deliver a striking 150-metre curved pedestrian bridge designed by Sydney-based landscape architects, CLOUSTON Associates, linking the club’s new carpark with its sports fields, and passing twice across a sensitive wooded riparian corridor.
Having worked together on more than 20 different bridges over more than two decades, CLOUSTON Associates directly recommended Fleetwood Urban for the fabrication and installation stages of the project.
For us, customisation has always meant more than making a few cosmetic changes. It’s about taking a proven structural solution and then reimagining it to ensure it perfectly matches a client’s requirements, whatever they are.
In the case of Blacktown Workers Junior Rugby League Club, the customisation process was a creative and collaborative journey, guided by our 4-stage delivery model, DesignExecute2™. Beginning with the detailed designs provided by CLOUSTON Associates, our in-house delivery team first explored the overall creative vision for the new bridge.
As Martin O’Dea, Associate Director at CLOUSTON Associates explains, “We designed the bridge as a continuously curving ramp. The best way to imagine it is like an orange peel, with the balustrade forming a continuous sweeping line. We also proposed that the balusters be painted different colours on each side, so the bridge appeared differently depending upon where you saw it. We used vertical balusters to make the structure unclimbable and because we know horizontal wires can fail over time. Where the bottom of the bridge was no more than 900mm above the ground, it had no balusters so that any flood waters could easily flow and debris wouldn’t get trapped and put undue loads on the bridge.”
This was all vital project knowledge, and armed with it, our design engineers were then able to make several key modifications to our standard Balmoral™ bridge system.
Steel ‘fin’ balustrades
One of the biggest changes saw the addition of the custom steel ‘fin’ balustrades that required extensive shop detailing. As Martin O’Dea explained, these uprights also featured different colours on each side to provide a different visual experience when you go up (orange) to when you come back down (green). The design also called for integrated lighting in the handrails with electrical drivers concealed between the balustrade fins.
Bespoke support structure
The team also delivered an important variation to the usual Balmoral™ support structure. Based on a design that CLOUSTON Associates had used successfully on a previous project, the customised structure featured ‘Y’-shaped support columns which met the aesthetic vision for the project, while also allowing for the possibility of 1:100 year flooding and minimising the construction footprint in the sensitive riparian habitat.
Providing easy disability access was another design consideration. This required the standard Balmoral™ structure to be further tweaked to allow for landings every 14 meters along the 150-metre span, before being finished with highly durable FRP decking.
On time, on budget, on vision!
Despite considerable modifications – not to mention the environmental sensitivities of the site – I’m delighted to say the new bridge was installed on time and on budget, after being fabricated entirely off-site in our Sydney workshop. We were able to meet every expectation of both CLOUSTON Associates and the Blacktown Workers Junior Rugby League Club. The result was a highly functional new footbridge that delivered all the cost benefits of being ‘off the shelf’, together with the design sensitivity and flexibility of a truly bespoke project.
Find out more about Fleetwood’s Balmoral™ bridge system here.
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