WE ALL think a shed made for Australian conditions has to be made to exacting standards, but the team at Swan Hill Engineering will feel it's child’s play in comparison to one of their latest assignments.
Greg McCalman, of Swan Hill Engineering, said his business had recently constructed a helicopter hangar for use by the Australian Government in Antarctica.
The shed was constructed in Swan Hill before Australian government engineers erected it on-site.
To be effective, the shed, which is situated at the Davis Research Station, south-west of Australia, has to be able to withstand blizzards and fierce Antarctic winds pushing up to 260km/hour.
“The conditions there are certainly challenging.”
But it was not just the obvious environmental problems that posed a challenge - Mr McCalman said there were a lot of subtle logistical constraints to overcome.
“For instance, we had to design around the minimal available resources in Antarctica, and that meant using things such as pre-cast footings, because the moisture in concrete freezes before curing in Antarctic conditions, so all that had to factored in beforehand,” he said.
He said the unforgiving conditions meant everything within the shed’s structure had to be perfect.
“We didn’t have a margin for error in terms of ensuring everything was aligned, as welding is very difficult in sub-zero temperatures, so it all had to be right to start with.”
In Australia, a little gap within the shed can be lived with, it may be annoying and mean the dust has to be swept out more often, but there is no insurmountable problem with it, but Mr McCalman said minute gaps in Antarctica would soon see the hangar covered in fine snow dust, so the sealing system had to be able to cope with blizzards.
Logistically, he said the company had to follow a strict timeline to ensure the shed was up and ready in time, with a slim window of weather conditions in Antarctica suited both to getting the materials to the site and erecting the hangar.
“If we had missed the ship, we would have had to wait a full 12 months to have another go.”
The pristine environment of Antarctica also needed to be respected.
“The shed had to be freighted in custom-made timber crates and inspected to remove the risk of contamination,” he said.
However, he said due to the company’s rigourous system for shed construction, it had only required a few minor tweaks in the manufacturing process to create the shed to specifications to suit Davis Station.
The company has grown since its inception in 1986 and now services customers across Australia.
“We’ve got experience in building sheds for a range of industries, including commercial, industrial, rural and equine,” he said.