Expanding MCEC - largest convention and exhibition space in Australia

Case Study

melbourne center

Author: Tamara Stakic

The Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC), located in Australia, is undergoing an expansion to help the world’s most liveable city retain its position as the meetings and events capital.

The 20,000-square-metre expansion includes 9,000 square metres of:

  • Flexible, multi-purpose event space
  • New exhibition halls
  • Additional meeting rooms
  • A banquet room
  • A new café and bar

When completed the new space will cement MCEC’s position as the largest convention and exhibition space in Australia, with an increased total size of more than 70,000 square metres.

The expansion is part of a larger South Wharf expansion project that includes a new 347-room Novotel Melbourne South Wharf and a new 1,150-space multi-level car park – all fully connected and integrated with existing buildings. The car park is complete, and the new hotel recently opened.

The Victorian Government provided $205 million AUD for the expansion of MCEC, and the State’s partner Plenary and its partners Flagship Property Holdings and Vicinity Centres are investing more than $150 million AUD in the new hotel and car park.

Melbourne-based steel fabricator Stilcon is one of the many local companies working on the project, engaged by the project builder Probuild to manufacture and install the entire steel skeleton for the new exhibition hall, convention centre spaces and the car park.

Stilcon is providing a complete steelwork package – steelwork processing, cambering and painting, transportation to the site, and finally the onsite erection. All this is done from fabrication at their facility in Melbourne’s west.

Central to Stilcon’s work is the fabrication of five 85-metres-long trusses, weighing more than 70 tonnes each. Each truss is comprised of eight 21-metre modules, ranging from 5 to 10 metres in height.

The finished product, comprising of 4,300 tonnes of structural steel, combines the highest levels of strength with structural integrity and manoeuvrability for safe, stable installation.


A progressive approach to deliver a complete steelwork package

A progressive approach to deliver a complete steelwork package

To speed erection times and create better safety exclusion zones onsite in Melbourne’s busy central business district, Stilcon employed a more progressive approach to constructing the steel frame for the new four-level carpark.

The method of steel erection proved to be a crucial time saving aspect allowing the façade contractor and concreter to proceed onsite unconstrained and work in parallel with the steelwork contractor. Stilcon site engineer Adam Tierney explained this ‘vertical method’ focuses on a full-height straight-up build of a section of the structure, which is replicated in turn across the building width adopting the same principal approach.

Stilcon adopted the approach to allow trades to access the full height structure earlier, while the steel erection crew could work a few bays ahead, rather than the more common horizontal floor-by-floor build sequence. Increasing the number of bays built also provides a safety buffer zone between steel erection and follow-on trades, which is an Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) requirement on the site.

“The flatter 'horizontal' approach is how most other multilevel carparks have been traditionally built in steel or concrete which spreads the floor area out wider, limiting the ability for multiple work fronts,” Tierney said.

The vertical build method involved firstly constructing a single square grid bay using full-height (13-metre tall) columns with some temporary propping to achieve plumb erection. All primary and secondary floor members are erected starting from the lowest level, resulting in a complete four-level-high bay of steelwork.

Once the initial bay was completed, secondary bay structures were then built in two directions, allowing a block of bays to be completed sooner by Stilcon to be handed over to follow-on tradespeople.

In this case, the metal decking was laid first on level two followed by level one. While metal deck laying was occurring on level one, the reinforcement placement began on level two. The slab was then poured on level two, creating a safety deck between the upper and lower structure.

Then steel reinforcement was installed, and concrete poured on level one as well as the steel decking laid for level three by the installer working off the poured level two.


From the ground, up

From the ground, up

To provide crucial time savings and accuracy, Stilcon turned to Madigan Surveyors, a professional surveying firm that provides a complete range of services to the construction industry and allied professionals. Madigan Surveyors used Geosystems solutions to precisely set out all steel connections to an existing structure – from ground slabs where the column anchor bolts and base levels are precisely set out to horizontal connections into existing structural slab edges or walls.

Geosystems solutions were used to manage the construction layout for connections to existing structure, ensuring that the construction team were working to the as-built condition rather than the design.

In addition to capturing as-built conditions, as-built surveys captured newly built structures as part of the quality assurance procedures and to also set out existing walls for any member connections.

Due to the higher flexibility and movement in steel structures, the survey scope also included monitoring of the main exhibition hall roof trusses.

Trusses were monitored throughout the entire build cycle. During the monitoring stage, the project team captured the defection of the trusses at initial erection stage when the truss is initially under own self weight. Further monitoring was conducted as the roofing, truss cladding and operable wall systems were loaded onto the trusses.


Simple layout, easy setup

Simple layout, easy setup

Stilcon also recently purchased the iCON robotic construction total station due to its ability to tie neatly into established building construction workflows and rapidly speed up installation preparation and construction tasks. A solution which Andreas Caleta, Stilcon surveyor, favours for its simplicity and ease of use.

The Leica iCR60 has a simple and guided setup routine designed for minimal use error to give users the confidence for an error-proof set up routine.

“The iCON robotic total station is the fastest, reliable and easy-to-use layout solution, making it one of the most productive one-person layout solutions for construction professionals who have a need for positioning tasks and bringing design to reality,” Caleta said.

Reporter 83

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