Key Projects
Memories of Southgate 10 years on Print

March 1, 2003

TEN years ago, one of the most significant projects for Melbourne was launched, turning the city on its ear and changing the lives of its citizens forever.

Southgate, a multi-million dollar development, opened up the southern side of the Yarra River, replacing old warehouses, factories and dingy lanes with a sparkling array of restaurants, retail shops, business towers and a five-star hotel.

The city that had turned its back on the riverside for more than 150 years was now turning around and embracing it as a new focal point. Fantech won the contract to supply all fans and attenuators for the project, which was of such a size that it is still regarded as a major construction within the Australian building industry.

Mechanical equipment ranged right across the board, from simple exhaust fans for the bathrooms of the hotel rooms on 23 levels to 11 giant chillers that provided air conditioning for the major buildings.

There were car park exhausts, axial fans, centrifugal fans, blowers and attenuators in a wide range of sizes and shapes.

Project manager Bob Dunstan, nowadays with Sharp & Pendrey mechanical contractors, said the range of building styles also meant that a variety of requirements, scheduling and configurations in terms of exhaust systems and silencers had to be addressed.

For example, by its very nature, the Sheraton Towers hotel required exhaust systems and silencers that would provide quiet operation 24 hours a day. The car park also needed to work on an all-hours cycle.

On the other hand, the restaurants and shops tended to come on stream at midmorning and go on to late in the night, while the two office towers worked at traditional 9-to-5 business hours.

“Then there was the Church,” said Bob. “It is one of the few remaining original buildings, and needed equipment in keeping with a quiet place of worship.

“So you can see, there was a diverse range of buildings, requiring a wide range of product and engineered solutions.”

Such was the size of the project, Bob recollects sometimes having 200 plumbers on site at one stage. Keith Eaglsesome, Fantech’s sales executive on the project, said Southgate was “the largest order the company had received to that point.”

“Most days I was involved on site to ensure the contract ran smoothly,” said Keith who, after the project was up and running, left Australia to set up a Fantech operation in New Zealand which has now become a major force in that market.

Keith said that despite the scale of the project, and a lot of re-working and changes, there were very few moments of anguish, with Fantech and mechanical contractors for the project, A. E. Smith, working in well with Jennings Constructions and numerous other contractors and suppliers.

“It was a happy team, and great times,” Keith said. Added Bob Dunstan, who ultimately spent five years on the project: “It was a joy.”

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