High gloss Geoshine™. Basalt with standard grey base. Winner International Architizer A+ Awards, New York 2016.
A ground breaking building in regional Victoria has made a stunning impact on the global design world with its futuristic form and innovative use of polished concrete.
One of Melbourne’s leading polished concrete specialists, Paul Warner, says the Ballarat Construction Management (BCM) headquarters are a marvel of both design and construction, and his most rewarding work yet.
The building earned BCM and architects Crosier Scott the people’s choice for best facade at the fourth annual Architiser A+ Awards, held in New York.
The industry’s premier international architecture awards feature thousands of entries from more than 100 countries, and more than 1.6 million public votes.
Paul, who established his polished concrete company Geocrete in 2001, says he was thrilled to have contributed to the building’s international success.
The ground breaking design features a gravity defying spiderweb of polished concrete and glass that houses the reception and front offices in a spectacular, two-story atrium.
The rear wing, which accommodates building material and machinery, was constructed of a geometric jigsaw of polished concrete panels.
Paul said it was a cutting edge design choice to use concrete as both the structure and the decorative cladding , which once polished created such a visually striking look.
“Another one of the unusual and challenging features of the job was that all concrete used in the building was poured on site,” he said.
“The atrium’s concrete beams were created in two monolithic pours, which required an incredible degree of precision.”
Paul polished the majority of the concrete horizontally using a half tonne planetary grinder.
However, portions of the concrete spiderweb had to be painstakingly polished by hand with a 5” grinding tool, which was incredibly labour intensive and required great attention to detail.
“It was extremely demanding physically and there was a huge emotional investment from the client, who in this case was also the builder,” Paul said.
Half way through the job, three cranes were needed to lift and rotate the concrete ninety degrees so that Paul could complete the polishing. The finished concrete structure was then lifted into position.
Built as a post-tension slab, the criss-crossing concrete beams measured an impressive 60 megapascals in strength, giving it nearly 2.5 times the strength of a standard slab.
“The concrete was over-engineered with ‘steel on steroids’, and it was an engineering feat that the structure stayed in one piece during each lift,” he said.
Another futuristic feature of the building is the coloured LED lighting that traverse the concrete beams and illuminate the building’s exterior at night.
“It really makes the building pop and looks just like a UFO has landed in the area.”
Paul, who worked on the project for four months, said it was complex and difficult work, and one of his greatest challenges.
“The sheer volume of cement and the scale of the project was like nothing I’d ever done before,” he said.
“But if it was easy it wouldn’t be so satisfying.”
He said it was fantastic to be part of such a ground breaking project.
“The design and execution surpassed anything we normally see in Australia, and to be doing it in my own backyard was quite amazing.
“It was also fantastic to be able to promote my industry and showcase what we can achieve with polished concrete.”
Before founding Geocrete, Paul ran his own concrete finishing company, and earned a degree in geology.
He becomes very animated when talking about the passion he has for his job and the earth sciences.
“I love concrete and I love rocks.”
“I love what I do, working with my hands and moving my body, visualising things and then creating them. And I love getting other people excited and involving my clients in the design phase.”
His job also involves finding the right concrete suppliers and project managing the pour.
Polishing concrete is a time consuming process encompassing a series of grinding, densifying and polishing steps.
“What I love the most is showing my clients the finished product, and seeing the joy and happiness on their faces.”
The BCM project has put Geocrete and Paul Warner on the map as a specialist polished concreter and trouble shooter.
“Architects are constantly looking for new products and contractors who can achieve certain specifications,” he said.
“I often work with architects to trouble shoot and advise on the possibilities and pitfalls of using polished concrete and what to look for in polished concreters, to ensure the right contractor is matched with the appropriate scale of work.”
Paul, who has worked with concrete for 22 years, said his expertise and sheer amount of experience has paid off.
“The advantage I have is that I am both a passionate owner as well as the person on the tools, controlling the project from start to finish.”
Polished concrete has quickly established itself as the leading flooring option around the world thanks to its superior quality, durability and style.
Its green credentials have also fueled its popularity, where the thermal mass of concrete can be used to minimise a building’s heating and cooling needs.
The dramatic and light filled reception space of the BCM headquarters makes clever use of polished concrete flooring to absorb the sunlight and act as a heat bank.
“Another feature is that there are almost infinite design possibilities when using polished concrete, with a wide array of aggregates, cement types and sheens to choose from,” Paul said.
With the natural beauty of concrete on full display, the BCM building features a concrete mix design of bluestone with standard grey base, polished to high gloss.