Bowens - The Builders Choice

Queen Vic Markets: The Challenge of Supply

Building Advice
Jeff Harvey

Recycled Posts

Replacing recycled hardwood posts on a heritage listed building is not an easy task. We should know.

About 20 years ago Bowens were engaged by McCorkell Constructions to supply appropriate timbers for the rebuilding of the iconic St Kilda pier kiosk. Burnt down at the hands of a serial arsonist, the popular tourist attraction needed timbers to be replicated or substituted with appropriate fit for purpose timbers to meet heritage listing requirements.

The process was long and many of the original timbers were not available, requiring each replacement species to be justified.

As it sometimes happens, history has a habit of repeating.

Recycled Hardwood Posts for Queen Vic Markets

McCorkell Constructions won the contract to replace and refurbish sheds at the Queen Victoria Market. Interestingly it involved the same architect who designed the St Kilda pier kiosk. This is where Bowens comes in.

Although the posts are not a major part of McCorkell’s overall contract, the post order we won the supply of had to be perfect. In the past, the Melbourne City Council had received previous supplies of replacement posts that they were far from happy with. The pressure was on Bowens.

From initial request to quote until an order was confirmed, 5 months had passed. In that time there were numerous conversations where we had to justify/assure all concerned we had the ability to supply the appropriate product. And we did.

After the first delivery we had a phone call from the on-site builders remarking on how good the quality of the posts were, even questioning if the posts were recycled. Perhaps because there have been instances where some timber suppliers have mocked up new timbers to look like a recycled product. We can assure readers of this article, Bowens would never undertake such a dishonest practice.

What exactly did Bowens have to supply?

To those of you who may be thinking, so what? It is easy to supply a recycled timber product!

This is what we had to contend with:

  • Most of the original posts had to meet a finish size of 225×225 to match existing posts
  • Heritage listing meant McCorkell’s had a directive to use as much of the original posts as possible, only splicing when posts needed to be replaced with existing post from the original structure
  • This meant there were varying lengths required depending on the amount of degradation
  • Our brief was to supply the replacement recycled post not only to 225×225 dimensions, but also the varying lengths depending on the amount of degradation of each post
  • Also, we were required to have the posts square end docked to an exact length, no easy task for posts of this dimension
  • All posts had to be at a durability class 1 according to Australian Standard AS 5604—2005, in above ground circumstances
  • The architects also dictated a moisture content of about 15% moisture content, obviously concerned, they wanted the replacement posts to be at a similar moisture content to the existing posts
  • We must maintain the above supply conditions for another 12 months.

Timber Selection & Scope of Work

To meet the criteria listed above our supplier requires a significant amount of time to select recycled timber that would;

  • Make the finished dressed sizes to match existing posts
  • The age of building meant the length of each post has a variable specified length square end docked to the millimetre
  • A timber section as large as specified needed to be of an age where the moisture content including the core was about 15%. From experience often the moisture content of large recycled sections in the core is still relatively high after first used well over 50 years ago
  • As well the species still had to meet a class 1 above ground durability rating
  • As the posts are to be painted, we were able to supply the posts with a quality primer. We could have supplied an oil based sealer if required.

Standing the Test of Time

The materials Bowens supplied for the iconic St Kilda pier kiosk 20 years ago, will continue to service that building in a very harsh environment for a lifetime. We are sure the material we have supplied, and will continue to supply, to complete the refurbished sheds at the Queen Victoria Market will be just as hard standing.

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