Facing Up to Challenging Projects

Advance Civil Engineering

In the discipline of civil engineering, successful projects are the result of not only years of first-hand experience, but thorough planning.

Successfully taking on the design and construction of numerous concrete structures associated with large civil works such as locks, bridges, water mains, road construction, floating jetties, concrete boat ramps, bridge rehabilitations and many other infrastructure contracts, Advance Civil Engineering Pty Ltd will often start planning a project as the job is being tendered.

“Throughout the tender period, while we’re tendering on the project, we’re also giving a lot of thought to the techniques, and how we go about it,” says Keith Aitken, Managing Director at Advance Civil Engineering. “If after the close of the tender period we happen to be successful, we have already given a fair bit of thought to how we are going to go about it. Once we know if it’s successful, we start to bring all those aspects together and look at what are the best ideas, the costing, and so on. Generally, we are well and truly into that even before we might be successful on the project.”

Marking 34 years in business this coming May, Advance Civil Engineering was formed by Mr Aitken in 1980. Earlier, throughout the seventies, he worked in Papua New Guinea on a number of well-known civil engineering projects. Once PNG gained its independence from Australia in September of 1975, Mr Aitken realised that educational opportunities for his children were limited, and – seeing the need for civil engineering services back home, particularly projects in remote and isolated areas in Australia’s Northern Territory and Top End – decided to return home and establish his own company.

Today, Advance Civil Engineering remains a successful, family-owned and operated business, with a staff of approximately 20 highly experienced engineers, carpenters, boilermakers, steel fixers, plant operators, concreters and office specialists. Priding itself on designing and constructing concrete structures, the company stands apart from others for its abilities and expertise working in harsh, unforgiving remote and tropical environments. With its skills and decades of first-hand knowledge, Advance Civil Engineering is qualified to advise clients on all aspects of infrastructure constructions, while having the abilities to ensure major civil engineering and mining projects are completed on time and on budget.

A History of Quality Civil Projects

Working mainly on projects located in the Northern Territory, Advance Civil Engineering is accredited by the Territory in different categories and levels, which enables the company to tender on a variety of government projects. Accredited to contract up to $25 million in engineering structures, marine structures, earthworks and civil works, the company has taken on a number of projects for Defence and other government departments in Western Australia. “Generally, our institutional clients – the Federal Government, the Northern Territory Government, city council, people like that, they have a structured tender process – that is historically where we’ve focused when it comes to finding work.”

Along with the company’s many engineering skills, Advance Civil has expertise when it comes not only to project planning, but working with inclement weather.

Located in Darwin – the most northerly of all Australian capital cities – the area remains an essential gateway by land via the Stuart Highway, rail, and by water. Built atop a low bluff overlooking the harbour, Darwin is a link to markets in Indonesia, East Timor, and other countries, and remains a hub for mining, energy production, tourism, and has a strong military presence. It has also been the site of many mayor construction projects, such as the redevelopment of the Wharf Precinct. The area’s proximity to water, and an unpredictable wet season which runs on average from November to April and can bring in over two and a half metres of water, makes some construction sites simply inaccessible. In these cases, says Mr Aitken, the amount of planning involved is leaps and bounds beyond that required for ordinary, everyday construction jobs.

“You really have to program your projects for certain areas where you just cannot logistically get to the project – there has to be a lot of thought put into that,” says the company’s Managing Director. “There really are periods where you have to think about what you want to do, how to achieve it, and at some stages, just leave it alone, and wait for the right time.”

Working on massive civil projects, many of them from a height, over water and in rainy conditions, requires an unparalleled commitment to safety. To ensure all projects are carried out properly, Advance Civil Engineering retains a full-time Safety, Environmental and Quality Assurance officer, who is responsible for the planning and implementation of all aspects of the nominated disciplinary thru the life of each project. Additionally, staff working in remote areas are part of a rotating system – two weeks on and four days off – which is better for worker health and productivity.

In order to ensure worker safety and efficient, state of the art construction procedures, the company maintains a modern office complex and workshop in Darwin. On sites, the company’s workforce is equipped with a fleet of 4WD vehicles, all outfitted with mobile phone and/or radio contact to ensure communication outside the metropolitan area, an essential requirement for remote locations. Owning and maintaining all of its own light to heavy engineering equipment, the company is able to tackle all civil projects through its combination of graders, compaction rollers, excavators, backhoes, mobile cranes, tip trucks, loaders, concrete pumps, and high lift water pumps.

Diverse Civil Engineering Projects

From intersection upgrades to bus and truck parking areas, communications ducting, storm water systems, water main redevelopments, reinforced concrete chilled water tanks, all the way to bridges and locks, Advance Civil continues to lead the way in design and construction of civil engineering projects in the Northern Territory.

“Concrete structures have been central to our engineering business,” says Mr Aitken. “The skill level is higher than that on other projects, like earthworks.” As specialists in concrete structures and bridges, the company has taken on a number of well-known projects, such as the West Baines Bridge. A massive undertaking, the project – situated along Victoria Highway 400 kilometres west of Katherine – comprised of two bridges, for a total of 12 spans with stress anchors, the project was completed with 900 reinforced concrete piles, concrete headstocks, half New Jersey kerbs with steel barrier, and standard pre-stressed bridge planks with a concrete running deck. Once completed, the $1.7 million bridge span measured 90 metres in length.

Not limiting itself to bridge projects, Advance Civil has successfully completed numerous other concrete structures. For the Northern Territory University, the civil engineering firm successfully completed a mammoth chilled water tank with a 10 million litre capacity.

It is on lock projects where Advance Civil truly is able to demonstrate its expertise in all areas. For Auscorp Group Sydney, the company created the Bayview Haven Lock. Valued at $12 million, the project saw Advance construct a shipping lock, which connected an inner lake to the open sea. In order to overcome high tides ranging from zero to eight metres, the project necessitated the installation of a temporary sheet pile protection wall, which was stabilised with an inner earth core. Maintaining a dewatering system throughout construction, the job required recharge pumps to be installed at the inner end of the under floor to allow for maintaining lake water levels. With a lock floor constructed approximately two and a half metres below mean low tide, four tunnels were created to link the front inlet gates through to the lake. Steel sector doors were installed on the seaward end of the lock, while the inner door consisted of a steel draw bridge. The finished lock was then equipped with a fully automatic electric over hydraulic drive system, used to operate all facets of the lock, gates and sluice gates, with the completed lock level about 12 metres above the founding level. It was a project that ably demonstrated Advance’s ability to work in a challenging marine environment while managing to deliver a complex project on time, and on budget.

For the past two years, the company has been engaged with the Clallam Bay project. It’s responsible for reconstruction of the lock walls for a new $60 million ferry pontoon terminal structure. A challenging project, it is located over the sea, and required heavy componentry and massive cranage needed to hoist a 10-tonne drill rig into place, for drilling anchors 80 metres deep. “We had to mount that over the sea, and hold it in a stable situation – that created a lot of logistical problems for us,” says Mr Aitken of the project. Similarly, the $24 million Stokes Hill Wharf – another project working over water and through tides – had the added logistical problem of needing to maintain traffic and access on and off the wharf while under reconstruction. “It was complex, and we came up with some innovative ideas, and again, that was partly using modular-type panels which we installed over the water to give it some base to work off – it wasn’t a simple project, it had a lot of good planning about it.”

Despite decades of advanced engineering expertise and numerous successfully-completed projects, Managing Director and founder Keith Aitken says one of the greatest strengths for the company remains the loyalty of its staff, which helps to create a better understanding between both parties. This is, he says, something he learned many years ago while working in Papua New Guinea.

“Most people have got something to offer; it is how you go about getting that on track,” he says. “Too often I see, particularly among young people, that their superiors aren’t making any sort of effort to try and draw the best out of people, and in fact that has a reverse effect, and the people become disillusioned and so on, and nothing works. I think if you start with loyalty and both parties are loyal, I think you build on something from there, and it really works.”

For more information about Advance Civil Engineering, please visit http://www.advancecivil.com.au/

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