The Malt Store, Melbourne, Australia

New life to a repurposed iconic building

“The restoration of Melbourne’s Malt Store building is a magnificent example of a heritage restoration project that used an array of innovative structural techniques to retain and showcase a building of significant historical architectural and engineering value,” said David Law, Principal Structural Engineer, Aurecon.

The former Carlton & United Brewery Malt Store building has been an iconic feature of Melbourne’s streetscape for over 110 years. The Malt Store building itself was constructed in 1904 to store malt, sugar and hops and house fermentation cellars. It is of state historic and aesthetic significance due to its representation of the early manufacturing history of Melbourne’s inner suburbs, expressive of 19th and 20th century brewing processes.

The building was vacant for 25 years after brewery operations ceased, with site ownership passing through a number of hands before Grocon bought the site in early 2006.

Aurecon was contracted by Grocon to rejuvenate the building and give it a new life by restoring and repurposing it into modern retail and office space, whilst retaining the style and integrity of the original heritage structure. The key was to develop an innovative design and strong business case in order to provide a robust, adaptive and economically viable tall building which will be functional and sustainable for generations to come.

One of the major challenges of the project was tackling the numerous structural and remedial engineering challenges while preserving the heritage of the structure, improving sustainability and providing value for money on the project.

Aurecon managed to retain approximately 90 per cent of the primary steelwork in the building by only removing members that were too badly damaged or where clashes with the architectural layout could not be avoided. Detailed testing and research was needed to determine the steel properties and to develop a suitable welding procedure for the brittle steel with many impurities.

Another contribution to the sustainability and value of the project was to retain the existing foundations without modification (except for the lift pit). This was developed initially by carrying out detailed analysis of the original design loading, then carefully managing the new layouts and structural systems to remain within this limit. This was then proven by exposure and testing of some footings and bearing material.

One of the unique aspects of this project involved the team from Aurecon working directly with the builder, Probuild. This collaboration allowed Aurecon to provide construction assistance and guidance on temporary works and sequencing. Having Aurecon engineers on site during construction greatly improved the quality, speed and safety of the building works.

The engineering approaches that were used for the Malt Store renovation project are far from business as usual. Every element of the structural design required a creative solution. In this sense it is fitting that the building itself spurred the design team towards greater levels of innovation, and the building reaped the rewards of that innovative thinking.

Completed in 2015, the end result is a unique and high quality office space that achieved an extremely sustainable outcome by reusing and repairing a very high portion of the original structure. The historic structure is not only retained, but it is highlighted and celebrated for all the occupants and public to appreciate, providing a community benefit and historical legacy.

David Waldren of Grocon commented on the innovative, out-of-the-box thinking of the project team. “That the engineers were able to find ways in which the original tanks could be meshed within a modern office environment and made very much a feature of the building speaks volumes for the lateral thinking of our engineers and their talents for finding ways in which future office tenants and their visitors will be able to appreciate the work of the building’s original engineer, Sir John Monash,” commented Waldren while referencing the project team’s ability to incorporate the heritage site’s malt tanks into the revamped building.

Aurecon is privileged to have been involved in this iconic and historic building project. Aurecon was able to bring the client’s idea to life by rejuvenating and restoring the structure to its former glory while retaining the original character in order to add a new chapter to the Malt Store story.

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