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Concrete conservation for Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House has completed a concrete conservation strategy to conserve the Unesco World Heritage site for future generations.

Consultant Arup and the University of Sydney collaborated with the Sydney Opera House to deliver a holistic conservation study, which it said drew on historical knowledge and potential future technology.

Arup said that a new modified “tap tester” tool to manage testing of concrete beneath its iconic sails had already been developed. As part of the test, the hammer has a built in microphone, thermal and force sensors to help provide accurate data about the condition of unseen concrete.

It said that this job, which is currently undertaken by technicians abseiling from the sails, had been earmarked to be performed by robots in as soon as five years’ time.

Arup said that it had been involved from the early stages of the project and that its organisational understanding of the building had been used to help inform the overarching strategy.

The company has also provided technical input into inspections as well as archival materials, from original Opera House structural drawings to interviews with generations of engineers.

“We have been working on the Sydney Opera House for almost 60 years, on over 300 individual projects. In our work, we draw on this historical understanding regularly,” said Arup Australasia principal Marianne Foley. “Our accumulated knowledge is an invaluable resource not only for the Concrete Conservation Strategy, but for the future operation and protection of our nation’s most significant cultural asset.”

The study has been funded in part by the Getty Foundation’s Keeping It Modern project, which aims to preserve international examples of modern architecture. The Sydney Opera House, described by the foundation as a transcendent cultural symbol, was one of the first ten recipients.

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