08/02/2018 - 15:42

Hera innovates with high-rise

08/02/2018 - 15:42

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Matteo Tirapelle is a keen advocate of high-rise construction in Perth, taking a resourceful approach to structural engineering that promotes the use of alternative materials such as timber.

Hera innovates with high-rise
Matteo Tirapelle says his mission is to reduce unnecessary concrete use and promote more timber high-rise projects. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Matteo Tirapelle is a keen advocate of high-rise construction in Perth, taking a resourceful approach to structural engineering that promotes the use of alternative materials such as timber.

Mr Tirapelle worked as a kitchenhand when he arrived in Australia from Italy 11 years ago, before gaining employment with Wood & Grieve Engineers and later launching his own consultancy, Hera Engineering, in 2015.

Mr Tirapelle said his tendency to think outside the box had enabled Hera Engineering to deliver significant cost-savings for projects it had worked on across the city.

In just a couple of years Hera Engineering has built a team of 15 and a pipeline of high-profile projects, including structural façade work for the new WA Museum, consultancy for Stirling Capital’s Northbridge student accommodation project, and a 41-storey office tower project in Brisbane with Multiplex.

Mr Tirapelle said word of mouth had been the main driver of business for Hera.

“My goal is to become an expert on sustainable high-rise construction,” Mr Tirapelle told Business News.

“I like to make projects more efficient, and that also helps the environment – you need less concrete and materials, so that’s less emissions in the environment.

“A lot of projects use so much concrete, they just see the easiest option. 

“But there are other materials. Timber is really good because it’s ductile, sustainable, and five times lighter than concrete.”

Mr Tirapelle said a push had got under way in Italy since the turn of the century for greater use of engineering timber – a material sourced from a dedicated plantation rather than through deforestation, with logs cut into beams and columns that can vary in size.

Technological advancements had resulted in the creation of timber slabs, and Mr Tirapelle said this had started to gain traction locally with the opening of a plant in NSW last year.

He said the production process for a steel beam created 10 times the amount of CO2 as that for a comparable timber beam.

“Concrete, it’s probably eight times more, so you can see how efficient timber is,” Mr Tirapelle said.

One of the latest projects on Hera’s books to receive development approval is for Australian Development Capital’s 13-storey Leadlight Hotel in Northbridge.

Mr Tirapelle said the project would be the first high-rise timber hotel structure in the city.

“The site is on top of the tunnel, so they had to build something lightweight,” he said.

Rammed earth was another alternative material Mr Tirapelle had worked with, with its strength and natural insulation qualities among its attributes.

“Now, especially on the east coast, there is a lot of new technology becoming available for construction,” he said.

“The engineer needs to catch up with that.

“I guess that’s our edge; we’ve already caught up.”

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