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John Holland Team Ring the Changes

Sam Davidson heads up John Holland’s building operations throughout the state and is determined that his team responsible for the construction of the Belltower receive the recognition they so richly deserve.

The story is best told by those closest to the workface and I have no intentions of stealing their thunder, specially not those tales from John Voorn the site manager who was very aptly termed "the soft spoken but powerfully built man with a heavy black beard" during his discussions with the lady herself during the Queens visit.

Word has it that John will now need some retraining to convert him back from the debonair tour guide that constant site visits metamorphosed him into to the construction man we are more familiar with.

From the outset it was obvious that the task of converting an architect’s vision of what has been termed as the largest musical instrument in the world was going to be a huge challenge. It has been met and success is evident for all to see.

John Holland have proved yet again that they have the ability to deliver quality projects on time and within budget regardless of the degree of difficulty or complexity of the undertaking.

The process was assisted greatly by maintaining a close working relationship with clients representatives from the Premier’s office (Alf Lay) to the architects — particularly Martin Pugh representing the highly successful project management operator from Clifton Coney Stevens who coordinated the frenetic flow of design and other information sufficient to allow the site team to do what they do best and that is to construct.

Being the only one of its kind in the world, there was no past experience that could be drawn upon to assist in the construction process. For instance no other constructor in the world has had to produce sails such as those embracing the structure. Many other aspects of the main tower are "one offs and have never been done before, this is why I am so proud of the John Holland site management team that consisted of Ashley West, Projector Manager, John Voorn, Site Manager, Tim Burns, Site Supervisor, Denis Valhov, Site Administrator. Special mention must be made to every worker who participated in the historic construction. Without their many and varied skills the Belltower could not exist and all without causing a single serious injury to any person.

John Holland again feel privileged to have been part of the re-development of Barrack Square. We have come to know this area well as we have been changing the face of it in some form or another for the past six years.

Both John Holland and our subcontractors gladly accepted the opportunity to be involved in such an important project as the ‘Swan Bells’.

The design is truly unique and posed several challenges for designers and subcontractors, as there were no similar experiences to draw upon. What this did was nurture enthusiasm from all those involved and led to great satisfaction when the ideas paid off and the product was delivered.

We were successful in being awarded construction of the Swan Bells and Landscape Works Contract because of innovative ideas that gave us the edge over our competitors.

Significant redesign of sail framing, spire jointing and the entire glazing system meant that the Client’s budget was maintained whilst giving us time to have several offsite activities occurring concurrently. The major initiatives to the spire were the simplification of bolted joints in lieu of welded joints to all the three sections and the completion of glazing in individually framed panels to spires erected on temporary bases at site ground level. This negated the need for extensive scaffolding and loading platforms for the full height of the structure.

Another factor was the change in methodology for fabrication and erection of sail and lift-shaft/stair framework. Our solution was to fabricate these in ‘as large as could be transported’ components, which minimised the extent of on-site welding required.

The finished article is truly a masterpiece and has been a win-win for all. Perth has a new landmark, the local bellringers have the benefit of using the largest musical instrument in the world and our subcontractors and their workforce have been able to develop new products and skills. To all of those involved in the project, but particularly my staff, congratulations on a job well done!

It has been a unique experience. It is the only site I have managed that has been in the news every single day,” says the now almost legendry John Voorn.

“When we started we would be abused by the public and motorists on a daily basis. But now they all seem to love it and give us a thumbs up as they go by.”

He has spent 14 months on the project and has intimate detail of not only the engineering achievements and construction challenges but also the acoustic engineering and even bell ringing techniques. He has even rung Zachariah, the largest bell.

As John Holland’s site manager in this project he has had to deal with political and public issues not normally encountered in our business. They range from daily publicity in the media, to hand-building copper sails, to showing VIPs including the Queen through the unique construction site.

If he ever decides to retire as a building site manager for John Holland there would be an instant job for him as a tour guide at the Swan Bells bell tower.

Without prompting he will tell you that this bell tower is to him and every tradesman that has worked on the project something very, very special. He even had custom monogrammed shirts made and handed out to the 100 subbies who have spent the longest time on the site.

“This structure could never be replicated,” he said. “Not one tradesman who came on this site was able to do a normal job. They all had to rethink their skills to create what is more like a hand sculpted work of art, than just another building.”

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