In Case of Emergency

In Case of Emergency

The Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) is building a unique emergency services learning and training facility. Head Contractor on the project, Leighton Contractors Pty Ltd, has engaged Geschke Plumbing to oversee the installation of the rainwater and gas facilities. Jonathan Jackson speaks with one of Geschke Plumbing’s directors, Gareth Dickson about the challenges ahead in this important project.

The site for the new MFB training facility is currently a sprawling landmass potted with props that once constructed will form a world class emergency services training facility. The plans are impressive and when you hear about how the site will be transformed to replicate a city environment it makes you want to see the completed facility.

This is an 18.6 hectare site that contains 3.5 hectares of practical learning environment which will feature the following purpose built training areas:

• A residential area that will simulate typical Melbourne suburban homes, containing six fire fighting scenarios. A petrol station will be used to simulate LPG-tank, dumpster and automotive workshop fires. A high-rise building represents a typical Melbourne city building with multiple fire scenarios incorporated on each level.

• An industrial zone with a petro-chemical plant that will replicate facilities found in Melbourne’s industrial areas and will simulate fires involving hazardous materials. Here, foam training will also be incorporated as well as low and high angle rescue.

• A transport zone that will simulate emergency scenarios requiring inter-agency response. Scenarios simulated here will include train and tunnel fires, train and tram stop incidents and road accidents.

• A marine environment that will provide training for fighting both dock and shipboard fires. A broad selection of fire simulators, combined with vessel realism, allow for fire suppression, damage control and search and rescue training.

With all that is going on, there needs to be a very high standard of plumbing built into the complex, which is right up Geschke’s alley.

Specialised installations make up a large component of Geschke’s past, current and future works.

Their installation capacity includes: sewer drainage, stormwater drainage, trade waste treatment systems, siphonic rainwater system design and installation, hot water and warm water systems, thermostatic mixing valve installation and testing, backflow prevention installation and testing, fire services including pumps and tanks, hydrants and hose reels, gas supply, specialised water treatment systems Grey water , trade waste systems and more.

They are currently working on the Melbourne Markets, Craigieburn Town Centre Stormwater Project, Urbanest 320 Student accommodation units, the Olivia Newton John Cancer and Wellness Centre and a fire service refit at the Latrobe University in Bundoora among other major projects.

The work required for the MFB build is significant, but it plays to Geschke’s strengths.

Overseeing the MFB project is Geschke director Gareth Dickson. There are two main components to the build: rainwater and gas.

“The rainwater facility is designed to capture not only the rainwater that falls out of the sky, but also the water from fire hoses used during the fire training drills,” Gareth says. “So we’ll capture that water and it will then be treated.”

“The intent of this project is to produce water that is captured as rainwater or has been used for fire fighting and is treated to become equivalent to potable water,” Gareth says.

The capture tank is locally produced and will store 800,000L of water underground. Pumps will pull that water out and take it through a treatment plant. The plant room will then undertake a number of steps to treat it to become equivalent to potable standard. It is then pumped into the fire system ready for fire fighting.

“That water is not to be used on site as potable drinking water, it is to be used for fire fighting training” iterates Gareth.

The water treatment plant is being installed by Waterform Technologies, a contracted Victorian business. Like all companies involved in this process, they were heavily vetted to ensure they could meet the demands of creating water equivalent to potable quality.

There is also a 300mm domestic cold water main that is being built for the project. The main is there to serve as the final insurance policy and back up to the water supply of the testing facility especially if there’s a drought.

“If we don’t get rain and there’s not a natural contribution to the tank we will need the mains back-up, but that is not the preferred option in this day and age.”

One of the project’s key objectives is to build an environmentally conscious learning and training facility, incorporating environmental initiatives that minimise adverse environmental impacts both during construction and the ongoing operation of the facility.

The gas facility is possibly a little more complicated. This is a unique design and Gareth says it has been a journey to get that application running. Geschke has worked closely with Energy safe Victoria (ESV) to ensure the high pressure gas line, an 800kpa liquid LPG line running to approximately 54 Type-b gas appliances, is safe.

“The gas appliances are located in different positions throughout the buildings and the rooms are set up to be true mock rooms; a bedroom with a steel bed acts as a wet prop which has an underlying body of water that keeps the steel structure at an even temperature,” Gareth says. “So this room is an ‘on fire’ room, regulated by a control room. The flow and intensity of the flame is regulated when the fire fighters are fighting fire. “Someone sits in a control room and runs each prop as it is in use.”

The challenge for Geschke is to get the gas line up and running and safely delivered. It is a great challenge for a local business working with the internationally renowned HAAGEN, a leader in the provision of fire services.

“We as a local plumbing business are on-supplying labour to HAAGEN to do some of the fit-out of the Type-b appliances.
HAAGEN brings the technology to install the Type-b gas appliances to the props and will employ Geschke Plumbing to assist as a local contractor with the knowledge to assist with the installation.

The project requires Geschke to run combined service trenches. This means they must include fire services for the training props, but also real fire services for certification of the building; so there’s mock and real fire services.

The only way to achieve this is to have good skilled labour on board all working in the same direction and to have strong relationships with the head contractor. Geschke and Leighton Contractors, who is overseeing the construction of the project, have formed a solid alliance.

This is a distinct project that many in Geschke’s field tendered for. It was the prestige and uniqueness that attracted Geschke, but they had to take a different approach to many of their other jobs.

“We approached the tender process differently because we had to outsource parts of the work. Usually we can deal with all facets of a job, but with the specialised gas requirements and with the requirement for a capable experienced LPG pipeline contractor we have employed Skinner Engineering for this part of the work”.

It meant Geschke was able to bring in another local business, Syfon Systems who is applying a siphonic drainage system to the academic building.

There is a great deal of construction to oversee, but behind the scenes John Geschke leads the design team with Jesse Thorgersen who draws each of the buildings before they are sent to construction.

“That is very useful,” Gareth says of the design arm of the business. “We couldn’t be tackling these dynamic projects without the expertise required to bring closure to some of these complex designs, we wouldn’t be as competitive or add as much value management to the level that we are able to do with their assistance.”

Gareth looks after the construction division of the business with Steven Geschke and is directly involved with the labour and decision-making at the coalface. He believes the MFB project will be one that Geschke can hang its hat on.

“It’s a world leading facility. It will be an example to be set around the country. Everyone is watching intently. For us, it means the ongoing evolution of our business.”

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