Understanding Industrial Heritage and Safe Digging

Preserving our heritage also means preserving our identity. Without the heritage we can look back to, a huge part of ourselves will always be missing.

That’s why history has always been (and should always be) a vital part of academic curricula. Understanding the past and seeing our heritage are vital in forming our identities. This understanding of the past also provides us with insights on where we are headed.

Beyond sentiment and psychology

Preserving our heritage goes beyond valuing our past. In fact, it’s also about creating a brighter and profitable future because heritage sites often become popular tourist destinations. The heritage structures (including industrial sites with historic and architectural value) stimulate local economic growth and often strengthen a community’s identity.

For example, the North Alexandria industrial conservation area shows the distinct industrial character of the place. With the consistent pattern of simple buildings with repeated elements plus the cohesiveness of the streetscapes (and how the buildings and streets were designed in relation to the waterway), there’s no mistaking it that the place is the North Alexandria conservation area.

It’s a similar case with the William Street industrial conservation area (located on both sides of William Street in Beaconsfield and Alexandria). Pronounced cohesiveness also forms the area’s distinct industrial character. With organised streetscapes and laneways, the area provides a glimpse of the site’s history and architectural value.

Those places can also serve as inspirations for designers and architects who are trying to come up with new designs. In addition, these inspirations can help architects create new designs while keeping the past and the place’s original identity intact. This way the entire area retains its identity and “brand” while moving forward as new structures are being built. This retention of identity then helps in building or sustaining a sense of belonging to the locals.

What about major developments?

However, there are cases when moving forward requires letting go of the past. In other words, some structures need to be destroyed or modified to give way for the new. Although there are still cases when the structure is just being repurposed (e.g. core architectural elements are still preserved), significant changes are likely to affect the identity of the structure and the place.

For example, the old warehouse located at 14-16 Buckland Street, Chippendale is now ripe for transformation to keep up with the modern times. The warehouse was constructed for W.A. Davidson (shirt manufacturer) in the 1900. It had served as a factory over the years (import headquarters of Alfa Romeo cars and a publishing house). The warehouse displays the 1900s architectural and industrial history because of its federation windows, massive arched doorways and solid brick construction.

Being ripe for transformation, the warehouse can be converted into an attractive residence or commercial space. Its strategic location and proximity to restaurants, wine bars and residential developments (plus being surrounded by the University of Sydney, University of Notre Dame, Australian Performing Arts Grammar School and other educational institutions) makes the old warehouse ideal for a major residential or commercial development.

With that development comes along significant changes when it comes to the appearance and identity of the warehouse. Some of the history and heritage will be lost as a result of the modification and the structure having a new purpose (to house residents or provide space for commercial activity).

This kind of development presents unique challenges. How can we move forward if we’re always trying to preserve the past? How can we drive progress and change if we’re not willing to set aside the old for the new? Expect more warehouse conversions and similar developments to happen because after all, industrial facilities are in strategic locations (easy access to transport network, proximity to commercial centres).

As mentioned earlier, it’s possible to come up with designs inspired by the rich heritage of a place. But as much as possible, it’s good to preserve the historic value of a facility by listing it as a heritage item. In cases where demolition or a major development is inevitable, it’s recommended to interpret the site’s history and perform the appropriate archival recording.

Industrial heritage and safe digging

Aside from warehouses, factories, workshops and other usual industrial facilities, part of our industrial heritage also includes the related machinery and infrastructure that were used to power those facilities or make them functional and safe.

As a result, our industrial heritage also includes old and decommissioned electrical substations, pumping stations and stormwater and sewer channels. These structures were as vital as the main industrial facility and without those pipes and cables that carry electricity, water, fluids and waste, most industrial activities were impossible.

In addition, the design and construction of vital industrial infrastructure also shows the history and heritage of the place. The completion of those utility networks also displays the high level of technical achievement of Australia’s rapid urbanisation period. In other words, a structure that has heritage significance is not just about its impact to the course of history, but also about how huge things were achieved given the constraints at the time.

For example, the Sydney Water sewer pipeline (located between McEvoy Street and Bourke Road) is one of the recommended heritage items. It’s also the case with stormwater channels located between Sydney Park and Alexandra Canal and that located along the Huntly Street, Maddox Street and Bowden Street (the Shea’s Creek stormwater channel).

Earlier we mentioned the importance of heritage preservation. However, this is a huge challenge because of the need for progress and change. It even becomes a bigger challenge because of the subsurface pipes and other infrastructure that might have a historic value.

To ensure safe digging and prevent damage to those underground assets, many companies in Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne and Wollongong choose us here at One Search Locators. Our job is to pinpoint the locations of all relevant underground structures (e.g. sewer lines, telecommunication and electrical cables, storage tanks) and help determine their identity and nature).

Before commencing an excavation or construction activity, there are special considerations if there are underground pipes or other utility assets in the vicinity. For instance, a buried pipe asset has a zone of influence wherein construction plant loading should be excluded or restricted. This way the risk of damage to the pipe asset will be prevented (e.g. no load above, if there’s heavy load above the pipe might collapse).

This similarly applies to the planting of trees wherein there should be significant distance between the tree’s roots and the buried pipe asset (e.g. establishing a root barrier so the roots won’t encroach or damage the pipes). It’s also important to coordinate with the asset owner before performing such activity so as to know the special considerations when working on the site.

Back then only the above-ground structures get that level of attention when it comes to heritage protection and preservation. But now the underground structures are also being prioritised because of their historic value and their showcase of high level of technical achievement. It’s important that these subsurface utility networks and channels be protected so as to preserve our heritage.

We can help you achieve that with our professional and accurate utility mapping services. Here at One Search Locators we use electromagnet methods and other relevant technologies in pinpointing the location of underground assets. This is important not just in ensuring site safety, but also in preventing damages to valuable assets that may have significant historic value. Contact us today and we can arrive on site within 24 hours upon your request. This way we can quickly help you identify the underground risks and move forward with your excavation or construction project.

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