Massive roof built around iconic aircraft at Qantas Airpark museum

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What might have been otherwise a straightforward roof construction turned out to be a particularly challenging project during the execution of the Qantas Founders Museum Airpark in Longreach, Queensland.

Longreach, ‘gateway to the outback’ and home of the Stockman’s Hall of Fame, is probably most famous as the birthplace of Qantas. The Qantas Founders Museum Airpark was completed in 2020 as part of the airline company’s centenary celebrations.

Combining a memorable viewing experience with a spectacular light show, the $14.3-million museum was primarily designed as a roof to protect the iconic aircraft from the harsh elements of the Queensland outback.

The brief for The NRA Collaborative required the architects to design a roof that was not only weatherproof, but also architecturally outstanding as a soaring tribute to Qantas’ impact on the world of commercial aviation.

Once the designs and plans were approved, the task of building the massive roof began. This was a complex process since none of the aircraft could be moved, which meant the Airpark had to be built around them. That’s when Fielders ARAMAX entered the picture.

The NRA Collaborative approached Fielders because they loved ARAMAX’s aesthetic – the roofing material’s sleek V profile was exactly what the architects had in mind. However, their requirements extended beyond mere looks – to performance. The roof had to be strong enough to span long distances between structural supports, be able to withstand gale force winds, handle extreme downpours and survive the outback sun for a given lifespan. Additionally, it also had to be easy to install, considering that the roof had to be constructed around the aircraft.

Following three months of intense design, co-ordinating and solution solving with the architects, structural engineers and steel frame manufacturers, the measurements and tolerances were calculated precisely in a complex 3D model with absolutely no margin for error.

The first part of construction consisted of building protective scaffolding around the planes, two of which were 747 Jumbos. Then the construction of the steel frame began. Once in place, it was the roofing contractor’s job to install 8,700m² of ARAMAX over the area.

In a normal project, installation is a quick and relatively straightforward process since ARAMAX is assembled by simply clipping it into place. The Qantas Founders Museum Airpark was a different scenario entirely. For a start, the roof was erected under the steel framing, so it became more like a giant game of Meccano – steel cleats had to be welded to the bottom flange of the support beams, and ARAMAX underslung connected via winches over the unmovable aircraft. This would be impossible to achieve with a conventional roofing system.

The other major difference to the roof construction was the run-off flume, which is essentially a giant box gutter to quickly carry away the huge amount of rainwater that falls during an outback storm. Water is funnelled down the flume into a giant ‘soaker pit’, which empties into a sculptural catchment drain on the tarmac below. Constructing the system was an exacting process – everything had to fit precisely.

The project was a huge success, and rewarding too: The Qantas Founders Museum Airpark won the Queensland Steel Institute Award for Outstanding Design, and was highly commended in the national Fielders Made Design Awards in 2020.

Soaring to new heights with ARAMAX

ARAMAX is an outstanding roofing material – strong, resilient and beautifully quick to install, allowing amazing structures such as the Qantas Founders Museum Airpark to be built.

The Airpark project used 8700m² of 1.2mm BMT aluminium ARAMAX roofing system, with a span between supports of roughly 10 metres, cover width of 700mm, and V-shape profile of 357mm deep.

ARAMAX enhances the architectural merit of every project, including commercial buildings and shelters, residential houses, stadiums, schools and now a roof to protect some of Australia’s iconic aircraft.

ARAMAX can be roll-formed onsite anywhere in the world, making it an accessible, time-saving and cost-effective building product.

Key stakeholders in the Qantas Airpark project also included Brilly’s Brilliant Solutions (roofing installer), Northrop Consulting Engineers (engineer), Watpac (builder) and Beenleigh Steel Fabrications (steel fabricator).

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