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Wed June 23 2021

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Robots lined up to help conservation work at Sydney Opera House

8 Sep 16 Arup and the University of Sydney have collaborated with the Sydney Opera House to complete a concrete conservation strategy that could see robots inspecting the iconic building within five years.

A new tool to manage testing of concrete beneath the building’s sails has been developed as part of the project. The modified ‘tap tester’ uses a hammer that includes a microphone and thermal and force sensors to help provide accurate data about the condition of unseen concrete. This job, currently undertaken by technicians abseiling from the sails, has been earmarked to be performed by robots in as soon as five years’ time.

The concrete conservation strategy is designed to conserve the UNESCO World Heritage site for future generations.

Its production has drawn both on historical knowledge about the structure and potential future technology.

The study has been funded in part by the Getty Foundation’s Keeping It Modern project, which aims to preserve international examples of modern architecture. The Sydney Opera House, described by the foundation as a “transcendent cultural symbol”, was one of the first 10 recipients.

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Arup has been involved from the early stages of the project. The firm’s organisational understanding of the Opera House has been used to help inform the overarching strategy, and Arup has also provided technical input to inspections. Arup’s archival materials, from original Opera House structural drawings to interviews with generations of engineering staff, helped to form the project’s “repository of knowledge”.

“We have been working on the Sydney Opera House for almost 60 years, on over 300 individual projects,” said Dr Marianne Foley a principal with Arup in Australasia. “In our work, we draw on this historical understanding regularly. Our accumulated knowledge is an invaluable resource not only for the concrete conservation strategy, but for the future operation and protection of our nation’s most significant cultural asset.”

The study is intended to allow for better knowledge management, as well as more efficient building examination and conservation activities in the future. The Opera House is a highlyt complex structure, and the team involved hope this conservation strategy can serve as a framework for other concrete buildings around the world.

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