Chair: Christopher Mills, Plaza Construction


Click a presenter to see a video of their presentation, and the accompanying paper and PowerPoint presentation.

Kanokpat Chanvaivit

Kanokpat Chanvaivit

Senior Manager
Bouygues Batiment International
“Constructing the MahaNakhon Tower”
David Wallance

David Wallance

Senior Associate
“Modular Architecture in a Flat World”

Session Summary

As the medium that ultimately realizes the physical manifestation of design and consummates the concentrated efforts of entire project teams, modern construction practices have had to keep pace with the demands of increasingly complex design criteria. The industry has met this challenge with entirely new methods of construction, which not only give greater flexibility in design, but drastically shorten project timelines. This session outlined several construction advances that are currently being implemented and explored around the world.

Kanokpat Chanvaivit, Senior Manager, Bouygues Thai Ltd, delivered the first presentation featuring the recently topped out MahaNakhon tower, the new tallest building in Thailand. Chanvaivit first focused on the complexities of the design and construction process for a supertall building in the densely populated city of Bangkok with high levels of traffic congestion. The project required a design-build approach and construction staging that would allow for the steady flow of material deliveries to ensure that the concrete mix for the structural frame of the tower wouldn’t “get too hot” before delivery. Chanvaivit states that the tower’s seismic design was based on CTBUH recommendations and its unconventional form was subjected to 36 directions of wind loads during wind tunnel testing. To construct the tower in the soft soils below Bangkok, 129 piles were drilled to a depth of 65 meters and then capped with a massive 8.75-meter-thick mat foundation, so large that the concrete pouring took two months over the course of 12 consecutive Saturday nights, the least congested time periods for Bangkok traffic.

David Wallace, Senior Associate, FXFOWLE, presented next on advancements in modular construction and their application to high-rise design. Wallace stressed the need for rethinking conventional residential construction practices, as global population growth will require the need for 500 million new housing units by 2050. Urban land cover is increasing at twice the rate of population growth and with car ownership rates “poised to explode” in developing countries, he emphasized the need for shifting population growth to infill sites within established cities while researching methodology for driving down construction costs to make urban living spaces less expensive than “stick built suburbia.” He then explained the concept of using the dimensions of an international shipping container as a standardized building module. These Volumetric Units of Construction (VUCs) could then be arranged into the forms of urban rowhouses, mid-rises, and high-rise buildings by modifying the supporting structure.

The final presentation by Phillip Gardiner, Managing Director, Irwinconsult, discussed the construction of the 29-story SOHO Tower in Darwin, Australia with VUCs. While this project is presently the world’s tallest modular building, the design process began with the intent of conventional construction, but a labor shortage and high cost estimates led the design team to experiment with the idea of modular units. Gardiner explained the complexities of pursuing this construction method, including the process of changing the structural frame of the tower from steel to concrete in order to reduce the fire code requirements of the VUCs and satisfy the skepticism of lenders financing the project. The VUCs were assembled in China and shipped by ocean vessel to Darwin, where the hot and humid climate with exposure to corrosive sea salt caused rusting of the steel framework of a few units during transit; underscoring the need for better quality control in foreign off-site factories when applying protective coatings. Gardiner explained that future projects should consider keeping the weight of VUCs below 20 tons for easier crane lifting and emphasized the need for rain protection during assembly.

Session Photo Gallery