ENCAT was engaged to design, manufacture & install a modular boardwalk installation inside Auburn Botanical Gardens in Sydney. The Cumberland City Council have been developing this popular botanical garden location since 2018 as part of the Auburn Botanical Gardens Master Plan (download it here)
The upgrades have been focussed on improving pedestrian safety, making it easier to move around from one area of the gardens to another as well as adding new amenities for visitors.
By removing the informal pathways with some type of formal structure the Council would be able to better control where pedestrians walked, protect the environment, improve safety & let local wildlife move around safely as well.
A new modular boardwalk to replace informal pathways
Auburn Botanical Gardens is one of the most popular places to visit in Sydney’s inner west area. With more than 5,000 reviews from visitors it is a botanical garden located in Auburn, New South Wales, Australia. It was established in 1977 and covers an area of about 9.7 hectares. There are two lakes, a waterfall and bridges that enable visitors to move between the different zones within the gardens.
The famous Duck River winds through the garden and it is maintained by Cumberland Council. As you can see in the photos above it became quite important for the Council to consider removing the informal pathways that were running through different areas of the gardens.
They considered installing tarmac pathways, concrete paths, raised timber decking and even paving using stone-like pavers to create a natural look. The challenge with all of these pathway solutions is they are not all durable, can easily crack or be split by growing trees nearby, can be slippery when it is wet or even become uneven as the ground beneath them shifts and moves.
The two biggest factors the Council had to consider was;
a) Safety of visitors; they had to install some form of pathway for visitors to walk on that was safe in all weather conditions, remained even and could be easily replaced if parts of it were damaged.
b) Long term maintenance costs; any type of pathway that was to be installed had to provide relatively low maintenance costs over the lifetime of its installation. While some pathway materials can be very low cost to install initially, over a long period of time the monthly or annual repair costs can outweigh the use of it in the first place.
The Council decided to use our modular boardwalk system which has been used in other locations like Minnumurra Rainforest , Maloney’s Beach or The Tallawarra pathway. For each of these locations our modular system can cater to changing gradients, different directions and the stainless steel construction means it can last for years, withstanding moisture, harsh winds and other weather elements.
For this project we had to adapt the design to suit the close to ground level installation that was needed, but because this is our unique design we could customise the whole boardwalk system to suit the existing conditions within the botanical gardens quite easily.
Replacing a pedestrian bridge in a forest or park
One of the single biggest challenges any local council or National Parks and Wildlife Service faces is the maintenance of footpaths, bridges and other types of walkways in their area. With budget, resource and time limitations each body has to find a balance between repairing existing installations and considering when it is time to replace them to maintain the safety of pedestrians.
For the wetland area of this forest in the Auburn Botanical Garden the existing timber pedestrian bridge had provided a useful operational life, but as you can see in the images it presented a significant trip hazard for any pedestrian using it from either direction. The gradient of the site and the natural movement of the water causeway had created quite a large deviation in the levels of the bridge vs the existing path.
So we engaged a Geotech Engineer to assist with the design and construction of a pedestrian bridge. The Geotech Engineer was able to test the soil on either side to help us determine the best way to install a new pedestrian bridge to ensure it would remain in place for many, many years. A geotechnical engineer plays a crucial role in the construction of pathways, pedestrian bridges or other structures that will be used in public spaces. They have expertise that has a deep understanding of how to deal with unique soil and geological conditions at a construction site. Their responsibilities will typically include;
Site Investigation: Geotechnical engineers conduct thorough site investigations to assess the soil and geological conditions at the proposed location of the pathway or pedestrian bridge. This involves drilling boreholes, taking soil samples, and conducting laboratory tests to determine the soil properties, bearing capacity, and potential risks.
Foundation Design: Based on the site investigation results, the geotechnical engineer designs the foundation system for the pathway or bridge. They determine the type of foundation required to support the structure adequately and prevent settlement or failure.
Soil Stability Analysis: Geotechnical engineers analyse the stability of the soil to ensure that it can withstand the loads imposed by the pathway or pedestrian bridge. They assess the potential for landslides, slope stability, and other geotechnical hazards.
Earthwork Design: Geotechnical engineers provide recommendations for earthworks, such as excavation and filling, to ensure the pathway or bridge is constructed on stable ground and to mitigate potential soil settlement issues.
Ground Improvement: In some cases, the soil may not meet the required engineering standards for construction. Geotechnical engineers recommend ground improvement techniques such as compaction, soil stabilisation, or deep foundation solutions to enhance the soil’s load-bearing capacity.
Construction Support: During the construction phase, geotechnical engineers provide on-site support and supervision to ensure that the recommended geotechnical measures are implemented correctly. They may also conduct additional tests to verify the soil properties during construction.
Risk Assessment: Geotechnical engineers assess potential risks related to soil conditions, such as liquefaction, settlement, or landslides, and propose suitable risk mitigation measures to ensure the safety and stability of the pathway or pedestrian bridge.
While it would have been possible to construct a short term solution on this site using timber, the approach we take at Encat is to design and manufacture something that will minimise the long term maintenance costs while maximising pedestrian safety at all times.
Taking these extra steps meant we could customise our pedestrian bridge product to suit the existing conditions of the site and install it to be level with the new boardwalk that was being installed.
For added safety we suggested the addition of balustrades on either side of the bridge to reduce the chances of an adult or a child stepping off the bridge into the creek below. Using stainless steel and our flooring system it would also mean that any water would clear away quickly & the construction could deal with the environmental conditions.
What are the benefits of a boardwalk system in a botanical garden?
For any architect, civil engineer or civil works contractor that is tendering for projects like this it makes sense to consider the use of a modular boardwalk system made out of stainless steel instead of a traditional methods like installing a concrete footpath.
Some of the reasons include’
Durability and Longevity:
Stainless steel is known for its exceptional durability and resistance to corrosion. This makes it an ideal material for outdoor applications, particularly in areas with high moisture, saltwater, or harsh weather conditions. Unlike concrete or timber, which can crack or deteriorate over time, a stainless steel boardwalk will maintain its structural integrity and aesthetic appeal for many years, reducing the need for frequent repairs or replacement.
Stainless steel requires minimal maintenance compared to concrete. It does not require sealing or coating to protect against corrosion. Routine cleaning and occasional inspections are typically sufficient to keep a stainless steel boardwalk in good condition. This translates to lower ongoing maintenance costs and less disruption to the surrounding environment.
Aesthetics and Design Flexibility:
Our stainless steel boardwalk systems offer a sleek, modern, and visually appealing appearance for any existing or new site. The smooth and reflective surface of stainless steel can enhance the surrounding environment, creating an attractive and inviting pedestrian pathway.
Additionally, stainless steel is highly versatile in terms of design options. It can be customised to accommodate various widths, curves, and gradients to fit the specific requirements and topography of the site, we can also add our balustrade systems to increase safety levels even further.
Our modular system can be connected to stair modules, viewing platforms and even a bridge so that nearly any type of terrain can be traversed easily.
Stainless steel is an environmentally friendly material choice. It is fully recyclable, which aligns with sustainable construction practices and reduces the environmental impact of the project. Additionally, the modular nature of a stainless steel boardwalk allows for easy disassembly and reinstallation, making it a viable option for sensitive or ecologically significant areas where minimal disruption is desired.
Compared to concrete footpaths or timber decking, the installation of a modular stainless steel boardwalk system can be quicker and more efficient. Prefabricated components can be manufactured off-site, allowing for faster assembly and reduced on-site construction time. This can result in cost savings and minimised disturbance to the local community during the construction phase.
Accessibility and Safety:
Our modular boardwalks are designed to meet accessibility standards, ensuring safe and convenient access for pedestrians, including those with mobility challenges. The smooth surface of stainless steel reduces the risk of slips and falls, especially in wet or icy conditions, making it a safer option for pedestrians.
What design elements made this modular boardwalk installation unique?
Stainless steel structural material
It may have been possible to use timber or other materials to construct this staircase but using stainless steel will ensure it has a long lifespan beyond 100 years.
Stainless steel will withstand the elements which for this site is a mixture of ground moisture from run off as well as some flooding in the marsh/swamp areas close to the ponds.
100% custom designed for the existing conditions
Rather than using pre-fabricated systems our Modular Boardwalk System is 100% custom designed to suit the specific existing conditions of the site. It means there is relatively little change to the landscape & the new structure fits the site rather than the other way around.
Our system helps to protect the environment while also being easy to install on site and in this example it had to be made to sit low to the ground.
Our system is manufactured in our factory in NSW and then transported to the site ready to be installed. The precision engineering and metal fabrication means that everything is ready to be installed on the site without making further changes or adjusment.
This reduces installation time, labour costs & maximises efficiency but also means it can be used nearly anywhere.
Expandable boardwalk design
This project was focussed on building the new pathways. In the future if the council want to add more places for people to walk, then our our system can be expanded to accomodate this.
New raised boardwalks can be constructed to follow existing tracks, change direction or gradients to suit the location.
Tourist friendly features or modifications
We can design or adapt our Modular Boardwalk System to include viewing platforms, scenic look outs, seating or even bike storage racks.
Each of these additions can improve the tourist friendly nature of any walkway whether it is in a botanical garden, by the beach or a coastal clifftop walk.
Custom made outdoor boardwalk installations in a botanical garden
ENCAT regularly works with civil works contractors, local or state government departments or national parks services to design, manufacture and install civil use structures to suit any type of application or existing site. We have been doing this since 1989
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