The modernization of Quay Quarter Tower was a project unlike any before. Over the course of four years, the building metamorphosed from a regular office tower into a stunning modern, sustainable masterpiece – not only growing in height but doubling its floor space. Our team delivered a totally new vertical mobility system – helping the building to deal with over double the original capacity, all while saving space and energy.
The Quay Quarter Tower sits in the heart of Sydney’s Circular Quay neighborhood – a hub for entertainment, transport, and tourism in the city's Central Business District. The skyscraper is the center piece of the new Sydney Quay Quarter precinct – a mixed-use development covering two blocks, designed by AMP Capital with the help of architecture firms 3XN and BVN.
With spectacular views of the city’s world-famous Opera House and Harbor Bridge, the building has stood in this location for nearly 50 years – albeit under a different identity.
In its former life, the building was called the AMP Centre. When it opened in 1976, it was the tallest in the city – standing at 188 meters high, with 45 floors. But as with many buildings its age, time caught up with it. Advances in technology and the adoption of more efficient and modern building designs meant the AMP Centre’s days looked numbered – especially given the prime real estate spot it occupied.
What happened next was quite unique, though. In what’s considered a world-first innovation, the decision was made to upcycle the building – rather than tear it down and rebuild it from the ground up. While retaining 65% of the original tower’s existing structure, the building’s entire design and layout would be totally remodeled – it would be a modernization like no other before. Redevelopment got underway in 2018, putting the plan to transform the skyscraper into action.
With its metamorphosis complete, the building re-opened as the Quay Quarter Tower in 2022. Now, not only has it increased by 28 meters in height – standing 216 meters tall, with 54 floors – but even more noticeably, it looks completely different.
The building has evolved from a rather ordinary looking office tower into an extraordinary biophilic wonder. The building now spirals upwards, with five cantilevered blocks stacked on top of another, culminating with a landscaped rooftop terrace. The architects at 3XN describe it as "a vertical village" – with the blocks separating the tower into five unique environments, each with a large open plan atrium and its own sky terrace outside. The new layout has doubled the building’s usable floor space without altering its footprint.
"Today it’s altogether unrecognizable from the original building," says Paolo Beltrame, our Australia Managing Director. "The redevelopment has given the building a whole new lease of life. Our innovative solutions for Quay Quarter Tower’s vertical transportation system not only helped save space, but have also more than doubled the capacity of passengers that can be transported though the building." Our newly installed systems can now accommodate up to 10,000 people a day, compared to the original building that catered for 4,500 people a day.
As part of the Quay Quarter Tower redevelopment, our team completely redesigned the building’s vertical transportation. This meant transitioning from traditional, conventionally controlled single-deck elevators to double-deck elevators serviced by our advanced PORT Technology Destination Control system.
The double-deck elevators allow for increased passenger capacity, by allowing two consecutive floors to be serviced simultaneously. Passengers board on different floors, depending on whether they are going to odd-numbered or even-numbered floors.
By stacking elevators on top of one another, you can transport the same number of people as two traditional elevators – but only one shaft is needed. With less space required for elevator shafts, there’s more rentable space for the owner – making the building more profitable.
"Our Schindler 7000 Double-Deck elevators have evolved from the proven Schindler 7000 single-deck technology – ensuring the same smooth ride and efficient quality," explains High-rise Engineering Manager Fernando Ferrao.
All in all, the installation team installed 24 Schindler 7000s – of which 18 were high-rise double-deck elevators – as well as seven Schindler 5500 elevators. In addition to the elevators, Quay Quarter Tower also has ten Schindler 9300 escalators, which work in five pairs servicing the podium, retail, and lobby floors.
"The site was effectively a demolition site when we first arrived," says Con Tsiribas, the Site Supervisor.
After part of the original tower was deconstructed, a brand-new additional section was built next to the remaining structure to form the new skyscraper. The retention of the original building made this project particularly challenging, as it required part of the new vertical transportation system to be fitted into the older existing shafts. This required a great deal of custom interface bracketry to ensure that the double-deck elevator doors were perfectly aligned to the landing floors.
To complicate things further, after almost half a century, the concrete in the original structure had compressed and settled. With elevator shafts in both sections, and each sharing common lobbies, the team had to consider all these factors – and more – to ensure elevators would remain level with their respective landing floors over time.
"Installing double-deck elevators in the existing shafts was something of a technical challenge, but our team of engineers was able to find a solution, working in close consultation with the customer," says Con.
Up in the machine room, more powerful machines were required to handle the additional weight that comes with using double-deck elevators. As there was still material being moved in and out of the building simultaneously at the time the machines were delivered, the elevator machines had to be disassembled and moved into place piece by piece.
"The level of coordination and collaboration that was required between trades was exceptional," says Harry Avgoustou, the Large Projects Fulfilment Manager. "But the results speak for themselves: We were able to deliver a high-performing vertical transportation system, built in repurposed shafts, which allows passengers to move throughout the building with unparalleled ease and speed."
Much like the rest of the world, the project underwent frequent changes brought by the COVID 19 epidemic – including a mandated period of construction shutdown.
The Sydney lockdown criteria also underwent numerous changes through this period, this meant a rapidly changing pool of available staff members who could work on the construction site.
Our teams performed and assisted with critical parts of the site’s COVID 19 management plans. To help keep workers safe and comply with social distancing requirements, we commissioned 24 elevators, significantly more than first planned, as builder’s lifts. In addition to that, our team also prepared several escalators ahead of time to serve as accessways through the lobby floors.
The time, coordination, and commissioning of resources that went into working during the pandemic were significant, particularly at a time when the teams were already being pushed to their limits. It’s perhaps an understatement to say that under these conditions, the level of work and commitment that the teams delivered on-site was nothing short of amazing.
Quay Quarter Tower won the International Highrise Award for 2022/23 for its "innovative solution for sustainable building in a time of increased ecological challenges." On top of that our team also won Elevator World’s Modernization Project of the Year 2022.
Retaining a large portion of the original building helped to reduce the environmental impact on the area. While significantly reducing construction time. It’s estimated that this approach helped save roughly 12,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. To put that into perspective, it would take close to 200,000 tree seedlings 10 years to sequester the same amount of carbon.
Using energy efficient technology, like our Schindler 7000 Double-Deck elevators and Schindler PORT Destination Control system, also helped the building attain a 6 Green Star rating (Green Building Council Australia’s highest award) and a 5.5-star NABERS energy rating (where a building is ranked out of 6 based on its energy use).
The project is a textbook example of how older buildings can be successfully repurposed, rather than demolished – reducing the environmental impact of construction. In its reimagined form, the Quay Quarter Tower adds a sustainable, modern masterpiece to Sydney’s skyline.