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The underpinning of St Joseph’s at Gurney Paragon, Penang

How do you build basements underneath an 88-year-old heritage building while preserving its integrity?

Gurney Paragon is located along Gurney Drive, the coastal road on Penang Island well-known in the local tourism industry. It consisted of two phases. We provided Geotechnical, Civil and Structural Engineering for Phase One comprising two 43-storey high-end residential towers (176m) with F&B outlets on the lowest three levels. The ground floor level features an open square (Festival Square) between the two towers fronting an almost 90-year-old, three-storey heritage building – St Joseph’s Novitiate.

The client’s requirement was to preserve the entire heritage building. St Joseph’s was to be kept in a way that would maintain its integrity and given a new lease of life and functionality within the new development.

Project Summary

100,700m2 total built-up area for Phase 1

176mresidential towers

3storeyheritage building underpinned and 'floated'

St Joseph’s was underpinned and excavation was carried out underneath, followed by construction of a two-level basement. All this was engineered and done with minimal damage to the building in the course of which full basement car park and driveway space were made available. It was an engineering feat that won the Association of Consulting Engineers Malaysia (ACEM) Gold Award of Special Merit 2013, for Engineering Excellence, the association’s most prestigious award.

St Joseph’s is an 88-year-old load bearing masonry building. Vertical load carrying elements were predominantly brick columns. The brick columns rested on footings comprising either stone slabs, old brick mats or concrete footings. Reinforced concrete beams span between the brick columns supporting timber joists and floor boards.

Award-winning engineering solution

We provided St Joseph’s with new pile foundations then went below the building and removed the earth under it to create two levels of basement under the building.

A new ground floor slab-and-beam floor plate was conceived and supported by new micropiles installed under St. Joseph’s. Intermediate stage load paths were then created to allow almost the entire superstructure load to be supported by the slab-and-beam plate.

More carparks for the shoppers

This resulted in gaining a significant number of car parks for the mixed development project as well as freed up the architect for unconstrained planning of the basement floors below the entire development. Now the go-to spot for both locals and tourists, the Gurney Paragon lifestyle mall has incorporated a heritage building as its centrepiece. We created value for client and a place of social amenity for the community.