Quarter 2, 2023

Monkeytoe Newsletter

Welcome to our Spring 2023 update, and what a quarter it has been for us.


Figures have been revised, showing the economy’s been doing better than many of us expected. There’s been a lot of investment in – and promises towards – civil infrastructure as safe places to put money (especially in an election year).

Another point of interest this year has been water, and we’ve been getting a lot of attention and recognition in this space. Businesses, councils and the government are wanting solutions that are going to work now and well into the future so that the next generations have access to safe and reliable drinking water, wastewater and stormwater. So why us? Because we work with safe and corrosion-free aluminium that’s proven to stand the test of time. Plus, aluminium is endlessly recyclable, meaning we can use the materials we already have, rather than needing to worry about non-renewable or difficult-to-source resources.

Little wonder that developers are working with contractors at earlier and earlier stages in these big projects, where long-term thinking is needed. Developers aren’t just talking to the architects, then tendering; we’re being asked to be a part of the process, consulting on where designs can be aided through our solutions. But that means developments can also be more strategic about how and why they use their spaces, and what they want to achieve with the resources at hand.

We’ve been using some of our company’s resources to give back to the community lately, including at SPCA New Plymouth. The SPCA helps over 31,000 animals in need each year, so we sent a few of our team members down the road to help out, feed and walk the animals, scrub and clean, and help out with this very worthy cause. If you want to donate or volunteer, then get in touch with your local charities and see how you can make a difference. 


In this quarterly update, we’re covering off some formidable projects with Lincoln University, the historic Lyttelton Port, and Westmead Hospital, all of which needed some pretty special designs and thinking to make their projects happen. Plus we’re chatting with Project Design Team Manager Ben Halliday, and Project Manager Kyle Farquhar – both of whom had their hands in getting the Fonterra Hawera staircase project ‘off the ground.’


Read on and you’ll see what we mean..



An impressive project with Lincoln University

The South Island’s Lincoln University has a few honours to its name. It’s the oldest agricultural teaching institution in the Southern Hemisphere, has graduated some impressive alumni including Richie McCaw and Annabel Langbein, and now, boasts formidable XBEAM solutions including a 630sqm platform to call its own.

Around the start of 2021, the good sorts at Leigh’s Construction approached us with a challenge. They were to put a massive plant platform onto Lincoln’s research building, but they hit a hurdle that’ll be familiar to those in the industry: the standard steel option planned was going to be too heavy. So heavy that even the platform itself wasn’t going to work, let alone the extra weight of extensive HVAC units and water tanks.

So we did what we do best: engineered a lighter, better solution based on XBEAMs, and took the opportunity to showcase our design and build process.

This marks one of the most complex projects we’ve worked on. Not just in terms of size, but also in terms of the requirements on site. The combined loading on each platform was in the order of five tonnes, and also had to accommodate flume stack towers that would be mounted on the platforms and extend around seven metres in the air. We also paid special attention to meeting seismic requirements, since the Canterbury region is prone to some devastating quakes.

As we worked with Leigh’s Construction to design and engineer the massive platforms on the research and science buildings, as well as a range of ladders and access solutions, we also had to work with some restrictive connection points that wrapped around elevator shafts and service spaces. So we developed at least 40 unique ~250mm round aluminium legs that mounted to concrete plinths, and would provide a robust base to work off. From here we could install the XBEAMs, mesh, and acoustic paneling to keep the platforms discreet.

Working with a complex site and alongside roofing contractors meant that our installers were on site for around six weeks to complete this project – but the results definitely speak for themselves. Lincoln University and Leigh’s Construction gave us a healthy challenge with a huge mount and some unique requirements, but our design and engineering teams delivered what I think you’ll agree is a pretty exceptional outcome.




Lincoln University Project.



History Meets Innovation at Lyttelton Port

Lyttelton Port has been a staple of the South Island for 170 years, and Lyttelton Port Company (LPC) has led the charge in the area since 1988. Now, with 600+ staff on board and shipping $6.2 billion worth of exports to the world each year, South Island’s largest international trade gateway is a busy place to work.

But it’s not just loading and unloading 438,000 twenty-foot container equivalent units (TEUs) per year that LPC manages. They also operate the only commercial dry dock in the country. (The NZ Navy runs the only other dry dock.) Add a historic site to the mix, and you’ve got some unique challenges to deal with.

Hannah Fyffe is a Senior Project Manager at Lyttelton Port Company and is responsible for developments in infrastructure and property within the port. When the LPC team recognised that the Dry Dock facilities weren’t meeting current fall standards or allowing people to work from height safely, Hannah approached Monkeytoe to develop a solution,


170-year-old challenges

“Lyttelton Dry Dock is a Category 1 listed heritage structure,” explains Hannah. “It’s operated the same way since it opened in 1883. While it’s a small dry dock by global standards, it’s a busy, industrial workplace.”

Hannah explains that when a ship comes in to be dry docked – generally for hull cleaning and painting and any mechanical work, typically for a few weeks at a time – works are carried out in very close quarters.

“There’s not a lot of room for working, which means it’s a pedestrian-heavy experience. Teams operate in tight spaces, and work done at height has some very old safety standards,” Hannah adds.

“Plus, a ship’s crew will still be living on board, which means we can expect 100+ people, plus contractors, on-site at any time.”

Aware of these factors, LPC wanted to improve access solutions while respecting the historic site and the need to preserve its heritage. This provides extra challenges.

“Because we’re heritage listed, any changes to the structures need to go through Heritage New Zealand and the Christchurch City Council. The idea is that, if and when the dock is decommissioned in the future, it can be returned to as close to its 1883 state as possible – so the impact of any changes has to be minimal.”


“Relentless innovation”

HIABs and cranes don’t cut it in this busy, tight location. The access solution had to be “light touch” so that it could also be removed between dockings while being fully compliant. 

Removable handrails and the like for on-the-ground work were a must. And it had to be reasonable to work with; no one wanted to set up workers with a Meccano set that would take days to assemble each time. Even with all the above considered, when the access components were not in place, they couldn’t leave any tripping or catching hazards for workers.

Monkeytoe’s engineers, as Hannah says, “have been relentless in their innovation.”

Over ten months, Hannah, LPC and Monkeytoe – alongside geotech and heritage specialists have worked together to pioneer some impressive solutions. It starts with a six-flight Dry Dock Mid Stair Assembly that fixes onto the alter walls using specialised lock-in mounting brackets. It only leaves behind a small fitting, with adjustable support pads at the base of the flights to allow for the existing structure’s variation.

Secondly, we’ll fit another set of stairs near the caisson gate, which is a large tank that can be flooded and then locked in place so that the dock can be drained. This has been designed to be adjusted and manoeuvred by no more than two people since LPC has only two dock operators working at any time.

These solutions will allow LPC to work at height around each ship’s body. Mid-section stairs can be installed at one location at a time, with fittings across several places so that workers can operate at height and address sections of a ship or ships at a time.

Adjustable stairs, hidden grounding solutions, moving feet, and easy access. It’s a pretty unique suite, and naturally, everything will be built from our marine-grade aluminium, meaning it’ll stand the test of time in this environment.


Launching soon..

“Every single component has been challenging,” says Hannah. “Every design and engineering aspect has been challenged at every point, and Monkeytoe has risen to all of them. Every part of that has been incredible.”

But you’ll have to wait until 2024 to see it in action.

“We just agreed on the concepts last week and ran through the designs with all the dock users,” says Hannah. “The next steps are for Monkeytoe to create a detailed design for the stairs, integrating that with fall protection. Mid-2024, the dry dock will be briefly closed so we can install.”

It’s taken some tenacity, but Hannah’s glad to see these changes coming into effect. “While it’s a heritage location, our safety practices need to be up to date. It doesn’t take much for someone to slip and have an accident, so we’ll continue to do what we can to reduce that risk.


Design Concepts


Westmead Hospital

We often talk here at Monkeytoe about our XBEAM platforms. But working with Westmead Hospital in Sydney gave us the chance to do something a little bit special: an XBEAM room.

When fitout and construction experts Renascent started work on the Westmead Hospital refurbishment, they knew that they needed a plant platform solution on the roof. A steel platform was designed but, as we know, the roof simply couldn’t have handled the weight of an almost 400sqm steel platform on it. So rather than add new supports into the roof and floors directly below the proposed platform, Renascent approached our Australian division looking for a solution.

Normally, a plant platform on a roof would include the likes of our Hushmonkey panels for both acoustic and visual minimisation, but in this case we were also tasked with designing a roofing frame from our extrusions to protect this platform from the elements.

It took some convincing to get the architect’s sign-off, but in the end we were able to deliver an impressive structure: around 28m long, 15 wide, and 5m high at the peak of the roof, with roofing sheet on the top and Hushmonkey panels as cladding on the long sides. The new structure now safely houses the HVAC and electrical/plumbing services needed, and looks great too – all while being a fraction of the weight of the proposed steel solution, and without requiring any additional building work or hot works on site.

With limited access to the site, our installers had to be quick so as not disrupt the busy, active hospital. Because our solution is a fraction of the weight of a steel solution, and didn’t require any hotworks on site, we were able to complete the fit-out over a Saturday morning. Little wonder Westmead Hospital and Renascent are chuffed with the result.

This has been a great chance for us to show what is possible with a dedicated design and install team, and the benefits of taking a leap with a new solution that really delivers.

Westmead Hospital, Sydney.



Hanging around for a unique Fonterra Project

We’ve often mentioned our freestanding aluminium stair solutions used for everything from internal access to fire egresses, with some wall utilisation. But what about a stair tower that’s not on the floor at all?

Fonterra Hawera approached us for just that: a set of stairs that were completely wall mounted, with the first steps floating above the floor, acting as an emergency egress down a powder tower. This was something a bit new to us in size and scope, so Project Design Team Manager Ben Halliday was all over this one from the get-go.

The stairs weren’t to happen on the ground floor, which would have allowed some vertical support. Instead, they’re to be utilised on from the first lower floor to the second lower roof, and then the second to the third. Fonterra originally had a design made up out of steel, but, as is often the case, the sheer weight of such a structure would have been more than the existing building could have handled safely as a tower, freestanding or otherwise.

So we jumped, converting those steel designs into Monkeytoe components, knowing that aluminium would be a lighter, corrosion-free solution that’d suit Fonterra well.

Naturally, there were some fresh challenges on site. Because we had a lack of connection locations, we had to be extremely precise with our measurements. But working with a 50-year-old landmark of the region means that we can’t just pull up site renders and see how our designs slot in. Instead, we were given 3D scans of the space – accurate, but not always the down to the millimeter accuracy we need to create our designs. After we got to site, we were able to confirm our numbers, and the designs could be finalised, with the help of structural engineers that ensured our plan would work.

Normally with ground-mounted stairs and modules, we can dictate how we split parts for freighting – but those wall mounting points meant that we had to take a different approach to our freighting and ended up with some very tall and oversized freighting, delivered very methodically so that we could assemble it on the ground for some parts, and on the wall as we go for other parts.

We’ve only just installed the first part, but with another two to go, we’ll be hanging around at Fonterra until November. And the teams there will soon be enjoying their new, creative access solutions soon enough.



Setting a new standard 

With Project Design Team Manager Ben Halliday


If you’ve worked with us at Monkeytoe, then you’ve probably heard about Ben Halliday, all-round good sort and our Project Design Team Manager. 

A qualified builder and abseiler by trade, Ben joined us in Monkeytoe way back in 2014 as our first Auckland-based employee, before quickly moving into his current role. Now he runs our team of designers, scheduling their workloads, pioneering some clever designs for complicated jobs, and arranging all the engineering associated with the designs that really set us apart.

There are plenty of good reasons to get a design specialist on board with projects. “We can often save clients a lot of money,” explains Ben, “by finding more efficient designs for projects or going places that steel simply can’t. When we talk to architects and engineers early enough, we can work into their plans and improve designs from the ground up – and if it’s a bit later in the process, then we can explore some more custom designs that will suit what’s already been set in stone.”

A lot has changed since Ben joined the team. We’ve grown in both size and complexity, which means that the design and details part of his department have been separated. Ben explains that the designers come up with the solution, and draw it in 3D with his help and the help of team leaders. Then the detailers take that plan and render it into plans that the factory can use to produce the parts and the installers can use to fit it all together on site. With those teams separated, each part can focus their delivery well – and Ben can oversee more projects with ease.

One thing that’s helping is the drive towards more standardisation. There’s been a big push for this across the board, since it not only helps the design team, but also benefits our clients. 

“At the moment, I’ve got around 20 drafts on the go, and 12 designers working hard on those,” says Ben. “But everyone’s got their own way of approaching a project, and we have a lot of components that can be used. We’re looking to reduce the number of very similar parts, and have fewer versatile components that can work in multiple ways. That still gives us lots of custom solution options, but a simpler library to work from.”

The result? “Faster lead times, and lower production costs because we can focus on a few better, standard types of parts. We pass those benefits on to our clients, and everyone wins.”

Ben’s still got his hands in custom designs – like the unique Hawera Fonterra project in this newsletter – but the new standard is going to be of special interest going ahead. After all, Monkeytoe has always been interested in changing the standard.




Life as a Project Manager

With Kyle Farquhar


Before joining Monkeytoe, Kyle Farquhar worked as a fabricator and workshop foreman. Now he’s part of the Monkeytoe team, and for the last three years has been a Project Manager, handling sites across the region and overseeing projects from approval to final hand-over.

“From start to finish,” explains Kyle, “we look after jobs. After sales have got sign-off, then we work with the client on the design requirements and relay that back to our design team. And then, once we’ve got design drawings and shop design, we’re then working with the shop team to have it fabricated, before coordinating the site works, installation, HIAB cranage, and anything else the team might need.”

The Fonterra Hawera project has been a good example of the variety and challenge that this role offers for Kyle. 

“I really like seeing the finished product, knowing how far it’s gone from concepts. We’ve all got a passion for quality workmanship, and like the variety of what this job offers,” explains Kyle.

“When I first saw the Fonterra project, I knew we were all excited for the challenge. Ben got his teeth into it in the first half and really made my job much easier,” says Kyle. And although there were some hurdles regarding Fonterra’s strict H&S requirements and working in a live site, the whole project is coming together well.

“There’s a huge variety in what we do, and every project has its ups and downs. But seeing the finished product is hugely rewarding.”