High Stakes Changeover at Perth’s Largest Telephone Exchange

A routine assignment of a retrograde HVAC installation became a whole lot more for the Perth AE Smith team in September with a critical changeover at the city’s largest telephone exchange

25 Oct 2013


Not only was the site cramped and tight, requiring a team of 12 specialist tradespeople to manoeuvre the removal and installation of equipment, the site had to maintain a stable temperature throughout the changeover as well.

And the consequences of any missteps would not go unnoticed – phone communication for the entire Perth metropolitan area would be lost!

“Working on the Telstra Priority Exchange site in Pier Street was without doubt one of the most pressure filled projects in the 15 years I’ve been at AE Smith,” says Brian Webber, Perth Projects Manager for AE Smith.

Project Managed by Transfield Services, the upgrade to the Telstra Priority Exchange at Pier Street is part of the National Broadband project.

Beyond the pressure of losing phone communication for the city should anything go wrong, the AE Smith team were also posed with several logistical issues adds Brian.

“The old equipment needed to be removed and we had 6 tonnes of new equipment to load in and commission – all within a tiny undercroft of a basement space.”

“This main critical exchange needed to have three main chillers replaced under life cycle replacement. The old Luke chillers were very inefficient in terms of power usage so the brief for high tech, high spec oil free PowerPax Chillers was used. As part of the energy savings these each had Harmonic Filters supplying the power to each new PowerPax Chiller,” explained Brian.

A team of 12 were involved in the delicate operation, including builders, plumbers, controls technicians and electricians.

“There was a lot of very gentle teasing, coaxing and nursing the equipment into and out of place and all the while focusing on maintaining the stable temperature for the exchange,” Brian says. “To keep the exchange cool during the project we even hired and set up 1000 kW of temporary cooling.”

It seems the more pressure involved with a project, the more the Perth AE Smith project team and their preferred specialist contractors thrive.

There were also strict Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) checks required by Telstra the AE Smith team needed to adhere to, as well as reporting and involving offsite Telstra personnel.

“This sure was a challenging critical project to be involved with and for it to all go so smoothly with no one ever knowing what was happening below ground made it very rewarding for everyone.”