Our team travelled up to Emerald to capture and tell the story of an innovative Australian first stone mastic asphalt runway surfaced by Boral.

Here is how the story unfolds.

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The thing that makes it so special is the fact that we knew that it’s probably the biggest innovation in Australian airports since the inception of Marshall Mixes a couple of decades ago.

For our economy to work well, this airport has got to work really well. We need this air strip to be in absolutely perfect condition.

Runways, they oxidize in the sun and as a result they need maintenance. The runway at Emerald is about a decade since its last had significant intervention.

The asphalt, it’s got a grooving in it and that grooving was pretty much more than two millimeters .

So we were looking for solutions that would both fix the problems but also then help us deliver a cost effective maintenance solution going forward.

Back in 2018 kind of came about from a conversation with Solomon, the airport manager. He said, wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have the groove, the runway? And at the time we had dr Greg Weiss in the room with us and he said, well, hey, this is an opportunity to use mastic asphalt.

SMA hasn’t been used in Australia on runways, means that we should on a risk based approach go through the project and make sure that the science was behind us.

We’ve done the maths, we get one year extra. The SMA, the additional cost to put the SMA in is already paid for.

What SMA is allowing us to do is to stretch the period between construction and that major maintenance maybe a decade, decade and a half into the future. So what we did was we identified the experts in the industry.

We put together a specific mix design for the situation at Emerald. We then went out and we looked for contractors. We found them in terms of Boral, George Bourne & Associates, GHD, as well as dr Greg White that helped us with the mixed designs and the actual solution.

The key strength we find in Boral is that they have huge experience in laying stone mastic asphalt across the state on road projects.

For a first SMA runway in Australia, Boral seems like a great opportunity. Once we were awarded the project, we started pulling together a project team and also the resources that we required. In its entirety the runway is about 1.9 K’s long and the tonnage to cover that, it’s around 15,000 ton for the life of the project. The team that we’ve got here, they’ve got a clear understanding of what’s required.

We’ve engaged local subcontractors. The guys have been working around the clock to make sure that the projects being delivered to the highest standard.

One thing that’s critical in this project is you need to open the airport at 5:30 in the morning. If it doesn’t open, planes don’t land and there’s big fines. We don’t want accidents in the morning. We don’t want to hold up the aircraft.

It’s a pretty scientific process to get to that level. We’ve got a lot of testing that we have to do and also ensure our raw materials are up to spec and then the guys just follow their standard procedures in the field.

We all wanted to be a success. That really helped us, especially in times when things got hard. People really pulled together and made decisions based on what’s best for the project.

For Boral to be the first one to deliver it and deliver it well, puts us in good stead to specialise in this sort of area. Great result for the team and our clients.

We’ve had positive experiences with everyone involved. We managed to do it in the timeframe within the budget. The compliance outcome has been amazing.

It’s been a large job. It’s been a good job. It’s just been awesome to be involved with. We believe that’ll give us maintenance savings over a number of years.

I believe that’s going to have great benefit to the Emerald community. We’re proud to be part of that. I think it’s great for Central Highlands, the region, and I actually think it’s great for the industry because it just brings it to the next level.