Repainting the 15-storey Four Points by Sheraton hotel without disrupting its occupancy rates of between 80% and 100% was the high point of the six-month project by Programmed Property Services.
After 20 years exposure to the harsh weather and environment of Sydney Harbour the hotel was showing signs of exterior wear and tear.
The hotel in Darling Harbour on Sussex St is one of Sydney’s largest hotels with 630 rooms and includes the historic Dundee Arms Pub and the Corn Exchange Restaurant. Hotel management selected Programmed after it promised minimum disruption to its operations through minimal use of scaffolding, instead relying on swing stages, knuckle booms and abseiling painters – all of them on staff.
Programmed provided the Four Points hotel owners with a seven-year maintenance painting program that also involved paint supplier Dulux drawing up the paint specification and approving each section of the work once completed.
“Having our own labour force with the expertise to complete the project was a key point of difference between us and other companies competing for the tender,” Programmed’s account manager Jason Dunbar said. “We had weekly meetings between myself, project foreman Rob Grein, project supervisor David Burns and Four Point’s management including the general manager, engineering manager, conference managers and cleaning managers.
“We just coordinated around where we were working to ensure the rooms with balconies were not occupied when we were going to be working there. Guests in the rooms we were working around were all notified so they were aware there was a project going on outside their window and not to be alarmed.
“The whole project ran for best part of six months and we are very proud that we did not have any complaints from guests or anybody associated with project.
“It was a fantastic result.”
Logistics involved early liaison with the City of Sydney Council, Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority and the Road Traffic Authority. The front of the hotel falls under council jurisdiction, the back part under the authority while the main arterial roadway, the Western Distributor, runs under the back of the hotel.
“We needed to solve any issues before we put our proposal to the owners,” Mr Dunbar said. “Our biggest problem was working around an 80% capacity hotel. At no stage was occupancy below 80% as there were a number of big conferences in Sydney around that time and sometimes the hotel was at 100% occupancy. We needed to have high levels of communication between our staff and the hotel so everything went according to what we said it was going to be and that happened.
“The hotel was extremely happy not to have any complaints from guests. It was an outstanding result and they were absolutely thrilled not only with way the hotel looks but also the way the job progressed and the fact we kept them involved all the time.
“We just worked together as a team to achieve a fantastic result for everyone concerned.”
Programmed involved paint supplier Dulux early in the planning.
“Obviously being such a big building we couldn’t take the risk of having any mistints so we involved Dulux in the process once we won the job,” Mr Dunbar said. “They provided regular inspections so each time a section of the building was repainted they would check it and sign off on it which provided reassurance to the owners. We also ordered our paint in bulk so it was manufactured and mixed to avoid any issues with mistinting.”
The paint was all brush rolled because high winds ruled out spraying especially being so close to pedestrians and the Western Distributor freeway.
Dulux’s NSW commercial sales manager Neale Stewart said Dulux compiled the paint specification and ensured that it was technically correct.
“Several site visits were made before the painting started to ensure the correct products were specified,” he said. “This is such a harsh environment being so close to Sydney Harbour and in the CBD that the products had to be a higher grade than normal decorative paints.
“The majority of the products were water based but needed the ability to provide long-term protection to the building. There was also requirement to protect the large amount of steel around the building, the corrosion rate of steel is rapid in such a location so a combination of epoxy coatings and polyurethane coatings ensured the steel was well protected.”
Exposed public walkways adjacent to the freeway, which get constantly hit by graffiti, were covered with an anti-graffiti paint. As the building was being painted in winter, which caused a problem for coating the steel, a special cold curing paint was used on the steel.
Dulux provided constant onsite technical support to the painters and a weekly inspection program alongside the painters.
Also frequent meetings were held between Four Points management, Programmed Property Services and Dulux to ensure the project, that required 6000 litres of paint, ran smoothly.
The main building was coating with Dulux Acratex 955 Acrashield, a high build acrylic that is designed to provide a durable long-term finish that will withstand all weather conditions. “It is also designed to protect the structure of the building by reducing the chance of concrete cancer. The building now looks brand new,” Mr Stewart said.
Mr Dunbar said the buildings were a jigsaw to paint with work starting on the southern end, then the northern end followed by the shop fronts along Sussex St and Slip St. Some parts of the project overlapped.
“At the start of job we spent a lot of time prior to presenting the proposal working out the methodology of how we were going to make it cost effective without sacrificing safety standards,” he said. “Safety is a core value of the Programmed business and we never cut corners that would potentially put any members of our staff, the public or anybody associated with project in any sort of danger.
“We needed the project to be cost effective and completed it safely and without incident. The owners signed up to seven-year painting maintenance program, designed to keep the building looking good. We have guaranteed the paintwork and return annually to keep it looking good throughout the seven years.
“It was a great place to work and very scenic – the boys enjoyed it.
“We were limited in number of tradesmen we could have on site and had to work in with strict plan with hotel. We could have had 30 people working but it would have been a logistical nightmare for us and the hotel so we had to find common ground to make it efficient and keep to a strict timetable.”
Four Points chief engineer, Matthew Worth, said they had been looking at repainting the building for nearly three years. The project cost more than $700,000, which includes the seven-year maintenance plan.
“It was 20 years old and had not been painted since original construction,” he said. “We were concerned about scaffolding but Programmed offered minimal scaffolding and only where they couldn’t use swing stages or abseilers. The abseilers going down ropes did not even have to enter rooms.
“Jason and the Programmed Team came up with ideas that made it easy so we did not have to block out rooms for long periods. Some of their ideas made the job quicker.
“We were concerned about the metal work and corrosion over the 20 years. Our engineering staff could not access it but Programmed stripped it back to bare metal. They followed what Dulux specified, cleaning building first and sealing the existing paintwork so it was not a problem painting it.
“For the size of the job it was very hassle free. I’ve done smaller jobs that have gone over budget, over time and given me a few more grey hairs! My GM was very happy. He was bit anxious at start but after first few weeks he just left Jason and his team and I to get on with it because had full confidence in what we are doing.
“When the GM steps back you know the job is being done properly.”