Sustained demand for high-quality commercial projects in Sydney and Melbourne has seen construction activity pick up across major city markets.
According to the latest RLB Crane Index, which does the twice-yearly count of tower cranes in state and territory capitals, the number of cranes building new commercial projects across the country lifted by 17 per cent.
The index reveals a slight four crane increase compared to the previous edition released last month, rising to a new record total of 757 cranes across the country.
Strong growth in non-residential sectors has seen the index rise to its highest level since commencement, lifting by 11 per cent on a like for like basis thanks to new starts in the commercial, mixed- use and civil sectors.
The pickup in commercial construction has coincided with mega-project inner-city developments in Sydney, such as Barangaroo and the $5 billion revamp of Circular Quay—arguably the most photographed precinct in the country.
Further south new builds in Melbourne include 80 Collins Street by Dexus and Melbourne Quarter by Lendlease.
Across inner-city markets cranes have risen by 4 per cent over the past six months, highlighting the movement of cranes from outer- city suburbs back into inner-city areas.
Crane Activity – Australia by Key Cities
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The total number of cranes across Sydney increased by nine to 319, with the city's residential sector suffering the most number of crane removals—dropping by 19—due to the recent housing downturn reducing residential construction by 2.5 per cent.
Across the state construction work done continued to grow, lifting 2 per cent in chain volume terms while engineering work remained constant.
“Visually, cranes across Sydney appear to be following the significant spend on transport infrastructure,” RLB director research and development Domenic Schiafone said.
“These are north along the Pacific highway, west along Parramatta Road, northeast along the M2 and south along the Kingsway.”
Melbourne’s total crane count contracted for the first time in three years with a decrease of 9 net cranes since the previous edition six months ago.
Across the city, 94 cranes were added to projects and 104 were removed, to reach a total of 213 cranes.
Melbourne also saw a net loss of cranes in the residential, commercial and mixed-use sectors, reducing by 3 to 145, shrinking for the first time in the past six reports.
The city's commercial sector fell by three cranes with eight additions and 11 removals.
New cranes were sighted at Seek headquarters in Cremorne, Nexus Corporate Park, 555 Collins Street, 254-294 Wellington Road and Park Street in South Melbourne.
Melbourne Square also saw an additional commercial crane installed.
Infrastructure projects have continued to Melbourne currently has 13 cranes involved on the Melbourne Metro Tunnel and Western Distributor projects—including associated infrastructure and in ground services diversions.
Similarly the education sector has seen crane additions at Royal Victorian Ear and Eye Hospital, Mecwacare in Malvern, Goulburn Valley Health in Shepparton and Northern Hospital in Epping.
Crane Activity – Australia by Key Cities
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Brisbane lost a further two cranes—and a net 15 in the residential sector—in the latest report to slip to 57.
Inner Brisbane still has the majority of cranes around Brisbane increasing to 67 per cent from 59 per cent.
In West End, Sekisui House's West Village still has three cranes erected but the mixed-use 300 George Street site has had one crane removed.
The Gold Coast saw a fall in cranes from 213 to 193 with sixteen cranes added and 19 were removed bringing the coast’s total to 29 with a net decline in residential cranes partly offset by new cranes on retail projects.
The residential sector accounts for 86 per cent of all Gold Coast cranes, falling slightly seeing 13 new cranes placed on sites and 18 removed, bringing the sector count to 25.
RLB director Domenic Schiafone told The Urban Developer that while Sydney was more prone to boom-and-bust-like cycles, Melbourne, with a stronger population growth, was likely to be more reliable.
“In terms of multi-unit residential we don’t necessarily see huge spikes in construction over the next six to 12 months.”
“We have probably peaked and will see some decline but levels will still be on the higher end compared to the 10 year average fuelled by population growth.”
“CBD commercial has been quite flat in Melbourne, Brisbane and to some degree Sydney therefore we should also see some increases there.”