The Wollongong Central shopping complex expansion will be the first project in the country to use an innovative, new and safer structural decking product.

Designed by Rice Daubney and developed by the GPT Group, the 19,000sqm shopping centre will deliver 80 new specialty stores, a new major supermarket to the city centre, and over 600 additional car spaces.

A central innovation in the project’s construction has been the use of BlueScope's proprietary light-dispersing resin coating that reduces the reflected glare of its Deckform steel coil, which is roll-formed into profiles used as permanent formwork.

Steel decking products for concrete formwork are not new, and unlike plywood, do not have to be removed once the concrete has cured. This provides tensile reinforcement, and combines with concrete’s strength for a stronger slab.

However, standard galvanised steel decking has typically been a difficult product to work with due to its high reflected glare. The low-glare coated (LGC) Deckform steel was created to combat this problem.

“By reducing reflected glare you are improving the safety outcome, because there’s less potential for glare to affect formworkers’ vision and orientation,” explains BlueScope’s marketing manager – Building Markets, Ashley Whitter.

“UV radiation and heat is also reduced compared to standard Deckform steel. An added safety benefit of the low-glare coating is that it reduces slip potential when walking on it.”

These features have quickened the handling of the steel decking at the Wollongong Central site. Moreover, according to Hansen Yuncken’s project manager, Sturt Hodgson, the decking is light to handle, and lacks defects on the slab’s underside – a problem traditional plywood decking can experience, allowing concrete leaks at the joins.

Not having to strip the steel decking once the concrete is formed also saves time on site. This speed of construction is boosted by the longer spans of the product as compared to plywood.

The six storey building will feature a new façade that reflects the natural environment and local history of Wollongong and the community. 750 decorative blades made from over 2,000 metres of BlueScope HA250 Xlerplate Lite steel will adorn the project’s southern façade, and are finished in iron oxide-style paint.

The same material will be used to form external skirting, and window sills and frames.

Internal spaces, including the atrium, are designed to be filled with natural light, while food will be a key retail focus. A connection with the existing mall and streetscape was also important for the architects, and realised with a glass façade in the atrium, as well as a food court with intimate booths overlooking the city.

The $200 million is expected to be complete later this year, and will create 800 permanent jobs.