When the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) set about building a distinctive new liquid oxygen facility at Richmond, west of Sydney, it sought out steel roofing products from rollforming specialist Lysaght.

The new facility at Richmond is not your everyday building. Not simply because it is located at the end of a military runway. Or because its form is unconventional, especially compared with other buildings scattered around this sprawling military base. This building’s near uniqueness rests with the fact there are only a handful of such facilities in Australia, which, in turn, largely influenced its ultimate corrugated steel shape.

For those in the business, liquid oxygen is simply referred to as LOX. The Liquid Dry Breathing Oxygen Maintenance and Storage Facility, to give it its full name, performs a specific task for the RAAF, it tests, maintains and services the oxygen (and nitrogen) used for breathing air on military planes.

“The new facility had to accommodate LOX liquid,” said architect Guy Luscombe of Campbell Luscombe Folk Lichtmam Architects. “It has two main functions, storage and maintenance. “For safety reasons each function is housed in a separate building.

“The storage building, essentially a rain and sun protection shelter, services the planes directly and abuts the main runway. Its roof is made from Colorbond steel in Lysaght Custom Orb profile. The maintenance building, the ‘command module’, is the more sophisticated structure and sits about 100m away. It has three main testing laboratories/workshops with smaller rooms for specific testing functions.”

Construction of this command module borrows heavily from military ‘shed’ tradition. On the one hand it is somewhat reminiscent of the archetypal Nissen hut, used extensively by Allied forces during World War II. On the other, it borrows heavily from the basic design and shape of a plane’s wing.

The building’s single, streamlined form was primarily influenced by its location at the end of the main runway and designed to resist noise and wind pressure. The single, curved shell, clad in Colorbond steel in Lysaght Custom Orb profile, and highlighted in panels of Colorbond steel in Lysaght Mini Orb profile, protects the sensitive procedures undertaken inside, and also guards the web of pipes, ducts and extraction fans that allow these procedures to be carried out.

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