Sea Life Sydney Aquarium

ECI delivers 'Shark Dive Xtreme' & refurbished retail

Buildcorp created a cage-free, ‘shark meets human’ dive experience at the Sea Life Aquarium, Darling Harbour for the Merlin Entertainment Group. Contracted by Linked Project Management through an early contractor involvement (ECI) arrangement, we provided construction advice on buildability, programming, value engineering, logistics management and coordination.

The ultimate ‘live environment’
The term ‘live environment’ was pushed to its limits as construction took place within the ‘OC1’ shark tank which contained marine life and was open to public viewing. The team developed a strategy to protect the marine environment during underwater construction and demolition works, and noise levels were kept to a minimum. Flexibility around re-programming accommodated requests from the Aquarium’s curatorial team to ensure animal welfare.
The project consisted of three components:
  1. A retail store refurbishment across two stages to keep the store operational. Works included the construction of a new corridor link walkway, polished concrete floors and bespoke architectural joinery using reclaimed timber from the UK, installed by specialist joiners.
  2. The new Shark Dive Xtreme attraction involved the construction of an epoxy coated structural steel dive tank and patron viewing platform submerged in the OC1 shark tank. Works included the demolition of the existing shark walk and structural steel framework and reuse of existing acrylic panels to form the base of the new shark tank. This required specialist aquarium contractors and commercial construction divers.
  3. Operational and logistics support relocated six sharks from Manly to Sydney and Mooloolaba. The shark moves involved a 22T Franna crane, telehandler, 350T mobile crane, refrigerated semi-trailers and flatbed trucks. Traffic control around the busy locations and coordination with road and traffic authorities resulted in the successful transfer of all live animals to their new homes.

The successful delivery of the project also included an early handover date and costs that were kept firmly on-budget.


Merlin Entertainment Group


Alasdair Macdonald Architects

Contract sum



12 weeks


May 2018