Powerhouse Museum

Originally built in 1879, Ultimo’s Powerhouse Museum is a place of discovery for Australians curious about history, science, technology, space exploration, design, music and art. In 2020, it was Heritage Listed, a testament to the significance of its artefacts, as well as its place in the hearts and minds of visitors.  


Being an older building with countless delicate valuables, there is both an urgent need for reliable and effective HVAC solutions, and a considerable set of challenges in establishing and maintaining them. 


The museum’s old equipment was causing considerable grief in high maintenance expenses and suboptimal performance. It was time for an upgrade, and Masterflow was brought on to supply new pumps without the ability to have a complete shutdown at any point during the upgrade. 

  • Location:Ultimo (NSW)
  • Industry:Government

Our Process:

One key design element for our engineering team to take into consideration on this project was the separate and natural input and output sources of fluid for the system’s plate heat exchangers. Sea water was pumped in through the HEXs from Little Pier River, and out of them into the harbour. 

On the building’s heat rejection plant, the original pumps had used an outdated column pump design stemming from the 1950s, which we replaced with 4x custom-designed BPO pumps. These pumps were close-coupled and a motor stool specifically engineered for this job by Masterflow. The primary feature we developed for this stool was a design that eliminated shaft deflection by removing the long distance between motor and pump that caused shaft deflections and bearing failure in the prior-installed column pumps. We used 2205 duplex stainless casing for the pump in order for it to be invulnerable to seawater. Furthering the resilience against the intermittent contact with seawater, ABB provided a special coating for the motor. 

Masterflow’s custom BPO pumps deliver a stupendous 100l/s at 150kPa, and were installed on a Primary Condenser water circuit pumping through Alfa Laval Titanium Plate Heat Exchangers. A secondary circuit connects to the other side of the heat exchangers, feeding the museum itself. 

Our engineers ensured that the client had guidance in commissioning the first pump, providing expert recommendations to secure the best possible outcome for the system’s longevity, performance, and efficiency. 

The final challenge was ensuring that the new machinery could connect to the system’s existing VSD as per our client’s need for continued operation. This was achieved by machining a custom terminal box gland designed to accommodate the motor’s power and control cables, as well as a shielded cable for VSD connection. 


Despite the job offering challenges both intrinsically due to the building’s unique design specifications, and externally due to the supply chain and logistics nightmares imposed by COVID restrictions, the Powerhouse Museum’s HVAC upgrades with Masterflow were a success. 

No stone was unturned during specification in our determination to provide our client with every necessary protection against the challenges of a system that works with seawater. Seismic springs and motors that can be reused after submerging in water during king tides make the system capable of delivering the year-round operation that the end user requires. 

The client will no longer experience the shaft and bearing issues that previously plagued their sunken plantroom, thanks to our high-quality, purpose-engineered solution. Additionally, their need for a very high flowrate was successfully met despite supply chain challenges. 

If you want the experience of working with a supplier who protects you from oversights and who can weather the storm of whatever challenges your project has to offer, communicate your project details with Masterflow and we will reach out with our recommended next steps.

Solutions Used