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Designing a world class medical research facility

SAHMRI - an interior photo of the facade

One of the key features of the project’s design was the creation of what has been colloquially termed as flower columns

28 November 2013 – As a member of the Integrated Design Team, Aurecon collaborated with project architects, Woods Bagot, to deliver to the community a world class medical research facility, which is at the cutting edge of design.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Premier Jay Weatherill will officially open the AUD 200 million South Australian Health and Medical Institute (SAHMRI), located on Adelaide’s North Terrace, on Friday 29 November 2013.

Aurecon SAHMRI Project Director, Niko Tsoukalas, said: “One of the key features of the project’s design was the creation of what has been colloquially termed as flower columns. An approach used to reduce the required 36 column locations to the upper floors to just six main support locations at plaza level.”

“The integration of architecture and structural engineering was brought together in the early stages of the design process, ensuring a clear pathway to the construction of a functional and iconic building that reflects the creative vision for the project.”

The innovative column system removed the need for a forest of columns and reduced the support steelwork to around 250 tonnes. Critically, the design solution enhanced the architectural vision of ensuring the building did not turn its back on any part of the city by creating the illusion of it floating above the ground.

Another key feature of the project's design is the integrated structural facade. The collaboration of architect and engineer enabled Aurecon to finesse the geometry of the aesthetic form using simple Euclidean theory. A regular polygon base (a hexagon) permitted the integrated structural façade system to use efficient long spanning lightweight roof (stadia roofs) technology. This made it possible to use an efficient form-active structural load distribution system and small rectangular hollow steel members to free span the large distances demanded by the out there design.

Niko went on to say: “The integration of Aurecon’s understanding of glass and lightweight architectural structures realised the overall vision for the SAHMRI skin of spiky, triangular windows that contain 6290 glass panels that dazzle in the sun, reminiscent of a crystal palace.”   

Covering 26 000 square metres, the institute will be home to up to 675 of the world’s foremost scientists looking at ways to foster innovation and improvements in health services, leading to improved health outcomes for the whole community.

“I am very honoured to have been part of the team to deliver this flagship research facility and iconic building that is an important part of the transformation of Adelaide’s skyline, but even more importantly I am humbled and excited to be part of the start of a medical research revolution in South Australia,” Niko added.

Aurecon undertook the structural, civil, façade, traffic, geotechnical, wind, specialist vibration, electrical, vertical transportation and fire engineering for the project.

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