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Digital Expertise: Case study

Joint Health Command Garrison Facilities Upgrade – The value of virtual reality

Nationally consistent healthcare facilities for Australian Defence personnel

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) plays a critical and important role in Australia’s security and peacetime services. It’s made up of personnel who each and every day make a commitment to the security and peace of Australia.

The ADF’s Joint Health Command manages on-base medical services to ensure personnel are fit and free from illness to be able to perform effectively under operational conditions. The Garrison Health Facilities Upgrade Project better enables the Joint Health Command to deliver care.

Through the development of a virtual reality (VR) design experience, as part of its project management and contract administration responsibilities, Aurecon has made a significant contribution to the upgrade project.

VR was used as a broader stakeholder communication and engagement tool to help inform the internal layouts of each health facility included in the upgrade project. It's an interactive computer-generated experience taking place within a simulated environment.

Through the use of VR, the ADF Joint Health Command staff were able to “look around” the artificial world, move around in it, and interact with virtual features to determine the best layout for each health facility.

Aurecon designed a VR experience so that informed decisions could be made about the layout and design of each health facility. Never before had Joint Health Command used this type of technology to design on-base facilities.

– Claude Di Rosso, Aurecon Senior Project Manager

Joint Health Command Garrison Facilities Upgrade Project Scope

Joint Health Command Garrison Facilities Upgrade Project Scope

Embracing a new national healthcare delivery model

The Garrison Health Facilities Upgrade Project embraces a national healthcare delivery model for the ADF with centralised and co-located on-base health services at 12 priority sites across Australia.

Through the construction of new facilities and the reconfiguration, expansion or renovation of existing buildings, these 12 health facilities will service approximately 26 000 personnel, or 46 per cent of the ADF.

Aurecon has a long history of providing technical and support services to Defence client agencies and the wider industry, and is proud to be contributing to the health preparedness and well-being of personnel with this current health project.

The customisable nature of virtual reality

The design intent for each healthcare facility was to have a common look and feel. On average, personnel move every two years, consequently Joint Health Command (JHC) wanted to create healthcare facilities that felt familiar to all ADF personnel, wherever they were based.

Joint Health Command Garrison Facilities Upgrade Visualisation Model Diagram

This is where digital engineering provided a solution. Using virtual reality (VR), Aurecon created a virtual healthcare experience for JHC to standardise building design aspects, wayfinding signage and the arrangement of medical equipment.

With 12 ADF sites spread across Australia, it was challenging to achieve design standardisation given the different site constraints, and VR helped the decision-making process.

“The application of digital visualisation tools allowed Aurecon to create a VR solution as a powerful immersive medium in the design process. This allowed JHC to experience and interrogate its designs in ways that had never previously been possible for them,” said Claude Di Rosso, Aurecon Senior Project Manager.

The unique ability to immerse a user ‘inside’ a design makes virtual reality the perfect tool to visualise the space and mitigate variation during construction, by providing the ability to experience the space before it is built.

Stepping into the virtual world

Aurecon successfully implemented the VR digital solution as a means of risk mitigation. Where a project may incur variation costs in construction due to design or client led changes, the risk can be mitigated in the design phase through stakeholder consultation.

Traditionally, it has involved the presentation of design drawings in 2D and 3D formats, which does not always enable key stakeholders to gain full appreciation of the proposed spaces.

The VR experience was developed to transport stakeholders ‘inside’ the building. This engaged and excited the project stakeholders.

“We can still remember the overwhelming ‘aha moment’ when Joint Health Command personnel lowered the VR goggles over their eyes. They realised they could walk through their designs like never before. They were able to test the arrangement of internal spaces, check the suitability of wayfinding signage, and determine the best layout for clinical equipment,” said Di Rosso.

This method of combining technical information with human interaction was a much better way to convey the project’s design and obtain feedback from stakeholders. By enabling JHC personnel to appreciate spaces through an immersive VR experience, Aurecon was able to achieve a significantly higher degree of stakeholder consultation and feedback.

Taking virtual reality around the country

The VR kit was easily transportable and therefore it could be whisked around the country in a short time to reach stakeholders at each of the 12 ADF bases. It meant that staff and project stakeholders across five Australian states could step into the VR experience and be able to provide feedback on the building design, layout of equipment and wayfinding signage.

Joint Health Command Garrison Facilities Upgrade Australia

In addition to the overall positive feedback regarding the effectiveness of the VR experience, real design issues were identified and resolved. Improvements were made to the wayfinding signage so that patients could self-navigate around each facility.

For example, while inside the VR experience, JHC staff realised that the dental clinic layout was not functional. In real-time, they were able to reconfigure the sink, chair and orientation of the rooms to better suit the clinicians and patients who will be working in, and visiting, the space.

The VR experience also led to changes in furniture, fittings and equipment selections after some were identified as not suitable for their function in the building.

All of the design feedback gathered during the VR engagement programme was incorporated into the detailed design for each facility prior to contract tendering and construction.

The value of virtual reality

VR has the benefit of being able to present visual outputs from a thought, a 2D drawing, or an idea.

For the Garrison Health Facilities Upgrade Project, VR helped to standardise the design of each healthcare facility across the 12 bases to include:

  • Primary care: general practice, mental health, nursing clinics, minor procedures, audiology, short term observation and rehabilitation support
  • Dental services
  • Pharmacy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Back of house, administration and support spaces
  • Low acuity inpatient care (at some sites)

VR enabled an appreciation of spatial constraints in internal spaces, equipment and the overall sense of scale for the building.

Joint Health Command Garrison Facilities Upgrade Virtual reality creates value

“We believe that using VR in this way is the beginning of a paradigm shift with digital innovations that will continue to challenge our ideas of how we interact with models, data and reality. This digitisation of design development has provided practitioners with new ways to envision and deliver design."

“It enables us, and our clients, to innovate and develop solutions that push the boundaries of imagination and creativity,” concluded Di Rosso.


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