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Digital Expertise: Case study

Sunshine Coast University Hospital – A legacy for the community

The design of a modern hospital

Nearly 200 years ago Florence Nightingale was starting a revolution in hospital care, campaigning for appropriate sanitation and the introduction of patient food.

How times have changed since Nightingale’s era. Modern hospitals now have robots delivering nutritionally-prepared meals and fresh linen to wards, and hospitals in general are creating spaces that are designed to assist patient recovery.

Renowned for its coastal setting and natural beauty, Queensland’s Sunshine Coast has the perfect qualities to be a healing environment for a new hospital. With unprecedented growth and changing demographics in the broader region, the Queensland Government announced the development of the new hospital in 2005.

The AUD 1.8 billion hospital was delivered by the Queensland Government as part of a Public Private Partnership contract with Exemplar Health, a consortium of Lendlease, Siemens and Capella Capital, with Aurecon and Spotless.

Opened to the public in early 2017, the award-winning Sunshine Coast University Hospital (SCUH) features a state-of-the-art health facility and teaching hospital with 450 beds, and the capacity to expand in the future.

The hospital has real human-centric design solutions that positively contribute to enhancing the health, well-being and healing of patients.

Aurecon was mindful of delivering an engineering design that would create a healthcare facility, which connects with, and enhances, the local community through its accessibility and role as a place of healing in a natural setting.

Enhancing health, well-being and healing

SCUH has been designed to enhance physical and mental health and well-being by seamlessly linking the indoor spaces with the outdoors. The design interweaves clinical spaces with open, landscaped courtyards, offering an abundance of spaces for respite, reflection, regeneration and inspiration to staff, medical students, patients and the public.

Aurecon was conscious of creating a legacy for the community, said Aurecon Major Projects Director, Adrian Jenkins.

“The intent was to create a building that feels more like a home than a health facility. The benefits for patients and staff may include reduced recovery time and better treatment outcomes."

“Aurecon is proud to have played a part in the creation of this community-focused hospital,” said Jenkins.

Aurecon’s engineering design has realised the architectural intent – to make people feel a sense of belonging as they step through the hospital door.

A view of the main entry to the building, cantilevering a four storey block over the entrance.

A view of the main entry to the building, cantilevering a four storey block over the entrance.

Embracing digital engineering

SCUH provides the local community with access to the latest in healthcare, research and educational advances. The facility will be resilient, adaptive and future-ready for future generations.

Project quick stats

Aurecon Technical Director, Richard Murphy, explains that the scale of the project is difficult to comprehend.

“The development covers a total area of 200 000 m2, equivalent to approximately 20 international rugby football fields. With such a large and complex building to engineer, we embraced digital engineering because we knew it would add value to the design process,” said Murphy.

The application of Building Information Modelling (BIM) helped streamline the design process. Using BIM, the project team created an interactive 3D model of the engineering design. This allowed the client and design teams to collaborate on complex design elements and easily communicate changes.

BIM is an intelligent 3D model-based process that gives engineers the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct and manage buildings and infrastructure.

Using BIM to digitise engineering designs

As you move through the hospital spaces, it’s hard to get a sense of how the design came to be. This is where BIM came in, to digitise the project’s engineering designs.

Aurecon used BIM to its full extent on SCUH, and integrated it with the dRofus platform, a planning database that includes stakeholder communication workflows.

The BIM interactive 3D model contributed to decision-making from the earliest conceptual stages, through to detailed design and then construction. It helped to facilitate greater efficiency, accuracy and predictability into the construction programme.

The BIM interactive 3D model contributed to decision-making from the earliest conceptual stages.

The BIM interactive 3D model contributed to decision-making from the earliest conceptual stages.

2D drawings still had a place on this project as they were used for construction, but the 3D model took the project’s design to the next level. The visual nature of the interactive 3D model allowed for clearer communication with stakeholders, and a better understanding of the final design.

BIM helped to maximise clinical spaces

Aurecon knew the size and extent of non-clinical spaces had to be as small as possible.

Richard Murphy acknowledges that this may sound obvious, however, traditionally, corridors and engineering plantrooms take up a significant area in a hospital’s footprint: sometimes as much as 25 per cent.

“We relied on the interactive nature of the 3D BIM model to carefully test ways to reduce the size of non-clinical spaces, while still accommodating the critical building services to maintain the function of the building,” concludes Murphy.

To develop the 3D model, the team inputted the building services and clinical requirements into BIM, along with design intent and data.

To develop the 3D model, the team inputted the building services and clinical requirements into BIM, along with design intent and data. The BIM 3D model was used to model the layout of the equipment in each clinical room.

By analysing the plant area and arrangement of the equipment, Aurecon was able to re-orientate the designs in BIM, to ultimately increase the amount of clinical space built in the hospital.

The 3D BIM model allowed Aurecon to better tune the spaces, test different designs inside the building’s footprint, and hone in on the exact space science to optimise the ratio of clinical versus non-clinical spaces. The result was more space for patients, medical equipment and consulting rooms for clinicians.

The BIM 3D model was used to model the layout of the equipment in each clinical room

3D printing to inspect the modular risers

The way that digital engineering harnesses imagination and manages multidimensional challenges was powerfully evident when the project team used 3D printing technology to visualise the project’s modular risers.

Lendlease had the vision to design building elements for off-site prefabrication and modular construction where possible. Aurecon stayed true to this vision with the off-site prefabrication of some of the building elements, including the modular risers – the structures that house some of the main building services for the hospital.

When building elements are prefabricated offsite it makes way for other critical elements of construction to commence at the same time as the main concrete pours, rather than afterwards.

Additional benefits of off-site prefabrication include:

  1. Improved sustainability with less onsite construction waste
  2. Improved site safety with more control over construction works in and around the modular risers
  3. Pre-installation testing in a controlled environment to reinforce quality control

On SCUH, there were 20 different locations in the building where modular risers were required. Lendlease and Aurecon held a preliminary theory that each modular riser could be prefabricated offsite because they couldn’t be built at the same time onsite without affecting the construction timeline.

This was because of the large volume of materials required all at once, the tight construction timeframe for the superstructure and difficulty adding additional building trades to an already busy site.

To communicate the built form of the modular risers to stakeholders, Aurecon commissioned a 3D print of a modular riser. This provided stakeholders with a tangible example of Lendlease’s innovative vision for off-site prefabrication.

The journey from design to construction of a modular riser

The journey from design to construction of a modular riser

Aurecon’s engineering team can still remember the feeling of excitement as they first laid eyes on the 3D printed modular riser. It had been a detailed process to get to this point, having been through drawings, the interactive 3D model and renders, before printing.

What an amazing piece of digital technology to assist engineering design, and something that wasn’t even in the wildest imaginations of hospital builders during Florence Nightingale’s era.

Creating something special

It was a privilege to work on the Sunshine Coast University Hospital said Jenkins.

“This building will have such a positive social impact on the local community and users of the hospital. With Aurecon’s history of engineering the design of healthcare facilities, we saw the positive contribution we could make."


  • Healthcare Building of the Year, International Federation of Hospital Engineering, 2018
  • Queensland Engineering Excellence Award Finalist, Australian Engineering Excellence Awards, 2018
  • South Pacific Professional ICT Design Award, Building Industry Consulting Services International, 2017

In the healthcare industry, Aurecon has played key roles in delivering major hospital and healthcare projects. At the time of construction, the SCUH was one of the largest hospital building projects in Australia, based on gross floor area.

Engineering needs humanity and humanity needs engineering

The successful design and delivery of SCUH is a case study in future hospital building construction. It demonstrates that integrating and utilising digital design tools, paired with an innovative approach to project delivery and supply chain parameters, creates a powerful model for managing construction and design.

Florence Nightingale’s dream of sanitation and food has been achieved, and much more. Imagine what she would say if she could see today’s hospitals with their patient comfort and recovery spaces, combined with superior technology that has the possibility to save and prolong lives.


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