Aurecon delivers engineering services to the new commercial centre at Swartz Barracks, Oakey, Queensland.

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New Commercial Centre at Swartz Barracks, Oakey, Queensland, Australia

New commercial centre at Swartz Barracks provides personnel with service, space and comfort

The Army Commercial Centre in Oakey, Queensland, contains administrative offices and a precinct dining and café area for the Department of Defence Swartz Barracks personnel that defend and protect Australia’s interests every day.

The ageing buildings and infrastructure needed refurbishment to ensure the centre continues to support day-to-day life for personnel at the barracks.

Aurecon was contracted to undertake the engineering design and project management of the replacement centre that was delivered within Defence’s Estate Works Program.

Temporary facilities were established to continue the provision of services, while the new commercial centre was under construction.

The existing commercial centre was demolished and the new centre accommodates Army and Air Force canteen service facilities which includes a new entrance and new dining and café spaces, together with new administration offices, a Defence Bank branch, and car parking facilities.

Thinking outside the box for construction during coronavirus

Carrying out construction works at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Queensland posed a serious challenge to the project. To ensure the project remained on schedule, a change was proposed to the new centre’s foundation design.

Shifting from a deep concrete waffle slab to concrete driven piles with a thinner slab meant that construction personnel were not near each other, which contributed to the prevention of any spread of coronavirus.

The project team achieved a zero-harm outcome through the comprehensive and uncompromising management of risks, particularly those relating to health, safety and the environment.

A number of factors were considered when designing the project schedule. Demolition took place with minimal disturbance to base operations and traffic flows. This included the safe management of construction debris, which contained contaminants such as lead paint and asbestos.

More than 100 cubic metres of contaminated soil and crushed concrete, generated during the excavation and foundation works, were reused at the barracks by a separate contract that involved the construction of a new helicopter slope-training pad. It is an example of the considerable attention Defence is placing on reducing waste to landfill and forging a more sustainable circular economy.

The outcome was excellent for both projects and mitigated some of the landfill disposal costs incurred on the commercial centre project.

Despite the start of construction coinciding with the worsening pandemic, the project remained on schedule and the certificate of completion was awarded nearly two months ahead of schedule.

Collaboration was the key

The project demanded consistent stakeholder interaction to ensure business continuity for the tenants of the existing commercial centre to be able to service Swartz Barracks personnel during construction.

Throughout the project, regular interaction took place with project stakeholders and the Defence barracks team through the most appropriate channel given COVID-19 requirements and ranged from socially distanced face-to-face meetings, online meetings and e-communications.

Aurecon was heavily involved in working alongside stakeholders to first move them from the existing commercial centre into temporary facilities, and then into the new centre.

Aurecon and the contractor worked in collaboration to ensure the handover and takeover process was smooth. This included the collation and review of all documentation relating to the new centre and transferring it to Defence for its future maintenance planning.

Longevity for the commercial centre

Barracks personnel, and business tenants, have provided feedback that the new centre is spacious, easy to use and full of personality. A hand-painted wall mural located in the old commercial centre was carefully salvaged and sits in a prominent position in the new centre, providing a sentimental link to the base’s history.

The new commercial centre has become a flagship precinct that will support Swartz Barracks for years to come. It demonstrates the Department of Defence’s commitment to providing modern facilities for its personnel in regional Queensland.

Collaboration between the project and client team was combined with a genuine desire to deliver quality finishes and a positive customer experience. Personnel now have facilities that are better suited to their service, space and comfort requirements.

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