Australian Catholic University – Saint Teresa of Kolkata Building, Australia

Creating connectivity for Australian Catholic University’s campus

  • Aurecon’s role: Project management and superintendent services
  • Client: Australian Catholic University
  • Project team: Lyons Architects and Contractor Watpac

What’s important to students and staff at Australian Catholic University (ACU) in Melbourne? The university sought answers to this question before deciding to build its newest campus building – the Saint Teresa of Kolkata Building. A feeling of connectivity and new perspective was the feedback they received.

Aurecon is working with ACU to project manage the design and construction of the new building that inspires the past yet connects to the future, that despite being surrounded by tall buildings, cafes and shops, provides a pocket of peacefulness and connection at the campus.

The result will be a 12-storey tower of learning and teaching spaces with a rooftop sports court above a seven-level below ground basement on Victoria Parade in Fitzroy.

In addition, three new levels will rise above the existing Mary Glowrey Building to include staff and research workspaces.

Even within the tight confines of the site, there will be plenty of outdoor spaces to socialise or study where students can easily run into their peers.

Reaching new heights and meeting challenges

Creating a feeling of connectivity and new perspective was always going to be a challenge on the site with no readily available space at the inner-city campus.

Aurecon led collaborative workshops throughout the project’s early stages to challenge the design teams to explore unique design and construction solutions that would put the end-user at the forefront of innovation.

The resulting design allows the university to gain more floor area vertically with three additional floors cantilevering from the top of the Mary Glowrey Building.

The new Saint Teresa of Kolkata Building will connect to the Mary Glowrey Building at every level so that students and staff can move seamlessly between the two structures in an easy and open manner. Centralised teaching facilities and informal learning spaces, a library, offices and a congregational hub will take in views over the campus and nearby urban surrounds.

Aurecon’s role as design manager realises the university’s intent to create a bold physical building for the campus, modern learning spaces for students and staff, and a gathering space to connect the structures to its inhabitants.

Dealing with below ground to get above ground

Building the seven-level car and bicycle park below ground provides plenty of above ground space to accommodate the Saint Teresa of Kolkata Building.

The complexity of geotechnical conditions challenged the design teams to develop a system of a grout curtain construction methodology to allow construction to proceed in the highly permeable and clay-filled geology.

To act as a barrier for any in-ground water, approximately 85 primary and secondary grout holes are drilled around the perimeter of the site at an approximate depth of 45 metres.

This is followed by the installation of 148 retention piles at 26 metres deep to anchor the foundation of the building works.

Programming to minimise interruptions to the campus and surrounds

The Saint Teresa of Kolkata Building represents a project being constructed within a live environment. The university operates all day, the majority of the year. Construction must fit within exam and educational programming, campus activities, research projects and regular maintenance works. Aurecon programmed large components of the construction works to coincide with the quieter periods on campus.

Not only will construction be confined due to land space restrictions on the campus, but it’s also adjacent to the busy Fitzroy area of inner-city Melbourne.

Aurecon gained inspiration from its experience in hospital construction to implement a process for interface works during live construction. Communication pivots around the works to be undertaken and what impacts or interference they will have on existing conditions or services. Easy to follow works notifications are then issued to campus staff and students with safety notes, changes in access and construction duration.

The works notifications are supplemented with regular consultation sessions, monthly newsletters and construction stories to maintain a positive perception of the project.

Communication extends beyond the campus grounds to the neighbouring areas. Residents and businesses are kept informed of design and construction with the genuine request for feedback.

The final building height and setbacks from the street were a result of community and stakeholder engagement to determine the visual mass of the project.

Bringing stakeholders on the journey

During the early stages of the project, Aurecon managed the communication process with more than 10 different city authorities to enlighten them on project works and bring them along on the development journey at the university.

The Mary Glowrey Building is rightly recognised as a place of cultural significance. Aurecon’s appointment of a heritage consultant created a definition for conservation works, archaeological investigations and heritage interpretive signage that was key to obtaining works approvals from Heritage Victoria.

Aurecon’s management of the authority engagement process early in the project allows for minimised risk in the construction phase.

The Saint Teresa of Kolkata Building will accommodate a growth in students, staff and researchers with infrastructure to meet their needs and improve their campus experiences. The university is planning for increased student numbers to more than 12 000 and 1200 staff.

The design and construction teams are delivering a setting for education that meets the changing needs of staff, students and researchers. The unique vertical building will play an important role on ACU’s campus and will inspire future generations of academics and researchers. It says we’re building a future where education will be disrupted but we’re going to be part of the response to that and allow for change, development and growth.

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