South Melbourne Primary School, Australia

Bringing Victoria’s first vertical government school to life

Opened in 2018, South Melbourne Primary School is a state-of-the-art Prep to Year 6 primary facility located in inner Melbourne. The school is unique in that it is the first vertical government school in Victoria, which has the capacity to accommodate more than 500 students.

The vision for South Melbourne Primary School is to provide modern teaching and learning spaces to support the next generation of Victoria’s youth.

The facility not only meets the educational needs of a rapidly growing community, but provides for early childhood learning, maternal and other health services, as well as meeting the sporting, outdoor space and recreational needs of the whole community. Spaces and facilities have been created for the community to share, fully embedding the school in neighbourhood life.

Built on a compact brownfield site of 5000m2, the six-storey design sees the traditional schoolyard reconfigured vertically. Aurecon was appointed as project manager and superintendent which required an in-depth understanding of the needs of the community as well as comprehensive stakeholder management.

Vertical school design innovation

As well as indoor sports courts and a gym, the building boasts a netted outdoor sports area on level two and a climbing play structure that allows vertical connection between the outdoor learning areas on levels two and three, further promoting exercise and active play.

A feature inspired by contemporary institutional designs across Melbourne is a large-scale atrium which can be used as an auditorium for informal meetings or teaching lessons. Other features include both indoor and outdoor learning spaces; video and conference rooms; a library and interactive learning centre. Community facilities include a long day-care kindergarten, maternal and child health consulting rooms and both indoor and outdoor sports courts.

Engaged as project managers in the crucial design phase of this project, we were able to provide the necessary mitigation strategies to influence and steer the project design in the direction to help shape the client’s agenda and achieve their desired outcomes.

Managing risks

Aurecon held risk workshops and approached every project issue from a risk perspective by identifying the issue, analysing potential outcomes, and developing mechanisms for mitigation. Risk management issues were entered in a monthly log and risk management matrix.

Sarah Oleksiuk, Senior Consultant, Program Advisory team said Aurecon used their in-depth knowledge of the Victorian School Building Authority’s (VSBA) Project Management Framework, PREP process, and the construction industry’s iTWOcx intelligent project collaboration system to adapt standard delivery processes for new schools to this non-standard capital works project.

Aurecon’s project management methodology, underpinned by the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) methodology, was applied to this project.

"We saw our role as the key consultant managing the client’s risks, providing the necessary mitigation strategies and coordinating the project mitigation strategies accordingly. Our approach was to ensure the client never felt unsure about key issues and that there were never any 'surprises'," said Sarah.

Aurecon used this approach over the full life of the project and all project team members were encouraged to continuously raise potential risks and contribute to the mitigation strategy.

Program delays and cost risk exposure

To mitigate key program delay and cost risk, Aurecon undertook decontamination and remediation of the site, as well as the piling package as two separate early works packages. By completing these high-risk, yet critical path activities during the design and tendering phases, Aurecon saved the project six months’ time and significantly reduced the future risk of the program.

Despite this time saving, the ambitious delivery schedule and building complexity presented further program challenges during construction. Aurecon identified program risks early enough to enable contingency plans to be developed, instigating a series of meetings and workshops with the project team, stakeholders and client to identify possible mitigation strategies.

During these discussions, the potential to undertake a staged handover process in a collaborative working manner was identified as a solution.

Extensive consideration was given to critical elements such as paths of egress, operation of fire services within handed over areas, isolation of fire services within incomplete areas, and safe and compliant entry into the new facility.

Although the team had a mitigation plan in place, the project could not afford to encounter any additional delays. As such, the following initiatives were implemented:

  • Strong focus placed on key critical activities that could potentially impact on reaching a staged handover
  • Working collaboratively with the design team to ensure a quick turnaround on request for information responses
  • Increased number of site visits
  • Pre-defects inspections and early identification of major defects allowing rectification and ensuring there was no impact on the practical completion
  • Undertaking commissioning activities and defect rectification concurrent to the user bump-in period

Furthermore, with the significant focus that head contractor ADCO placed on the construction works, including the implementation of re-sequencing key tasks and activities, reviewing activity durations, identifying further areas of float, and increasing labour efforts on site, the project program was achieved and delivered on time.

Award winning

The project has won the following awards:

  • Winner: World Architecture Festival Awards 2016 – Future Project of the Year – Hayball
  • Winner: Victorian School Design Awards 2018 – Ministerial Commendation for the Best Example of Inclusive Design – Hayball

Images courtesy of the Victorian School Building Authority (VSBA)

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