Flinders Medical Centre upgrade, Adelaide, Australia

Transforming healthcare for Adelaide residents

The South Australian government is improving healthcare for the residents of the state with a capital works programme to renew the metropolitan hospital system. As part of this programme, aging facilities will be retired, and health functions will be consolidated into new and improved facilities. The Flinders Medical Centre is part of this programme and was an expansion to the largest hospital in South Australia’s southern area.

Aurecon’s track record in healthcare meant its structural and civil engineering skills helped to transform the Flinders Medical Centre to meet the needs of the growing population in Adelaide’s southern community.

The upgrade included a rehabilitation facility across six levels with a floorspace of 11 000 m², a specialist 30-bed geriatric mental health unit and a major multideck carpark built for more than 1 700 vehicles.

Structural engineering for seismic strength

The rehabilitation facility and mental health unit was designed to meet the needs of post-disaster facilities, which was by no means straightforward.

Aurecon drew on its wealth of experience in designing structural integrity of buildings for earthquake-resilience to develop a design to address the seismic restraints for the extensively serviced facilities so that, in the event of an earthquake, both buildings would remain operational.

Designing for construction works staging

Aurecon focused on designing the construction works staging within the project budget and maintaining maximum hospital functionality at the same time.

Designing the concrete base structure was critical in the planning stages to deliver a building frame in which the remainder of the trades can be launched as soon as possible. Aurecon’s engineers identified a concrete mix that enabled the building’s floors to be stripped earlier without relying on the traditional 28-day curing of the floor below for back propping.

The contractor was then able to adopt the concrete mix and achieve the higher strength at the shorter curing time – providing valuable access for the trades team in the construction programme.

Designs that cater for patient-centric models of care

Modern health services make use of a model-of-care that is centred on patient needs and recognises the important role that a hospital environment can play in the healing process. The built form can positively contribute to this environment through the provision of natural light together with uninterrupted external views of the sky and vegetation, as well as access to fresh air.

At the Flinders Medical Centre, these needs were expressed architecturally through uninterrupted glazing on the northern elevation, two multi-floor atriums (light wells) in the centre of the floor plates on both wings, central lift lobbies that open onto external balconies and a ‘green roof’. In all cases, a concrete solution was found to ensure each of these features could be supported in a cost-effective manner.

Adopting a design with post-tensioned concrete

The post-tensioned concrete option offered the narrowest structural depth required to maximise the ceiling space, while accommodating the building services.

To allow the north façade to stream sunlight into the rehabilitation building, Aurecon designed the solid elements (lift cores, shear walls and stair cores) to be offset to the extreme south-west and south-east corner.

Making use of computer modelling

Computer modelling of these solid elements allowed several shapes to be trialled quickly until a balance was struck between size and location, while ensuring minimal cost and impact on the amount of available clinical floor area.

Collaboration was the key

A key characteristic of this project was the collaborative nature of the team that delivered it, facilitating free and open communication between the team members.

This approach to improving healthcare in South Australia delivered a future-ready medical facility that provides the residents of the southern area with greater access to health services now and into the future.

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