Whitty Building Redevelopment, Brisbane, Australia

Refurbishment creates a world-class education facility building

Originally opened in 1911, the Whitty Building boasts significant history, morphing from its primary function as a public hospital to an educational facility focusing on medical, nursing, midwifery and allied health services training.

In a bid to refurbish the building and create a world-class education facility, Aurecon was appointed as Project Manager and given the special opportunity, together with Conrad Gargett as Principal Consultant and Architect, and Turner & Townsend as Quantity Surveyor, to become part of Mater’s unique story.

While respecting and maintaining the building’s historic architectural features, including pressed metal ceilings and stained-glass windows, Aurecon sought to deliver on Mater’s shared vision, with The University of Queensland, of converting the heritage-listed building into a leading, modern learning space.

“Collaboration was very important to the Whitty Building Redevelopment Project because it enabled Aurecon to lead a team that solved problems effectively and utilised innovation to maintain the charm and heritage of the building while, in parallel, delivering the client’s vision,” said Aurecon Project Leader, Matt Daldry.

Our challenge

Since the 1940s, Mater has provided clinical training and placements to many hundreds of medical, nursing, midwifery and allied health students from The University of Queensland. However, the training facilities were scattered across a variety of locations throughout the Mater campus. To deliver an internationally-recognised, academic health science centre, it was imperative to integrate a range of disciplines in a centralised facility, complete with administrative, teaching and clinical areas.

A mixture of time constraints, ongoing access and service maintenance requirements, heritage-listed redevelopment considerations and an unknown quantity of hazardous materials saw a momentous number of challenges arise throughout the redevelopment.

One of the challenges stemmed from the significant development the Mater campus has seen over time, to the point where there is virtually no green space to allow for future expansion. Additionally, as new facilities and their connected infrastructure were installed, many of the required services were mined directly under the Whitty Building.

Consequently, the installation of underground rooms, and the connection of new services throughout the redevelopment required significant communication, coordination and collaboration by all project participants and affected users.

In addition, regardless of the construction activity at the Whitty Building, pedestrian access had to remain open at all times and, similarly, many services such as medical air, IT, hydrant water, fire and security alarms for surrounding buildings had to remain operational. To minimise risk to the safety of patients, staff and families, unplanned service interruptions could not be tolerated.

Therefore, Aurecon implemented various mitigation strategies throughout the complex project, which required the Principal Contractor and Mater resources to be on-call to respond immediately to any interruption to a critical service.

Aurecon also assisted and supported Mater in establishing regular forums relating to each workface, whereby affected users would meet with the contractor and project team to understand upcoming works, their likely impact, and a workaround solution. The forums were a critical communication element in ensuring no unplanned interruptions or unsafe situations arose.

Realising a shared vision

Despite the challenges presented, Aurecon, through the implementation of careful scope and change control processes, robust communication and coordination processes, and in conjunction with the consultant team, worked with Mater to patiently and logically progress through their internal approval processes to preserve the vision and intent for the project.

Completed June 2017, the Whitty Building is now home to exceptional spaces that are facilitating collegiate and collaborative interaction for 400 students and 65 teachers in a state-of-the-art environment, which allows for high quality theoretical and clinical simulation teaching incorporating the latest technology.

Dr Shane Kelly, Mater Group Chief Executive Officer, said at the opening of the redeveloped Whitty Building:

“A special thank you must go to the project team who worked tirelessly to realise our vision for this building. The team’s work has provided a beautiful learning space which I hope will support and inspire those who use the building to take their careers in healthcare to new and exceptional heights.”


The project won the following award:

  • Highly commended: Australia Engineering Excellence – Queensland Division Awards 2018

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