South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), Australia

Aurecon was engaged as a key member of the design team to deliver South Australia’s first world-class health and medical research institute.

The project’s ambitious design and sustainability outcomes included a unique, integrated structural facade system. Working with project architects, Woods Bagot, the integration of architecture and structure was brought together in the early stages of the design process, ensuring a clear pathway to the construction of a functional and iconic building that reflects the creative vision for the project.

Our philosophy involved drawing upon our specialist architectural engineering skill set with a key focus on close collaboration with our architectural colleagues to achieve a high level of architecture and engineering integration.

Aurecon suggested that by finessing the geometry of the column locations to the upper floors, the required 36 columns could be reduced to just six main support locations at plaza level, by the use of what has been colloquially termed as ‘flower columns’.  These innovative structural elements achieve the requirement of avoiding a ‘forest of columns’ and have reduced the support steelwork to around 250 tonnes. Critically, the design solution enhanced the overall architectural design by creating the illusion of the building ‘floating’ above the ground plane.

To coordinate the complex structural form and integrate it with the myriad of services required for a research centre of this calibre, a Building information modelling (BIM) design approach was used. 3D models were produced from Revit 2010 from all of the consultants which were regularly combined to develop a single fully coordinated BIM model. This model was adopted by the whole project team, including the Managing Contractor, and was used to coordinate disciplines, resolve conflicts and plan the project both before and during construction.

Traditional processes, without access to the latest technology in BIM modelling, would have made it impossible to design the complex structural geometry and curvatures of this unique and iconic building facade. However, the BIM design approach meant that an engineering solution involving over 14 000 triangles and extremely narrow steel sections (150 mm deep) that spanned an impressive 35 m was able to be developed and applied with confidence.

The institute will house up to 675 researchers undertaking research that will foster innovation and improvements in health services, and lead to improved health outcomes for the whole community.

Aurecon undertook the structural, civil, facade, traffic, geotechnical, wind, specialist vibration, electrical, vertical transportation and fire engineering for the project.

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