University of Melbourne Western Edge Biosciences (Stage 1), Australia

Helping prepare the next generation of bio scientists, doctors and veterinarians and enhancing Melbourne University’s reputation for excellence.

As Australia’s number one university and ranked among the world’s leaders in education, teaching and research institutions, the University of Melbourne (UoM) has reinforced its place at the top through the realisation of a global benchmark life-sciences complex.

The new AUD100 million facility will be home to three faculties: Agriculture and Veterinary Science; Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences; and Science. It offers Australia’s most sophisticated STEMM teaching labs and facilities in a building designed to achieve a 6-Star Green Star As Built rating. The premier biosciences teaching, learning, research and engagement district will also ensure the University maintains its global veterinary accreditation beyond 2020 ‒ safeguarding the only globally accredited veterinary course in Victoria.

To help achieve this world-class facility, the UoM engaged Aurecon as Project Manager and Superintendent to manage the design, tender and construction for the Western Edge Biosciences Stage One Project. Aurecon also provided risk management, value management and scope management advice enabling works to proceed on the heritage listed and historically important System Garden (est. 1856), in a manner that reduces the impact of future works on this sensitive environment and enhances its beauty.

Overcoming early challenges to keep on track

An early project challenge faced by Aurecon and the University of Melbourne was an ambitious programme driven by the requirement for teaching to commence at the start of 2019. Our team managed multiple contracts concurrently and delivered practical completion of the main building works by December 2018 – ahead of schedule and under budget.

Challenging heritage and town planning issues caused early delays, but Aurecon’s unconventional thinking brought the project back on track by instigating the merging of the main works and early works contracts. This accelerated the programme and brought the main works back on schedule ensuring the building and University met the requirements for the global Veterinary accreditation. Significant cost benefits were realised through making up for six weeks of lost time, while Aurecon also avoided the significant operational disruptions should the facility not have been ready for teaching at the start of 2019.

Managing shared learning spaces, competing needs and priorities

In a university first, three faculties ‒ Veterinary and Agricultural Science; Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences; and Science ‒ will share PC2 enabled wet and dry teaching laboratories, as well as a large object-based learning space and other formal and informal learning areas – all connected in one precinct.

With competing needs and priorities between faculties, Aurecon’s analytical and client-focused approach to stakeholder engagement assisted the UoM in successfully delivering a functional and inspiring centre that supports the University’s aspirations, meets all needs, facilitates flexible learning and teaching at scale and optimises investment.

The management of multiple stakeholders, in a highly visible environment, saw thorough and continual stakeholder engagement throughout the course of design and construction with high numbers of formal design meetings, town halls and page turns. Throughout Aurecon’s involvement in the project, there were over 145 formal design meetings, each looking to solve a different issue that users faced.

Our forward-thinking implementation of traditional project management techniques enabled the clear identification of user needs, and the exploration of contingencies for conflicting preferences, including multiple design options for stakeholder consideration.

Aurecon created a framework to support aspirations and control user expectations, scope and contract management. The development of a suitable governance structure and use of tools, including delegation schedules, client change requests and user comment registers, achieved a well-managed budget enabling the University to make design changes throughout the project, which ultimately benefit the end users.

Through an embedded practice of open and regular weekly reporting of key activities and decisions onsite, Aurecon’s team ensured the University had clear visibility and understanding of construction works, facilitating quick resolution of issues.

Aurecon’s biweekly site walks with users of the space were an opportunity to take people through the building, explain how it was being constructed and what that enabled in reality for students, staff and researchers. This approach provided users with a greater understanding of how spaces and people will come together, and minimised potential issues users could face upon moving in.

Achieving a place people want to be

As part of its role, Aurecon coordinated the UoM’s input to the Green Star rating pathway ensuring their best interests were at the forefront of decision making by all stakeholders. The outcome will see the Western Edge Biosciences (Stage 1) facility become the first STEMM building to achieve a 6-Star Green Star As Built rating, and the second UoM Building after the Melbourne School of Design.

“This is a significant feat due to the high energy demands of laboratory-based buildings, where there are high lighting and mechanical stresses that are required for the building to operate,” said Russell Vicary, UoM’s Programme Director, Construction – Planning and Delivery, Project Services.

Bringing the client’s requirements to life

The UoM’s Western Edge Biosciences Stage 1 project is an example of Aurecon bringing the University’s requirements to life. The need to deliver a world-class facility that would enable the University to maintain its global veterinary accreditation beyond 2020, was achieved in the face of the challenging and extremely ambitious programme.

Aurecon’s smart risk mitigation actions and its promotion of collaboration, fostered strong relationships among the project team, which enabled a highly successful and game changing project to be delivered on time and under budget for the University of Melbourne.

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