11 ways the University of Melbourne is blazing a trail for Campus Development

There is a lot to be excited about with the University of Melbourne’s new building known as the Melbourne School of Design.

On the surface alone, the building boasts a 6 Star Green Star Education Design rating. It’s the first building to ever be awarded all 10 innovation points under Green Star, including the recently added credits for life cycle assessment.

The 6 Star Rating represents ‘World Leadership’ in environmentally sustainable building practices. Only 12 buildings in Australia have received a 6 Star Green Star Education Design – v1 rating – the ABP building is the largest to achieve this.

I wanted to take a look under the bonnet of this impressive building, and recently caught up with Project Director Anne Thompson, who explored the key features paving the way for future global campus development:

Built Pedagogy:

  • The building provided an opportunity to express a commitment to built pedagogy, both in terms of design as well as through the construction process. The University has embraced the opportunity to engage with the students during the construction process. Project consultants John Wardle Architects have given lecture series to share the design process; Brookfield Multiplex builders have also delivered a regular construction lecture series.
  • Every fortnight we provided site tours for students and staff and a viewing platform was installed during the demolition phase for the Faculty to hold tutorials overlooking the site.
  • Three time lapse cameras positioned around the site have provided an amazing tool for lecturing, the project team and to capture this one off opportunity. This has been supplemented by actual construction drawings for students.
  • Focusing on sharing how we’re designing and building the new MSD Building has been an extremely rewarding endeavor, which means our students and staff are familiar with the building before they even move in. There is a general buzz of excitement in the Faculty hallways discussing the latest concrete pour and progress.

Campus Integration and Stakeholder relationships:

  • The team at FABP made a substantial commitment to market intelligence. Anne, the builders and even the Dean have frequently contributed to a public blog. It’s updated every few weeks and keeps people informed of progress.
  • The building program is four months ahead of schedule; quite a feat considering development took 18 months in total. The extra time is planned to be spent on specialist heritage reconstruction of the Japanese Room into a specially designed envelope, as well as commissioning and relocation of University staff. Classes start in earnest next year.
  • To match the flexible spaces in the building, the outdoor spaces have full Wi-Fi accessibility allowing tutorials to be delivered outside. This engagement with the campus is planned and driving mobility and collaboration across campus.
  • Beyond teaching, the Faculty is very active within the architecture community and the City of Melbourne; it will be a great space for exhibitions, displays and events, with spaces designed to be changed and tailored as needed.

World Leadership rating with 6 star Green Star achievements:

  • As part of the development, a few trees needed to be removed. The trees were salvaged, dried out and will be used as part of the planned Woodwork studios run by the Faculty, where students will use the timber for the new building. These memories and reuse of the old building materials are gentle reminders of the history of the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning.
  • The building has a host of other features that helped achieve the 6 star rating including; mixed mode heating and cooling, double-glazing, glare reduction, rainwater collection, water recycling, low-energy light fittings, low-water sanitary fittings, levels of natural light, fresh air, bike storage facilities and showers.
  • ‘Innovation’ points were awarded for a pre-occupancy study of the building occupants, eliminating all car parking on the project site and preserving and integrating the National Trust-listed Joseph Reed façade.

Join Anne for a site tour of the new ABP building during Campus Development 2014. For more information, or to book your spot visitwww.campusdevelopment.com.au or call 02 9229 1000.

8 lessons learnt from dredging projects

There’s no shortage of hold-ups when it comes to dredging projects, with such a big industry, Australia is full of them. Ahead of Dredging and Reclamation 2014, I caught up with a few project leaders to see where mistakes have been made. Some key areas stood out that I wanted to share with you:

Mapping is key

Financial considerations are hard to overestimate in any project. Developers can often be unwilling to spend money on mapping and monitoring, instead opting for the simplest possible technique. Unfortunately, as you go down the line with this approach, there’s still some surprise when the approvals get rejected. Without the right equipment, the operation tends to go over thresholds or other similar measurements. In the field, the simplest technique doesn’t give you the answer all the time. You’ll only end up having to spend your money on fines and delays instead. Be one step ahead of the regulators and the public.

Transferring risk can end up costing big bucks

Dredging project owners are always looking to reduce their risk, trying to create contracts that transfer risk to the dredging contractor and it doesn’t work. A contractor can decide at some point that they haven’t made enough money, pick an area of AS 2124 and attack it and make a claim. If multiple contractors operate within a wharf or similar structure at the same time, this can cause access issues and lead to further claims.

There’s an illusion in the current way contracts are done that risk can be transferred from the project owner. Whilst this may save short term costs, it can lead to substantial cost and time delays down the line.

Owners still have a lack of experience in terms of practical dredging knowledge. Most teams have a procurement unit working in isolation and independently of everyone else, which leads to a single vision. Risk becomes points on a paper inside a contract that becomes transferred rather than dealt with from a practical view.

Communication is top priority

It seems obvious, but it’s still an area that leads to many issues throughout the dredging process. This is crucial both for contract relationships and to avoid delays and disputes from stakeholders.

Collaboration, partnership, and being able to see another person’s perspective is key. Building a rapport builds confidence and trust that the contract and project is being handled responsibly – work together early and often, both at the project level and more broadly.

Good planning up front and a robust assessment of baseline environmental conditions needs to be locked in. Have a very well defined project description early on and don’t change it. All of those things will help approvals, stakeholder communication and consultation.

The ‘unforeseen’ can be avoided

If you’re acting for the Principal, start thinking about the likelihood of unexpected conditions at the early feasibility stage of a project right up to when you select a tenderer. After selecting a tenderer and the Contractor is working on site, you lose much of the power to influence. Take steps to identify possible latent conditions at any early stage, before you’re confronted with them during project execution.

Latent conditions need to be managed

If a Principal is faced with a more complex project with varying soil and rock types, then it is well advised to carry out a more thorough investigation to lower the risk of not detecting a latent condition. Obviously there is a cut off; a Principal can’t investigate every cubic meter for the planned Project.

Any site investigation can only be a representation of anticipated subsurface conditions. Principals should always aim to reduce the risk to an acceptable degree. Consider Early Contractor Involvement with the scope of the planned site investigation.

Geotechnical modelling has huge potential

 

Both the Principal and the Contractor should formulate a robust 3D geotechnical model of the likely subsurface conditions. The model can determine what materials you are likely to encounter in different types and categories.

The Principal’s consultant and the Contractor’s production estimator can then calculate the derived productions fairly accurately. If a latent condition is encountered, a geotechnical model can provide the parties with a benchmark to calculate where the differences are. Be wary of interpretation – different biases can lead to issues.

Take proactive measures

A proactive way of dealing with disputes as they arise is needed. A dispute board can be selected for their knowledge and expertise before any dispute has arisen. By undertaking an on-going relationship and regular site visits, the dispute board will acquire a good working knowledge of the project. When a dispute arises, the dispute board will have a much better understanding than a court or arbitral tribunal, which will only be appointed after a dispute has arisen.

Keep learning and evolving

The fundamental of dredging is that you dig the stuff up out of the ground and put it somewhere – that hasn’t changed. What has changed is the way that you do it, and that’s driven from environmental approvals.

The management of reclamation areas has improved enormously, and understanding how to minimise the amount of turbidity or sediments that get back into the environment. That’s going to become much more important as work is done in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Innovation will be dealing with the conditions and coming up with the best outcome using all of your knowledge and resources available to come up with a solution.

The Dredging and Reclamation conference has been developed as a value creation forum where knowledge, new ideas, best practice and real world learning experiences can be shared amongst other dredging professionals. Providing key case studies from leading practitioners, the conference will share insight into Australia’s most exciting dredging projects in the planning, design or development stages.

Find out more by visiting www.dredgingandreclamation.com.au or call 02 9229 1090.

Old Aussie buildings… Don’t write them off just yet

The spotlight is well and truly on retro & refurb as Australia is poised to reduce energy emissions, operational costs and get smarter with space. But why is it so important now? How can technology help? Where do we keep making mistakes? And what can be done to make sure our older buildings stand out? We sought the expert’s insight from Caimin McCabe, Director, Cundall Australia ahead of his presentation at Retrfit & Refurb 2014

What would you say are the key drivers prompting property owners and investors to start thinking about retrofitting their own buildings?

There are a few key areas here:

  • In the building owner’s mind is asset repositioning or increasing asset value. They want to create a better asset and establish a point of difference from the competition.
  • The asset valuation might be done as a direct result of current operational costs to try and reduce the running costs of those buildings.
  • Retention is an increasing driver for retrofitting. Particularly in Grade B, C and D buildings where there’s a lot more competition for tenants. When their leases come up for renewal, they start to reflect upon whether they want to stay or if they’ll get a better deal elsewhere.
  • Flexibility is another area we’re seeing as a driver. There are increasing numbers of smaller entities who want smaller space in good locations, leading to a need to accommodate multiple (small) tenancies on each floor – particularly within Grade B, C & D buildings.
  • In the back of people’s mind whilst doing this are issues like NABERS Energy performance to see if it can be improved.

How are technologies and new approaches being used to improve environmental and operational performance of existing buildings?

I’d say the best bang for buck is actually looking at control upgrades and getting the building management system to actually do what it should be doing. Look at sub-metering to actually monitor where energy is being used; target reduction rather than assumptions.

The market is obviously seeing a lot of new technologies emerge, as well as enhancements to existing buildings including classic co-generation and tri-generation. In reality though, existing buildings can often find this difficult to accommodate as they don’t tend to have plant rooms available…

What’s quite important to us is it’s not just doing it for the environmental sake; the economics of decision making is equally important. Greater equipment efficiency and operation need to be considered..

Engaging the ‘right’ technical advisor or engineer to work alongside building or facility management in terms of the operational tuning is also key. The trick is to ensure this happens on an on-going basis in lieu of a one-off assessment.

We’re also seeing consultants and facility managers use big data analytics software to assess controls and trend log profiles in real-time to identify ‘rogue’ systems and control issues.

We’ve also found (and this is probably part of the whole-of-life approach) that there’s a tendency to ignore the façade. We’ve had some really good success on buildings where we’ve taken a step back and looked at the building as a whole and said: ‘Rather than just going in there and doing the engineering, we’ll check the whole façade.

We recently took this approach in a project that was focused on the chiller, in which we made many changes to the façade. This resulted in no need for a replacement chiller.

We re-commissioned and put in some new technology components, like diffusers to improve the air quality – we moved the pot of money around. In the end we got the building from its one star NABERS to a four star NABERS. We also significantly improved the indoor environmental quality of the building, so now the building is actually liked, not hated.

You might have an efficient building, but if you don’t want to work there, it doesn’t really matter.

Property owners of B, C and D grade buildings are under pressure to evaluate cost benefits. What are the key areas that need to be addressed during business case development to ensure ROI?

The interesting thing is, embarrassingly to some of the newer buildings, some of the older buildings actually have better performance. Just because they’re old doesn’t mean they’re bad. There is a trend in industry generally that new is good and actually sometimes old is better.

A lot of the old buildings are designed more with passive design in mind. The level of glazing, for example, in an existing building is generally a lot lower than on a new building. Our own office here has only 25 per cent glass, but we’ve got more daylight in our office than we would have if we were actually in a new building. This is because of how it’s introduced and how it’s used. The are a lot of advantages to those buildings which are not traditionally marketed or sold, which is why I talk about the whole building approach. It’s stepping back and asking: ‘What are the attributes? What are the benefits? How do I enhance them and connect the tenant to those benefits relative to other buildings?’

It’s important to realise there’s no silver bullet – if somebody’s trying to tell you that there is, don’t believe them. Every building is unique – there isn’t one size fits all. You have to judge each building on its own in terms of what’s there, but the approach needs to reflect the energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality and the attributes that the building actually has.

Depending on the asset location and target market, the argument isn’t about ROI, but more towards differentiation from competing Grade B, C & D buildings.

Building owners are typically looking only at rent; they’re not considering the quality of the environment they’re in. That’s where I suppose our role is, along with other colleagues, to try and highlight what the building could be for them.

The real risk is what happens if the landlord decides on doing nothing. The danger for the landlord is that they are then left with looking at costly incentives for tenant’s attraction or attention. They’ve potentially got higher vacancy and operating costs weighing down the asset value. They could even be breaching bank covenants as they’re not actually getting the returns. In our mind, doing nothing for an asset owner of a B, C or D grade building in the marketplace is not really an option any more – they just need to sit back and determine how they want to do this and how to reposition the asset.

A major retrofitting and refurbishment project will encounter many challenges across the design and delivery phases. From your experience, what would you say are the main barriers that prevent people from achieving their aspirations on a re-lifting project?

A few areas here also:

  • Existing site or services infrastructure might not be sufficient to achieve required outcomes – there could be limitations inherent within the building.
  • Working around existing tenants can also be problematic and might limit the extent or timing of works that can be done to retain a ‘live’ building.
  • Availability of financing will always be an issue. There’s also a lack of understanding on the alternative funding mechanisms, such as an Environmental Upgrades Agreement (EUA).
  • The return on investment could also be perceived to be too low to actually do the work. In terms of guaranteeing better rents, it’s impossible to do that. We find there’s a tendency to jump in legs first without spending enough time doing the upfront assessment and design stated. When you start to do the actual work, you expose issues you weren’t aware of because the due diligence wasn’t done at the beginning. This in turn might result in costly mistakes (affecting overall budget) and subsequent cut backs or reduction in scope as part of a value engineering response.