On 9 April 2020, construction company Manteena commenced the delivery of a COVID-19 Surge Centre on Garran Oval, adjacent to Canberra Hospital.
The project team achieved practical completion after an initial design phase of seven days and a construction period of just 36 days—not only achieving the goal of a very, very tight program but delivering a facility built to Australian Standards, as well as the World Health Organisation (WHO) Sudden Acute Respiratory Infection Treatment Centre manual.
According to Damien Crough (Executive Chairman, prefabAUS), “This COVID specific project was delivered in an unprecedented timescale with the use of prefabricated frames and trusses, wall and ceiling systems, and bathroom pods. ”
“Australia’s prefab industry is merging to mainstream, with significant projects such as the COVID-19 Surge Centre in Canberra taking full advantage of the benefits it has to offer. The focus on design for disassembly and re-use is an inherent sustainability benefit for prefabricated construction. ”
“Prefabrication has a crucial role to play in transforming Australia’s built environment through decreasing construction time frames and construction waste, while increasing quality, productivity and affordability. ”
Rod Mitton (Design Manager, Manteena) described how the project initially commenced. “I received a phone call from Mantenna CEO Simon Butt on 1 April 2020 asking if I thought we could undertake design and construction of a new medical facility within the next 40 days. Without looking at the date—which just so happened to be April Fool’s Day—my answer was, ‘Yes, of course we can’. ”
The brief provided by the client, Aspen Medical, called for the construction of a 17,000m2 medical facility, consisting of 51 patient beds, including patient services panels, treatment areas, administration and nurse stations and staffing facilities. The structure was to be built to cyclone standards to account for the helicopter landing deck near the hospital.
“Simon also explained that the design was only at concept stage at that point. There were no working plans to start the process. The location of the building was not even confirmed,” said Mitton.
“We knew that in order to get the project off the ground quickly, we’d have to develop the internal designs sufficiently so as to declare a footprint and begin manufacture of the facility structure and construction foundations immediately. We’d also need to determine construction methodology for the project. There was no tolerance for long lead times, which meant that all technology and equipment would have to be ‘off the shelf’, or quickly or locally assembled. ”
“Having undertaken a number of projects with Austruss in the past, I phoned Andrew Fowler [Founder and Managing Director of Austruss] to sound him out on the project. Before the end of the day, Andrew and I had mapped out a plan on how we’d deliver the project using BlueScope’s Truecore® steel,” said Mitton.
A flexible design
According to Andrew Fowler (Founder and Managing Director, Austruss), a flexible design was key. “After speaking with Rod, I worked with one of my detailers on a concept based on a sketchedup drawing that Rod had given us. This allowed us to work out how we could finalise some dimensions. ”
“The brief required that the design be flexible, allow hospital live loads, withstand high wind loads, be reusable, and be able to be packed in a shipping container at end of use. Plus, the product needed to be designed to Australian Standards and on-site within just eight days. ”
“And we did just that,” said Fowler.
“We took each section of the building and broke it into certain elements. The only way we thought we could achieve the compressed delivery timeframe was to use a simple kit of parts that were interchangeable. So we designed trusses on either side of the building and they were all standardised. The walls were all standardised. We came up with a telescopic wall frame system to give flexibility to the whole assembly process. “