The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre

The $1 billion Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC), located in Melbourne’s prestigious biomedical precinct in Parkville, is PCL’s first Australian project, undertaken as a design-build joint venture with Melbourne-based Grocon. The P3 alliance leveraged Grocon’s local knowledge and PCL’s experience—more than $6 billion in P3 projects in the past decade alone, most of it health related.
The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre with
its swirl of steel and purple glass marks the gateway
to Parkville, the premier biomedical and research
precinct in Melbourne, Australia.

A VCCC aerial view reveals the tranquil roof-top
garden, a relaxing, peaceful space for patients and
families.

Covered bridges connect the VCCC to the Royal
Melbourne Hospital.

The VCCC’s modern, glass exterior
invites sunlight to stream through the
spectacular atrium.

Grocon PCL (GPCL) is part of the Plenary Health consortium contracted to design, build, finance, and maintain the facility for 25 years under a public-private partnership (P3) with the Victorian Government. The consortium also comprises project sponsor and investor Plenary Group, and facilities manager Honeywell.

The VCCC project consists of two main areas: a new 20-story building (six levels below grade), and a four-floor extension on top of the adjoining Royal Melbourne Hospital, providing cancer research, clinical services and educational facilities for Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne Health, and the University of Melbourne. The scope also includes two covered bridges that link the two structures, allowing patients, visitors, and staff to move easily between the buildings.

Among the many clinical features are 160 overnight inpatient beds, 110 same-day beds, a 42-bed capacity intensive care unit, a dedicated clinical trials unit, eight operating theaters, nine radiation therapy bunkers, education and training facilities, and more than 20,000 square feet of dedicated research space for up to 1,200 researchers.

PATIENT-FOCUSED DESIGN

Traditionally, the principal architect manages the design process. As well as working closely with the architect joint venture of Silver Thomas Hanley, DesignInc and McBride Charles, on this project, GPCL directly managed 27 design groups, with more than 65 architects, engineers, and consultants working in-house. As part of the design collaboration, they hosted more than 650 user group meetings to solicit feedback from diverse audiences, including patients, surgeons, and maintenance crews.

At its peak, more than 1,500 builders, architects, engineers, fabricators, and technicians were working intensely to realize the client’s vision for the VCCC, while at the same time meeting a project deadline that did not change from day one. The outcome is a modern health-care and research facility that achieves clinical efficiencies and offers an enhanced, patient-focused experience because all key stakeholders had a voice.

MODEL TECHNOLOGY

While Building Information Modelling (BIM)—a 3-D model-based process—is certainly not new technology within the construction industry, the extent of its use on VCCC was ambitious for a hospital project in Australia. Every detail larger than a half inch was modelled using BIM.

The team worked from not one, but 237 separate models, which together provided the team with the opportunity to break down the building into small components, and to plan construction sequencing and activities around them.

It made sense from a financial and scheduling perspective to prefabricate components in some cases. For example, the mechanical risers housing the facility’s HVAC and plumbing systems, as well the mechanical room modules, were built off-site and then clipped together on-site. This “Do it right the first time” approach minimized safety hazards while improving quality, schedule, and cost outcomes.

CONCRETE INNOVATION

For practical construction reasons, radiation therapy bunkers are typically placed on the basement level, directly onto bedrock. This positioning helps to support the enormous weight of the bunkers, which are filled with steel and concrete to contain radiation. However, a basement location for the main building did not align with the VCCC’s patient-focused design.

The project team came up with an innovative plan to place the eight bunkers, with walls up to 1.2 meters (four feet) thick, on suspended concrete slabs—five floors above the bedrock. On this level and adjacent to the other clinical spaces, radiotherapy patients also benefit from natural light spilling down from the building’s atrium skylight. The atrium is one of the main building’s key architectural features, rising 56 meters (184 feet) high and, at its widest point, spanning 36.4 meters (119 feet).

After four-and-a-half years of construction the VCCC opened to the public in June 2016, on time and on budget. The patient-focused facility inspires hope, while also caring for the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of its occupants. At 1.5 million square feet, it is the largest facility of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

Testimonial

“There is no question our building partners were a major reason for our success in securing the contract. Now, with the building finished, I can happily say that the building partnership has delivered a fantastic facility that is a credit to them and the thousands of workers that have turned the architect’s vision into a finished reality.” - John O’Rourke, chairman, Plenary Group, from the book Collaborations: The Story of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre

 

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