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
Covered bridges connect the VCCC to the Royal
The VCCC’s modern, glass exterior
invites sunlight to stream through the
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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