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Ultimo Primary School – Temporary School

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Responsible for teaching and learning from early childhood to third level, the New South Wales Department of Education is Australia’s biggest organisation, and one of the largest education authorities in the world, with an annual budget of more than US$12.6 billion.

Facing dramatic growth in the school–age population, the state is investing US$4.5 billion in 170 new and upgraded schools over the four years from 2018-19.

The US$38.5 million project for a new primary school for Ultimo, one of the Sydney metropolitan area’s densest suburbs, is in the vanguard of a new approach to school development. It will provide a high-quality, innovative learning environment for 800 students from kindergarten through sixth grade. The project also involved creating a temporary school for 300 children, and intensive community engagement.

Brief

HKA was retained to manage the US$31 million school construction project, including stakeholder engagement, as part of the department’s ‘design excellence’ program. Following the discovery of severe ground contamination at the proposed development site, our role widened to cover alternative solutions.

What we did

As analysis of geotechnical sampling confirmed the high cost of remediation, we advised against purchase of the brownfield site and were commissioned to investigate other locations.

Aware that positive stakeholder engagement was critical, our team evaluated and costed alternative sites, while closely consulting local community representatives, many of whom strongly favoured the original site.

The best option – a ‘pop-up’ school in a public park across the road from the old building – required special approval and creative design. Planning legislation was amended for a one-off exemption for the structure – which was entirely demountable, and built on a piled platform over the infilled swampland of the park.

The project involved the delivery of a temporary primary school, accommodating up to 300 students, for use during the construction of the new Ultimo Public School.

HKA’s engagement extended to full project management and stakeholder engagement services, including:

  • The selection and securing of a temporary school site
  • Procurement and authorities approvals
  • Through all design phases managing the Head Design Consultant and consulting with the DoE Technical Stakeholder Group for timely reviews
  • Construction management and contract administration
  • Relocation into and relocation out of the temporary school
  • Removal and make good of the temporary school once the new school is completed.

Project achievements included:

  • Delivered the temporary school on time, with students beginning school in the new facility at the start of the 2018 school year.
  • Secured amended planning legislation to make permissible developing the Temporary facility in a portion of the park across the road from the existing school
  • Secured the Deed of Agreement and Crown Lands Lease to use the park site
  • Prepared a highly detailed Review of Environmental Factors, securing approval of the temporary school construction on the park site
  • Engaged the builder for the temporary site, for a price significantly lower than budget due to the level of detail in the documents
  • Successful stakeholder and community consultation with regard to all of the above
  • Our processes have informed DoE School Infrastructure NSW’s current standard with regard to community consultation practices.

Outcomes

The temporary school was delivered with zero defects on handover, and on budget, for the start of the academic year in January 2018. Given the quality of the pop-up building, parents and other locals have lobbied for it to be retained for future community use.

Despite vigorous opposition to the change of plan, the community praised the depth and quality of consultation through the entire planning process. Our methodology has been recognised as best practice.

Planning approval for the new school was granted with no formal objections. Following demolition of the existing building in April and May of 2018, the new building was completed and commenced operations in March 2020. You can view the project details here.

"The temporary school was delivered with zero defects on handover, and on budget, for the start of the academic year in January 2018. Given the quality of the pop-up building, parents and other locals have lobbied for it to be retained for future community use.

Despite vigorous opposition to the change of plan, the community praised the depth and quality of consultation through the entire planning process. Our methodology has been recognised as best practice."
Mary Casey, Director, HKA
Project Details
  • Client
    NSW Department of Education
  • Year
    2014-2020
  • Value
    US$38.5 million
  • Services
    Advisory
  • Sectors
    Buildings