Ultimo Primary 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.

Our consultants provided full project management and stakeholder engagement services for this and for the construction of a new four-storey school, and demolition of the old building.

This involved:

• Establishing a project reference group.
• Developing bespoke education principles for the school design.
• Running the international design competition for the new school.
• Organising and managing design and consultative workshops.
• Producing plans, methodologies and processes.
• Preparing risk assessments, management controls and assurance procedures.
• Managing all planning applications.
• Engaging with multiple statutory and community stakeholders.
• Operating the project management office.
• Providing expert advice on procurement.

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 project is on track for completion in January 2020.

The building will set new standards in school buildings, exceeding client and community expectations, while securing best value for taxpayers.

"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