Property and Infrastructure Specialists

1 William Street: A retrospective Part II

Delivering the Queensland Government’s 1 William Street was not without its challenges. Last month I covered the scope of works entailed and various aspects of the delivery method for APP’s role. This time I explore in more depth some of the challenges that – while they might have kept us awake on many nights – we successfully resolved with the client and the project team.
1 William Street Brisbane

1 William Street was a complex project delivered in a dynamic political and economic environment. Announced as a modern solution for State Government office accommodation, 1 William Street offered to consolidate a range of disparate government departments and agencies scattered across multiple CBD buildings, into one contemporary workplace.

Tenders were called in late 2012 and in December that year, Cbus was announced as the successful developer. When the government changed at the State Election in January 2015, the building was well under construction. For a time, there was a degree of uncertainty in terms of how many government departments would occupy the building. In addition, there was a proposal to lease a portion of the office space to the private sector but following a marketing campaign the government decided to occupy the entire building.

This was only an issue because, as Queensland’s largest integrated fitout with a co-dependent building and fitout construction program, timing and clarity on which departments would be going where was very important. Even without the political uncertainty that inevitably follows a change of government, there were evolving government drivers and priorities to contend with. For example, there were several changes in the building occupancy plan, requiring proactive and diligent management to avoid any impacts on the construction progress and cost to the project.

 

1 William Street foyer

There was also the introduction of a new service delivery model for the information and communication technology throughout the building for the State Government, and the need to determine the appropriate levels of security installation for the building. This was also an era of rapidly rising security concerns that posed new challenges around physical building security, but also digital security. With the technology and security practices evolving so quickly, it required constant attention to ensure the building would be delivered with the most up-to-date systems possible.

Brisbane had also been severely affected by major flooding in 2010 and 2011. CBD flooding had caused many buildings to lose their power because, often being located in the basement, switchboards, substations and generators were flooded. The designers of 1 William Street could not overlook the importance of a range of flood mitigation and backup energy measures for the headquarters of Government, and incorporating these into the building was also a significant challenge given many were new approaches for Brisbane.  

Then there was the logistical challenge of coordinating Queensland’s largest ever office relocation. How to move 5,000 government employees and their belongings from multiple locations across the CBD over six weekends into a single, new building with new systems and based on an activity-based layout with open plan and collaborative workspaces, rather than dedicated offices where many had come from. Human nature being what it is, you can imagine what it was like to move all of the Queensland Government’s Ministerial offices and their staff, The Premier and her staff, nearly all the Directors General and their staff covering multiple government departments, nine agencies and 11 part agencies.

1 William Street interior meeting space

We learned a lot from this project, some of the keys things including:

  • Collaboration is required to achieve a truly successful project. At the end of the day all participants felt engaged throughout this project and were satisfied with the outcome in their particular areas of endeavour.
  • Information and communication technology systems and installation has become highly significant to an office fitout and has a major impact on the coordination of design and construction works activities. Sophisticated and evolving information and communication technology installations – wi-fi, security, teleconference, print roaming and so on need to be carefully coordinated with the other fitout construction activities, often undertaken by separate parties, and sometimes also needing to be incorporated with the base building infrastructure. The base building may also be under construction at the same time adding to the integration complexity.

Changes are almost inevitable on large government office fitout projects due to many various factors. Contingencies for costs and time need to be allowed for in the early planning of the project.

I often joke I had a full head of hair when I started on 1 William Street but this was one of the most challenging and exciting projects you could hope to work on. It was a great success on many measures. I am looking forward to the next one.