Project: Building The Foundations For Saving More Lives

Sarah Constructions soared to new heights in 2016 with the construction of an aeromedical base for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS).

In a joint partnership alliance with Walter Brooke, SARAH was successful in the tender to build the $13 million project for the not-for-profit patient retrieval organisation at the Adelaide Airport.

The new facility, which is located at the greenfields site adjacent to the airport’s main runway at the south eastern corner of Sir Reginald Ansett Drive, was the first of its kind in Adelaide. The 12,850 square metre development featured a medical and patient transfer facility to enhance patient care. The streamlined patient transfer system includes patient care bays incorporating resuscitation equipment, undercover purpose-built ambulance bays and two-way tarmac access for RFDS and ambulance crews. Space to hangar six aircrafts along with parking for an additional nine aircrafts on the tarmac apron also caters for jet aircraft capacity. There is also 2230 square metres of corporate office.

Construction of the Adelaide precinct was funded by fundraising and donations as part of the RFDS’ ongoing capital-raising program for the replacement of aircraft, medical equipment and upgrades to operations facilities.

Winning the coveted project, ahead of five other building companies vying to construct the highly sought after precinct, was a significant success for SARAH.

Securing the prominent tender win topped off a busy year for SARAH, including the $7 million Walkerville Civic and Community Centre redevelopment and the $25m redevelopment of Adelaide High.

Sarah Constructions and Walter Brooke have a long running history of collaborating and creating outstanding construction projects, including the highly awarded Australian Federal Police Headquarters within the Adelaide Airport Terminals Precinct.

The project’s architect Eddie Typek said the key planning principle of the precinct was an emphasis on patient care.

Mr Typek said the design provided a strong visual and physical connectivity between the operational and administrational components of the organisation.

The aeromedical base was an open plan work environment, purposefully designed to allow staff, located in the administration area and the patient transfer facility, to have a view of the hangar and on to the apron. The building’s entry, which is centrally located, was designed as an atrium, providing views into the hangar, towards the runway, as well as views of the ambulance bay and upstairs administration area. The atrium also features a stunning raised skylight, which Mr Typek said was chosen to provide a visual and symbolic link to the sky.

Project Manager at Sarah Constructions Chris Dunne said the group focussed on continually looking to improve safe work methodologies.

An emphasis was also put on regularly investigating alternative material selections to improve construction techniques on site, while maintaining a high level quality finish which met or exceeded the client’s expectation and endeavoured to minimise their costs.

SARAH’s point of difference and a winning factor in the tender was the ability to understand the needs of a not-for-profit organisation, according to Mr Dunne. Mr Dunne said he was aware organisations such as RFDS have limited access to reserve funding and rely heavily on state and federal government support as well as support from the community through fundraising. With this in mind, SARAH focussed on determining the final cost of the precinct early, enabling the company to be transparent. In order to determine final costings, SARAH identified and mitigated any construction risks prior to arriving on site because any unidentified risk could lead to an increase of the final cost.

The use of an innovative software product, Bluebeam, allowed SARAH to monitor quality through shop drawings. It also allowed the group to test and inspect plans during the construction period, leading to highly effective defect detection and management at the end of the project.

Having worked on both major and minor projects at Adelaide Airport in the past, SARAH was aware of risks within the Adelaide Airport precinct and able to address them. One such risk was the Adelaide Airport’s extremely high water table. Any excavation of 1.5m below ground level was likely to result in ground swamping and force costs to escalate. Having already known about the water table meant SARAH was able to propose a construction strategy to mitigate these potential risks.

Mr Dunne said the group’s thorough planning during the tender process was part of a commitment to deliver expectations. “This is a target project for our business and we commit to following through on our promises,” Mr Dunne said at the time.

The state-of-the-art aeromedical base supports the RFDS’ team of flight nurses and pilots providing 24 hour emergency retrieval and inter-hospital transfers. RFDS Central Operations serves all of regional SA and Central NT. The Adelaide base is also home to the RFDS’s engineering team, who conduct heavy maintenance on the aircraft fleet.

The work of the RFDS is vital in South Australia. Each year the service helps around 24,000 South Australians. Every 20 minutes the RFDS is providing medical assistance to someone in South Australia.

RFDS’ Chairman of Central Operations David Hills said the precinct was an exciting development in the history of the RFDS.

“The new Adelaide base is a major investment by the RFDS Central Operations into the well-being of all South Australians – city and country alike,” Mr Hills said.

“Construction of the purpose-built medical and aviation facility will help the RFDS to deliver enhanced care for our patients, provide a modern and safe workplace for our staff, as well as increased flexibility and operational capacity to address future needs.”

The RFDS relies heavily on fundraising and donations to keep flights in the air. The purchase and fit out of one aircraft alone costs $6 million.

Health Minister Jack Snelling said the base will mean all South Australians, regardless of their location, will receive quality of health care.

“It’s going to bring together teams who are responsible for delivering some of the most important healthcare in our state, making sure that South Australians who live in regional areas can be confident they are going to get the health care they need,” Mr Snelling said.

For the team at Sarah Constructions, the first flights commemorated the amazing things that can be accomplished with passion and determination.

As for the rest of South Australia – they will be able to rest a lot easier knowing help is there.

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