ACA calls for collaboration to drive success of major project delivery

ACA calls for collaboration to drive success of major project delivery
Artist’s impression: Sydney Metro Train. (Image: Sydney Metro)

To steer the future of major project delivery in Australia towards timely and cost-effective outcomes, the Australian Constructors Association’s (ACA) Jon Davies urges a collaborative effort from the government, industry and unions.

ACA calls for collaboration to drive success of major project delivery
Jon Davies, CEO of the ACA. (Image: ACA)

By Jon Davies, CEO of the ACA.

Hot on the heels of another on-time ribbon cutting for the extension of the City and Southwest line to Western Sydney Airport, the latest section of Sydney Metro West, between Bankstown and Liverpool, has just been completed on time and on budget. The Liverpool section cost 30 per cent less per kilometre than the preceding sections of Sydney Metro West, between Bankstown and the CBD, and was constructed in a fraction of the time.

This is obviously a fictitious story, but let’s just imagine it isn’t for a moment.

Following the recommendations of the Independent Review of the Metro project conducted by Mike Mrdak AO and Amanda Yeates in 2023, the project has been funded through the development of mixed-use station precincts along the route, which have created over 25,000 new homes and breathed life into several previously underutilised and run-down areas of the city.

Project director Fatima Hussain credited the successful project outcome to a positive team culture created by developing a diverse and fully integrated project team drawn from all invested stakeholders.

“All signatories to the contract, from Sydney Metro to the contractor, designer, suppliers and unions had ‘skin in the game’ and were aligned to achieving this great outcome,” said Hussain. “By coming together at concept design stage, we were able to identify significant cost savings in project alignment without the need to revisit expensive and lengthy environmental approval processes.”

“Station designs were standardised to allow components to be manufactured locally using concrete and steel, with over 70 per cent less embodied carbon than in earlier stages of the Metro project, and these components were delivered to site as required, reducing the footprint of the site and impact on the local community through a reduction in noisy operations.

“The unions were fantastic and worked with us to set up targeted training programs and develop flexible work rosters that all helped optimise site productivity.

“Whilst the project operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, nobody worked more than five days in a row or more than 40 hours a week, myself included.”

Following the run of successful major project outcomes, local educational institutes have reported a significant increase in enquiries for construction-related courses and apprenticeships. Infrastructure NSW has been contacted by delivery agencies across Australia and overseas wanting to know how these results can be replicated.

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Imagine if this was the future of major project delivery in Australia. The fact is, many of the elements of this story are readily achievable or already happening right now, just not in a joined up or coordinated way.

Lean construction, a project delivery process that uses tools and techniques from the manufacturing industry to reduce waste in construction, has been demonstrated to reduce overall cost and time on projects by up to 30 per cent. Using a modular design and doing away with fancy architectural embellishments, the Madrid subway extension, comprising 131 kilometres of track and 76 stations, was completed in just eight years. Sydney Metro is currently made up of 113 kilometres of track and 46 stations and is scheduled to take over twice as long to complete.

Formed in May 2015, the Victorian Level Crossing Removal Authority was tasked with removing 50 level crossings across Melbourne. Using a panel of contractors and a collaborative delivery model, the authority delivered the vast majority of crossing removals either on time and on budget or, in many cases, ahead of time and under budget. So successful has the model been that the scheme has been continually expanded and has now removed 74 level crossings with plans to remove another 36 by 2030.

School Infrastructure NSW has embarked on a program to deliver new schools using modern methods of construction, such as using prefabricated components manufactured offsite by local industries. Estimates are that this will result in time savings of 30 per cent and a greatly reduced carbon footprint. Chemical polymer replacements for cement have been developed that reduce the embodied carbon of concrete by over 80 per cent and further reductions are possible through the use of green steel produced using electric arc furnaces.

In a notoriously male dominated industry where women make up only 13 per cent of the workforce, the Queensland Government recently completed a 20-apartment, five-storey social housing complex project with 31 per cent overall female participation, including 22 per cent of women in frontline trades such as plumbing and electrical.

Workers on vertical construction projects are increasingly working a five-day week. Trials are being undertaken as part of a proposed nationwide construction ‘culture standard’ to embed flexible working arrangements into all government funded projects, including major roads and railway developments.

The future is already here. We are calling on the Federal Government to lead the way by bringing together all levels of government, industry and unions to join the dots and regularly achieve on-time and on-budget outcomes through the development of a National Construction Strategy.


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