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Queensland specialist gives shape to health project delivery

RPS Project Director Marcus Frommolt shares his insights on the big trends in health infrastructure design and delivery.

07 February 2020
Marcus Frommolt

Australia

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Enhancing Queensland's health infrastructure

As Queensland’s population continues to grow, the demand for social infrastructure–schools, hospitals, universities, community housing–is growing too.

With the State’s 2019-20 Budget setting aside more than $777 million for capital investment in health, a huge amount of work is underway to improve public hospitals, with millions more being devoted to private health facility improvements and related investment in aged care.

Among the most intricate types of buildings to design and build, health assets incorporate a wide variety of interrelated uses and have complex specifications. Managing their delivery requires a specific skillset–expertise brought to RPS by the latest recruit to our Brisbane-based project management team, Executive Project Director, Marcus Frommolt.

We spoke to Marcus about the opportunities and challenges of health projects, trends to watch and what success looks like for health infrastructure in Queensland.

Marcus Frommolt, RPS Project Director - Health, Queensland

Q You’ve specialised in health project delivery on both the contractor and client-side for 20 years. How do health assets differ from other building types and how has the sector evolved over the course of your career?

Due to advances in technology and how health services are delivered, health and hospital facilities have evolved a lot to support new medical practices, equipment and models of care. For example, in the aged care sector we are seeing a big movement towards ‘household’ models of care, where the facilities are more residential in scale, rather than being modelled like a hospital ward.

The biggest driver right now is digital technology and the need for new developments to be as ‘future proof’ as possible. It’s not just about designing for today, but doing our best to anticipate new industry trends and how future technology requirements can be accommodated down the track.

Q There’s a big focus on the redevelopment and expansion of existing health and aged care assets currently. What strategies do you utilise for managing project delivery in environments that remain operational 24/7?

While it would be ideal to build health services on ‘greenfield’ sites, in reality we are usually expanding or upgrading existing facilities or developing new services adjacent to operational ones on the same site.

This poses a lot of challenges, especially when you consider the complex network of services, systems, users and uses that overlap within health spaces.

A careful and considered approach to staging is the key to making these projects work. The goal is to maintain as much service capacity as you possibly can while work takes place, while at the same time minimising disruption, and of course delivering works to the best possible quality, quickly.

To figure out the best staging strategy, you really have to invest in your understanding of stakeholder needs, interfaces and requirements. It’s only through proper engagement with users, clinicians and contractors that you can figure out how best to carve out space, sequence work and ultimately keep both services and projects on track.

Q What are some of the big trends shaping health infrastructure design? How do the assets under construction today differ from health spaces of the past?

Like most industries, the biggest trend shaping health infrastructure design has to be technology. And it isn’t just changing the design of projects, but the way they are designed and delivered.

For example, sophisticated technologies like Building Information Modelling (BIM) is improving our ability to explore design options and detect clashes long before construction starts, which can save projects a huge amount of time and money.

The movement towards Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) is also having a big impact on health project design and delivery. A growing body of research is showing that access to natural light and views of the outside can improve patient outcomes, while hospitals are capitalising on opportunities to save money and decrease the environmental footprint of facilities through clever ESD responses–particularly in relation to energy efficiency.

Another big trend that we will see more and more will be the integration of proactive health services in other areas of the community. Australia’s population is ageing, so incorporating preventative health services, education, training and early interventions will be vital in relieving pressure on acute care facilities.

Q What’s the most rewarding part of your job as a project director?

Health projects certainly come with their challenges, but working with a such a diverse group of stakeholders–clinicians, facility managers, architects, designers, contractors–to design and build health spaces that deliver positive outcomes for patients and their families is extremely rewarding.

Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to tour health facilities in the UK and Europe as well as Australia, and it's great to know that here in Queensland we are delivering world-class services for the local community.