A transformation of a major museum in Western Australia and the building of a massive solar PV and energy storage project in South Australia have been unveiled as the best major construction projects in Australia across 2020 and 2021.

In an online event, The Australian Constructors Association and Engineers Australia last week announced that the New Museum for WA constructed by Multiplex in Perth and the Zero Cost Energy Future project built by South Australian energy infrastructure and energy solutions provider Enerven in South Australia have taken out the Australian Construction Achievement Award for 2020 and 2021 respectively.

The event was held online and covered the past two years after COVID forced the cancellation of the Melbourne Gala Dinner for the award both last year and this year. The awards were sponsored by Caterpillar, Cbus, Holcim, Infra Build and Oracle Construction and Engineering.

Delivered by Multiplex, the New Museum for WA project (pictured below) involved the redevelopment of the existing WA Museum into a landmark building with seven new galleries, a 1,000 square meter special exhibitions gallery and dynamic and activated public spaces in a facility which sits in the heart of the Perth Cultural Centre.

The project included:

  • Design and construction of a new building that integrates with the existing heritage buildings
  • Heritage restoration works to the Old Gaol, Jubilee, Beaufort and Hackett Hall buildings
  • a Central Energy Plant (CEP) which services the Perth Cultural Centre and will reduce energy use and CO2 emissions by around 30 percent in the year after the New Museum is operational.

New Museum for WA

Significant planning was needed to overcome challenges associated with the constrained footprint of the site. This was driven by the existence of the four heritage buildings referred to above which were not able to be interfered with during construction of the new building.

After the new building was constructed, meanwhile, there was little space for storage, access, amenities and site offices when undertaking the heritage restoration works.

A second challenge involved transporting and installing large roof trusses through the middle of the city and onto a constrained building site.

All up, the truss spans 54 meters whilst a further seventeen cantilever feature is attached to the truss and protrudes out over the top of one of the heritage buildings.

A cantilever feature protruded out from the 54 meter roof truss and protrudes over the top of one of the heritage buildings

Also complex was the installation of special features.

Installation of the Hackett Hall lantern (pictured below) took about six weeks to plan and about two hours to install. This was the case amid not only the need for extensive planning but also the need to avoid damaging a heritage ceiling beneath the installation.

Whilst mechanical chain blocks were considered, the team instead opted for a manual lift which was performed in 50-millimetre increments.

Meanwhile, about two weeks was needed for the installation of the former the skeleton of a blue whale which was washed ashore in 1898 and which was featured in the former museum.

Hackett Hall lantern

Significant effort was undertaken to ensure worker safety during construction.

One example of a safety initiative involved the use of a Roborigger unit (pictured below) when lifting heavy elements such as steel or other applicable loads into place.

This uses inertial and gyroscopic forces to rotate and control the load and enables the load to be controlled wirelessly using a handheld device.

It enables the dogmen and the crane crew to position the load without needing to be under the cranes or needing to use tag lines in certain circumstances.

By doing this, it frees workers up and enhances safety as staff do not need to work under a suspended load. It also facilitates easier planning and placement of steel or any other applicable loads into place.

More broadly, Multiplex sat down with each contractor to identify and plan for any high-risk work.

Construction commenced in July 2016 whilst handover was achieved on schedule on November 29, 2019.

Roborigger unit (refer above)

In making their award, the judges praised Multiplex for their culture of de-engineering safety risk, excellent cost control – including when responding to client requested changes, a design which was in harmony with local surroundings and included 85 percent local content and high levels of innovation along with coordination among 30 government stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the Zero Cost Energy Future Program (pictured top and below) was delivered by South Australian based energy infrastructure and energy solutions provider Enerven for SA Water under an engineering, procurement and construction contract.

The project saw Enerven engineer, procure design and commission a total of 242 GWh (gigawatt hours) of solar PV and 34 MWh (megawatt hours) of energy storage across 33 sties in metropolitan and regional South Australia.

The project was undertaken as one of seven initiatives which SA Water is pursuing as part of its Zero Cost Energy Future program. Under this program, the utility aims to generate a sufficient volume of clean energy and export this back to the market to entirely offset the cost of electricity which they draw from the grid and network charges. The program is expected to see the organisation’s annual energy bill reduced from $80 million (2018/19) to zero and is expected to offset its carbon emissions.

As many as 90 sites were initially considered. However, this was narrowed down to 33 sites through engineering optimisation.

Under normal circumstances, a solar farm would have a singular racking solution in order to fix the solar panels to the ground.

Across the program, however, the large number of sites involved meant that five different solutions needed to be applied over the various sites in order to deliver the best solution for each site.

Meanwhile, 33 different agreements (one for each site) were needed across the program to connect installations from each site to the power grid.

All of these agreements were finalised over an eighteen-month period.

Boliva PV Array

In their comments, judges noted that the project would deliver a legacy for both the construction industry and major utilities in developing standards and a methodology for delivering projects of this scale.

This is important, judges said, given the carbon intensive nature of the water services sector which arises out of its pumping and treatment requirements.

They noted that other utilities were commencing planning to go down a similar path.

Australian Constructors Association President Cathal O’Rourke said the winning and finalist projects demonstrate that best outcomes are achieved with strong collaboration with clients, contractors and the supply chain.

“A positive industry culture has the potential to make a good project great and the winners are proof of this,” O’Rourke said.

Engineers Australia CEO Dr Bronwyn Evans AM agrees, and also praised the finalists for applying creativity and delivering on complex projects.

“Congratulations to all finalists for delivering such ambitious and innovative projects under such difficult circumstances, bringing together engineers from multiple technical backgrounds to deliver extraordinary constructions,” she said.

Other ACAA Finalists


  • Caulfield to Dandenong (CTD) Level Crossing Removal Project, Victoria by CTD Alliance
  • Clarence Correctional Centre, Lavadia, New South Wales by John Holland
  • Darlington Upgrade Project, Adelaide, South Australia by Gateway South
  • Newcastle Light Rail Fixed Instructure, Newcastle, New South Wales by Downer EDI Works Pty Ltd
  • Sydney Metro Northwest, Rouse Hill to Chatswood, New South Wales by Northwest Rapid Transit


  • Bruce Highway Upgrade -Caloundra Road to Sunshine Motorway, New South Wales by Fulton Hogan Seymour Whyte Joint Venture
  • Pacific Highway Upgrade -Woolgoolga to Ballina Section 2A – Wells Crossing to Glenugie, NSW by ACCIONA
  • Australia 108 Melbourne, Victoria by Multiplex Constructions