Australia’s ageing and growing population presents a critical challenge for communities and governments alike.

In a recent report, the Productivity Commission warned that the ageing of the population is a much bigger threat than previous Treasury reports have suggested.

Delivering a sustainable, economic and social solution means encouraging people to stay at home for longer. However, this results in more complex care needs when people access residential services later in life. Aged care and retirement living developments must increasingly cater for this higher entry age and the associated health needs.

The Azure Blue Redcliffe project in Queensland could serve as one example of how to cater for this emerging trend. Owner Blue Care developed the facility in such a way that it enables people to live independently for longer, with multiple options for individuals and couples.

The first development of its kind for operator Blue Care, Azure Blue Redcliffe believe it provides a new model for ageing in place. The fully-integrated campus provides accommodation choices of 122 independent living unit apartments, with optional in-home care services, and a 96-bed residential aged care facility.

An existing community care centre is also on site, which offers community services including in-home nursing, personal care and domestic assistance.

The independent living units were built across three multi-storey buildings with a separate residential aged care facility. The designers of the facility said they hope to promote active lifestyles and foster a sense of community through recreation facilities that include extensive sub-tropical landscaped grounds, swimming pool, salon, BBQ facilities, gymnasium, café, function room and meeting rooms.

Living options include quality-designed one, two and three bedroom apartments, as well as a residential aged care facility to support a fully-integrated community.

Tailored project management solutions

In October 2013, Aurecon and Blue Care won the title of National Best Construction/Engineering Project under AUD 100 million at the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) awards ceremony for the management of the project.

“Perhaps the most significant challenge for us was that this was the first project of its kind for Blue Care,” said Aurecon project director Susie Pearn. “So as a team, significant time was required in determining what Blue Care wanted as the Azure Blue model was being developed.”

The project management framework has since been adopted for all Blue Care projects, putting in place a governance structure and processes that help address typical challenges on projects.

“Controlling costs within budget also stayed top of mind for the team. Scope and change control was important in managing this, and we are pleased that the project was completed well within budget,” Pearn said.

Managing construction and early occupation

Hutchison Builders were appointed in December 2010 and the project was delivered via a traditional lump sum contract. The final project costs were $59.5 million, which was under the approved budget.  In addition to careful scope and design management, cost effectiveness was achieved through the pursuit of value management opportunities by the project team throughout the project lifecycle.

The team worked closely with Hutchinson Builders to see the project completed on schedule. The desire for early occupation needs to be weighed up against the potential disruption and hazards to residents. Early occupation of the retirement living units was made possible by working  with the contractor, as the disruptive work on the campus was complete.

After six months of operations, a post-occupancy evaluation (POE) was performed on the facility by Aurecon. A POE is typically completed after 12 months of occupancy, once the building has operated through all four seasons. However, Blue Care wanted to undertake this review following only six months of operation.

This allowed the POE process to identify key action plans to improve functionality of the operating facility and to provide lessons learned to other Blue Care capital works projects currently in progress, including the planned Azure Blue Kawana project.

“Winning the national Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) award jointly with Blue Care for Azure Blue Redcliffe is testament to the closeness of our relationship and our commitment to delivering a truly great project result for the people of Queensland,” said Blue Care manager of capital development Michael Green.