Western Australia’s Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority (MRA) is developing the Yagan Square project, aiming to be Perth’s most popular community, meeting and celebration location. The project is vastly complex with flanks of different elements including restaurants, a unique digital tower and the open community spaces for performances and events to cater for up to 8,500 people. MRA wants to create a place that will be unlike anywhere else in the city and to do that it had to bring on a contractor with a track record in delivering complex buildings and landmark projects.
Established in 1989, WA construction firm Doric Group has developed a broad portfolio of complex, large scale and outstanding buildings across the state. The company is not scared to take on projects in all manner of sectors, from infrastructure upgrades to support the Australian Navy at HMAS Stirling or building accommodation villages at a number of WA’s resources projects to a variety of shopping centres, hotels, residential buildings and public spaces.
Pre-contracts manager Justin Taylor highlights how the diversity in the company has led to prolonged success across the boom and bust nature of WA’s economy.
“We are one of Western Australia’s largest privately-owned construction companies, we operate in every key sector and it’s that diversity that allows us to adapt to fluctuating economic cycles and underpins our success.
“We try not to be too heavily embedded into any particular sector, we prefer to be diverse which allows us to adapt to those cycles. That diversity and also the diversity of our clients has driven our growth and kept us sustainable and profitable.”
Doric acts in a variety of capacities on different projects depending on the contract. It goes from construct only projects, to line construction projects to managing contractor. There are many variants of the procurement models the company operates under.
Richard Willis-Jones, Doric project manager, observes that it is the relationships Doric has nurtured with major clients by continually delivering large projects on time and on budget that put the company in the position to win the Yagan Square contract. Willis-Jones points particularly to Doric’s history of delivering major projects for state governments.
“Our relationship and reputation certainly comes into it,” Willis-Jones explains. “To a large extent, our track record of delivering state projects certainly helped us to win the contract to deliver Yagan Square.”
In early 2015 Doric submitted an expression of interest to the MRA as part of a publicly advertised process, it was then shortlisted to tender with four other contractors, and then things moved quickly. The tender was submitted in June 2015, the MRA selected Doric in August of that year and the final negotiations were concluded by November. Construction began soon thereafter.
Taylor and Willis-Jones both agree it was a great achievement to win the contract for Yagan Square due to the complex nature of the project and the unique, bespoke items that will be involved in construction. Based on the concept drawings it will be a special site once fully built.
As mentioned the development will include a range of public spaces, a market hall with a variety of food offerings, cafes, green spaces and play areas for children and Doric will be providing construction services across the project.
Doric is contracted for construction only but the MRA has brought on board design consultants who have worked closely with Doric to ensure the final product is an accurate representation of the concept design.
Doric will construct a number of buildings, structures and areas with different uses including:
- Sub-structural and basement areas over approximately 2,700m²
- Market Hall including food and beverage tenancies, mezzanine space, office and control room and associated back of house facilities and public amenities over approximately 2,685m².
- Northern Bar across three levels of bars and restaurants over approximately 680m².
- Rooftop restaurant and associated amenities of approximately 480m².
- Landscaped areas including amphitheatre, upper deck, shade canopies, playscape and water features with integrated art.
- William Street mall.
- Digital tower with LED screens and control equipment.
In addition to the construct-only elements Doric will take responsibility for the design of the piling, façade, balustrades, glazed artwork and earthing and bonding. The five separate components will require design, engineering, construction, installation and commissioning and Willis-Jones states that adds extra considerations to the already complex project. The project is being built on top of three commuter railway tunnels which required a huge amount of engineering and planning in close collaboration with the Public Transport Authority, the owner of these critical assets.
With such a large project incorporating so many moving parts it is crucial there is open dialogue between all the parties involved. Doric is working very closely with the MRA’s consultants on Yagan Square to ensure the project delivery is of the highest standard and Doric is always looking for ways to improve the process.
“The design has got a lot of architectural intent, but sometimes that doesn’t get laid out exactly the way it was originally intended,” explains Willis-Jones. “There is a lot of coordination between us and MRA’s consultants, including our sub-contractors adding their experience when required.”
Doric’s sub-contractors are playing key roles on the project. Crown Construction has completed all the form work, Fremantle Steel is critical in providing steel fabrication and there are many others who are helping Doric to deliver the highest quality development.
Once all the construction is completed Doric and its sub-contractors will work closely with the tenancy fit-out contractors to coordinate their fit-outs with the base building works and ensure the commissioning stage goes to plan.
Major construction works commenced in early 2016 and the project is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Willis-Jones says while it is quite a tight timeline for a project of this size it is Doric’s prerogative to make sure everything goes smoothly and Yagan Square is on time and on budget.
“It’s our business to deliver on time so we are working extremely long hours, as are our sub-contractors. We are doing whatever we can so the target is still on for completion at the end of this year,” stresses Willis-Jones.
The main structure at Yagan square is beginning to form and now the extremely complicated shape of the building is beginning to be visible. There are very few straight faces on any side and the curved slabs, different angles and layered effect add to the difficulty of construction.
Willis-Jones says, “As a finished form it will flow very nicely but trying to understand it on the drawings has proved quite tricky. Now the structure is in place you can really appreciate its scale and different elements.”
The major work left at Yagan Square is to complete the landscaping and the façade. While the buildings are nearly up and the internal finishes are being applied it is the common areas and external touches that will take the majority of the focus moving into the final phase of construction.
Both Taylor and Willis-Jones emphasise how complex the delivery of Yagan Square has been and will be, but also how proud an achievement it will be for Doric and the MRA to deliver an outstanding landmark development.
“I want to reiterate the complexity of the project and the bespoke items. It is pretty unique in that regard, there aren’t many projects that have this many elements,” notes Willis-Jones. “It’s great being involved but it has taken a lot of planning to make sure all the materials are procured on time.”
Taylor adds, “We have a reputation for delivering complex buildings but even with that track record this project will stand out as a landmark project. We will be very proud of it and I’m sure the MRA will be as well.
“It’s complex, it’s difficult but at the same time once it’s finished it will be very interesting and one of those developments you don’t get to deliver too often.”
The WA economy has been rocked by the downturn in global commodity prices. The mining boom of the early 2000s created a wealth of construction opportunities for Doric but, on the whole, new projects have slowed down especially in the mining and resources sector. However, despite the depressed environment for mining Taylor notes that the pipleline for commercial construction projects in the state remains healthy particularly for sectors such as defence, high-rise apartments, age care, hospitality and retail.
“We see opportunities in those sectors and we look forward to pursuing them. The industry is tough at the moment, but among all of that we have managed to position ourselves quite well so we look forward to growing and delivering new work and new projects,” Taylor says a mining revival would provide a boost for the industry.
“When we see commodity prices rise we will start to see new resource projects being generated which creates more confidence in the market, more certainty and better economic conditions. The fall out of that is more wealth, more projects and more developments. We look forward to the resources sector rebounding because it will be good for us and the public in general.”