How the curtains rose on time at the Sydney Coliseum Theatre

A complex design and an inflexible completion date made the Sydney Coliseum, a performance center in South Wales, Australia, a challenging construction project.

April 29, 2021


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Richard Errington, CEO, West HQ: We were always worried about the deadline. It’s the most critical thing that could make or break you.

Western Sydney and Sydney are similar to Manhattan and New York. It has such a huge population of 2.7 million, just within 10 kilometers here of West HQ. And that, by international scales, is the same size as Chicago. So it became a natural consideration to duplicate the infrastructure provided in Sydney at the Sydney Opera House so that we could create the Opera House of Western Sydney.

Vanja Krumpacnik, Project Manager, Hansen Yuncken: The project started in December 2017, and the original completion date was around the end of November 2019.

Errington: Because, ultimately, we had Keith Urban appearing here on the 12th of December regardless, and the curtain needed to go up, and the lights needed to be on, and the building needed to be completed.

Paul Groat, Director, Statewide Mechanical Services: I was very worried about the deadline. It was a complicated job; no walls in this place are square.

David Beslich, Chairman & Executive Director, Hansen Yuncken: The complexity that the project provided enabled Hansen Yuncken to start to utilize some of the digital technologies that we have been deploying for the last five or six years. And it was a fantastic opportunity to showcase exactly what stage we are at within our digital journey.

Krumpacnik: We try to utilize technology as much as possible as a tool to de-risk the construction process for us, to give us an idea of what we might be coming up against in a week, two weeks, or four or five weeks’ time. 4D and 5D [BIM] helped from a planning perspective; it helped see into the future a little bit where we would be at a certain point in time, but it also helped us a lot with our communication.

Errington: That’s when Autodesk technology was very key in giving us levels of comfort that the project timeline was on time. The design of the Sydney Coliseum Theatre evolved, and it evolved over a number of years. People started actually to believe in what we were going to build, and that necessitated changes in the design to accommodate the expanded use that we never, ever considered back in 2012.

Krumpacnik: So they started a process of looking at what potentially needed to be changed to ensure that the building was fit for the intended purpose. The only catch with that was that they were being reintroduced once the construction had commenced, which is always a lot harder. We basically worked the program and figured out that we could just about get there with maybe about a week to spare. There were no contingencies; there was really no room for the unknown, so it put a lot of pressure on a lot of our subcontractors, as well. A lot of reputations were on the line. It basically just meant that we had one go at everything, and everything needed to go pretty much perfectly.

Groat: We had to go back and redesign some of our own work to fit in with the building. That does have an impact on time, but we were able to minimize it because it was done in the BIM 360 models.

As part of the work we did here, we prefabricated two major risers on the northern end of the building. Being able to prefabricate these off-site allowed Hansen Yuncken to expedite the program because it was on the critical path of the program due to the fact that the top of these risers supported a major steel structure.

Brett Casson, Senior Principal Major Projects, Autodesk: [Industrialized construction] represents the single biggest opportunity for the industry in a generation. But it also represents an enormous challenge in that the whole of the industry needs to completely reimagine what it means to construct.

Krumpacnik: The most rewarding time was probably the last four weeks because that’s when you sort of started to get the sense that we were going to achieve what we set out to do two years before. I think the first show that we came to, I was very nervous because, I think, we were experiencing the theater for the first time, just like everyone else was, including the client and their operational team.

Errington: The funniest story is—I have got to share this one with you—is that even the night that Keith Urban performed, and we’re sitting in the audience, and you’re waiting for everything to go wrong, and Keith Urban went vroom_,_ vroom_, and the place shook. And then this haze came down, and everyone thought, “Wow, opening night, what the heck is this? What a great effect!” And I turned, and I said, “That’s the frigging builder’s dust coming off the roof.” True story, it was a great thing._

Casson: I think to understand success, you need to understand the challenge. The challenge with construction is that construction needs to take a digital idea and make it into something physical. And what you do in between is really the magic.

Beslich: Connected construction represents the opportunity to bring together all of our toolsets. And therefore, the concept of big data and the analytics that are associated with that becomes the framework under which we can capture and share our knowledge.

Casson: The Sydney Coliseum project represents a gift to the people of Western Sydney, and what it says is that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what your demographic is, you have access to a world-class performing arts center.

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