Chris Keating VSBA Chief Executive Officer hosted the Victorian Education Infrastructure Industry briefing panel session on June 12. He noted that longer lead-time for planning new schools is a game changer.
Discussion Chris Keating and Stuart Moseley
The VPA has had some engagement with peak bodies for non-government schools (independents and Catholic Education Office) about planning for the growth suburbs and if there are opportunities to share the facilities that are at the core and expensive to provide. Mr Keating noted that there is huge opportunity for that to happen although there are some healthy tensions because the school communities have different perspectives on cost and quality. At Caroline Springs there were some shared assets – the success of such arrangements depends on the people involved at the time and there can be issues about the durability of arrangements. The non-government and government school system feel like competitors but with 40 per cent of kids in non-government schools, it needs to be a system not three systems competing.
Questions to Stuart Moseley:
Q: One of the big challenges is complexity of design, as the land gets scarcer. With distributed schools, what might community services look like?
A: The area for innovation lies in precinct solutions where the education sector partners with entities that can masterplan and deliver cold shells or warm shells in multi purpose buildings rather than a school on its own land like in North America where there are schools housed in other mixed use structures; also collected next to other services and sharing things like libraries, halls, auditoriums, active recreation spaces etc that are more expensive and not otherwise fully utilised.
Q: We traditionally buy our school land. How mature are the developers?
A: There are eight to 10 institutional developers very much in this space and have models they would willingly bring. There are more players at more scales in Victorian than other places so focus the opportunity around the top eight to 10 and have dialogue with the Urban Development Institute and Property Council.
Questions to Tom Kirkland:
Q: The VSBA wants to accelerate schematic design and reduce the number of RFIs at the same time but how do we achieve both?
A: Time is critical. Have a frank discussion and understand the risks. Higher number of RFIs recognising they are not insurmountable – probably play that card but it is a balancing thing. Rather answer more questions than have a late project
Q: Can you honestly say there is opportunity for new architects or is a panel of architects already selected?
A: We encourage firms to come and talk to us and it is a genuine invitation. Not a closed shop. We will continue to invite new firms to our space.
Chris Keating added that consultants can think about the VSBA’s situation with $5.6 billion of works on the go and as Paul Keating said, “back self interest”. But the VSBA does have 25% of new entrants annually and the volume of work coming through cannot be delivered by a small number of firms.
Question about innovation:
Q: How is there room for innovation when the pressure is on to deliver?
A: Chris Keating acknowledged that this is one of the tensions. We have to deliver on time in order for government to have confidence in us. Looking at other agencies, if government looses confidence, there will be no money. We have tried to ensure design integrity, consciously not moving to design standardisation – trying to maintain expertise with boundaries around that. We tried to design a process that allows you to be innovative. Innovation will be about the concept of what a school is not just how we will build it. And, in the future it won’t look like it has over the past 10 years.
Questions to Tom Kirkland:
Q: How will the split of role of PDC and superintendent work, and can you explain about conflict of interest?
A: Going back to first principles where designers are engaged to design and to lead the design process and they also manage the contractor. There are times where a conflict of interest is there and the superintendent would approve a variation and may not talk to VSBA. Forcing the split where it is sensible to do so. Designer can do design and PM/VSBA do the superintendent role. There will be a collective approach about arguments in support of a variation. Some firms have strong boundaries between design and contract admin and others less so. We will make it easier and split where possible.
Q: is there a dollar threshold?
A: No but it will be smaller rather than larger – $5m or $10m depending on the procurement.
Question answered by Chris Keating:
Q: Can you describe Aurecon’s role?
A: There have been some changes to VSBA. We are now three years old. Looking at our history, there has always been a small group in government facilitating schools delivering projects. There has been a shift in focus in the three years of VSBA now bringing more back in-house. VSBA is doing more and doing it more quickly. There has been a focus on the large community engagement approach. We have achieved the expectations of the Minister and the Premier.
We will now look at how we streamline internal processes and systematic ways of doing things we need to focus on. We are establishing a PMO in a new structure in VSBA to provide one source of truth and quality in process and management.
A difference in the role of Aurecon compared to the Indec portfolio manager role: the role is now more about third party assurance. VSBA will be fully accountable to run projects and Aurecon is assuring that the delivery is consistent with processes, not delivering or responsible for delivery.
Some 2019-20 budget announcements relating to education include:
- $2.8 billion for schools, as part of a $4 billion investment in education – from early childhood education and schools through to higher education and TAFE
- construction of 13 new schools to open in 2021, another four opening in 2022 – as part of 100 new schools over eight years for growing communities, in addition to 21 new schools to open over the next three years.
- 109 schools funded for major upgrades and 44 to begin planning for other vital refurbishments
- $179.5 million to respond to and remove asbestos
- $402 million for school infrastructure in non-government schools
- $473.2 million to build and expand the kinder facilities needed for the state-wide roll-out of 3-year-old kinder – major grants up to $2 million for new facilities or significant upgrades and minor grants up to $50,000 for expansions and refurbishments of existing facilities
IMAGE: Used under licence from shutterstock.com
Written by Pauline Bernard
[category courtheath's blog]
education, infrastructure, Victoria