Builders rise to the challenge on Westmead’s new mental health facility

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Behind Sydney’s familiar Westmead Hospital, construction company Roberts Co is hard at work preparing the site for the state’s newest mental health facility, the Integrated Mental Health Complex.

As part of the Westmead Health Precinct, the new building will provide contemporary mental health care facilities with a focus on recovery and resilience.

But before main works start, Roberts Co has the delicate task of clearing existing buildings, changing car park entries and ensuring existing in-ground infrastructure, such as cables and pipes, are identified before being relocated, diverted or protected.

For project manager Will Service, managing Sydney’s temperamental summer weather has added an additional challenge, but he says it’s all in a day’s work.

“We’ve made a good start despite the rain and heat in the first two months of this year and we’re gearing up to start the main excavation and piling for the new building,” Will said.

Sydney weather aside, Will said that having a dedicated team is important when it comes to the issues which inevitably arise from building on a well-established, complex and challenging site like Westmead Hospital. 

“I’ve got a great team of energetic and enthusiastic people, and we work very closely with our project partners to keep them informed every step of the way,” Will said.

Roberts Co also has an eye on the next generation of project managers with a strong push for women in construction and early learning for young people.

“We have a diverse team of men and women of all ages and backgrounds on this project,” Will explained.

Precinct Interface Manager Jen Dang is one of Roberts Co’s senior managers, coordinating with all the stakeholders on the early works.

As someone who has always been interested in building and engineering, particularly civil engineering, it’s a good fit.

“It’s work that I’ve done before at Liverpool Hospital,” Jen explained.

“The challenge is getting everyone on the same page as everyone has different needs.”

“Like everyone in my team, I work hard to build trust, understand what the hospital team needs and minimise any possible disruption to critical hospital services.”

Meanwhile, cadet engineers like Ollie Harrison are learning on the job.

“I’m currently studying project management and construction project management at UTS and I’ve always had an interest in the practical aspect of building,” Ollie said.

“This is my first project and it’s very satisfying seeing a building go up.”

Ollie said having a balance between the office and the site was one of the attractions of project management work.

“It’s easy to stay motivated – if you need to take a step back you can just come outside.”

I’m really enjoying it because working on a mental health building you know that you’re contributing to something positive and helping people who need it.

Roberts Co cadet Ollie Harrison with Cherrie Civil undergraduate engineer Tony Khattar

The Roberts Co team has so far completed the demolition of the old Casuarina Lodge and relocation of the P14 staff car park entry, with demolition of the decommissioned Brain Injury Rehabilitation Service building under way. 

Roberts Co are delivering the project in partnership with Western Sydney Local Health District and Health Infrastructure.

Construction of the main building is expected to start in 2024 and be completed in 2027.