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Why holistic engineering design and advisory is the new normal

Sustainability By Julian Bott, Partner – 21 October 2021

A globe made up of interconnecting glowing lines being held in 2 cupped hands


Julian Bott in a suit in a park with grass, trees and buildings in background

Julian Bott

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When working with multinational clients, one of the major technical challenges is ensuring engineering and sustainability solutions are optimised for local conditions. A lot of our work involves localising global standards relating to fit-out and functionality so the solution is fit-for purpose in the local climate and complies with local regulations and performance benchmarks.

With conditions varying significantly across locations, Cundall has developed niche expertise working on multi-site, multi-project portfolio-scale projects for clients with exacting requirements such as finance and data centre businesses.

Data centres have acute needs for strict confidentiality, operational resilience and integrated building systems. With a diverse team of experts at our disposal, our ability to holistically manage design, engineering, project management, commissioning and post-occupancy performance verification has been a real asset for our clients.

Our global project approach is supported by cloud-based REVIT design, integrated IT and business systems. This is an ideal framework for multi-site projects, such as delivering offices for Morgan Stanley across multiple locations in Sydney, Melbourne, China and Hong Kong.

Finance has specific needs that are intricately linked with technologies, so the full suite of expertise including building services and IT and AV, security and robust, resilient electrical designs are key to successfully delivering on client needs.

We are also able to put together teams that draw on unique strengths within the Cundall global network to deliver portfolio-scale performance upgrades for assets. For clients such as Frasers, Stockland and Scentre Group, our high-level engineering expertise has been coupled with a localised approach to provide a holistic end-to-end project delivery, commissioning and post-occupancy verification.

Our offices in major Australian, UK and Asian cities supply the granular detail that informs advanced evidence-gathering. We don’t just look at the building in a BIM model – our people test the site conditions directly.

Passive design measures such as daylighting, natural and mixed-mode ventilation and optimising orientation are best informed by physically experiencing local conditions. We then apply techniques such as computational fluid dynamics modelling using real-world data and integrate the results into the engineering designs to maximise building performance.

Our systems enable a seamless transfer of knowledge and people across projects, locations and disciplines. This investment also gave us a valuable margin of resilience when COVID-19 shut down borders and closed offices – Cundall’s people were able to pivot with minimal disruption to remote working because, to some extent, we had already been operating that way.

As well as the depth and breadth of expertise and creative input we gain from collaborating across cultures and continents, this also (when possible) facilitates a rotation of our people between different office locations and teams. This inter-cultural exposure builds the personal capacities of the individual engineer and also builds more effective teams through knowing each other’s strengths and interests.

The focus on relationships also extends to the clients we work with - the high-level relationships built with head office are matched with local relationships.

A good example of this is our current work on the Holiday Inn Express project for Pro-Invest, which has attracted a $50 million equity investment from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

The proposal is for a portfolio of hotels designed and delivered to achieve 5 Star NABERS ratings. These developments are planned for cities around Australia, with the first projects coming out of the ground in Paramatta and Maroochydore in Queensland. Hotels are not a sector that has often sought NABERS ratings, and it is one that faces unique challenges in operating in an energy-efficient way. The usual rules of taking short showers, for example, are not on most tourist agendas.

Our connected global expertise is helping provide solutions to achieve the client’s goals of localised site-specific energy plans, energy-efficient design and low-impact materiality. For a hotel in Maroochydore to be able to benefit from the same level of expertise as a multi-billion dollar building in Singapore, Sydney or Shanghai is a leap forward in ensuring the low-carbon transition gathers pace everywhere – no project should be left behind.