A winning combination of cost, time and quality

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  • A winning combination of cost, time and quality
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John Drillis

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Oval Hotel was brought to life on a tight budget and an even tighter timeframe, but careful and clever cost management delivered three innovations in design, construction and procurement, writes RLB Managing Director in South Australia, John Drillis.

Steeped in history and loved by sports fans, Adelaide Oval has been hailed the world’s most beautiful stadium. Established in 1871, the stadium boasts a century-old scoreboard, giant Moreton Bay fig trees and sweeping views of Adelaide’s parklands and St Peter’s Cathedral.

RLB was a major contributor to a large-scale upgrade, completed in 2014, which transformed the historic cricket oval into a world-class multi-sport and entertainment facility seating up to 53,500 spectators.

Maintaining a world-class facility comes at a cost, and stadium owners and managers around the world are building destinations that attract visitors well beyond game day and deliver sustainable revenue streams.

Adelaide Oval Stadium Management Authority had established a RoofClimb experience, acclaimed food and beverage offerings and a successful function centre. But additional income-generating opportunities would enhance the visitor experience and support the stadium’s long-term success.

AOSMA’s visionary leadership team started to explore the idea of an integrated hotel, turning to RLB to bring imagination to life.

After investigating several options, the project team – which included COX Architecture, Mott MacDonald and RLB – initially settled on a concept design that would see a free-standing hotel constructed in the south west corner of the stadium precinct.

As the design process progressed, however, the problems became clear: the hotel itself offered no point of difference, was located in a part of the precinct that was difficult to access, and required the partial demolition of the indoor cricket centre. Once these issues were factored in, the project became cost prohibitive.

After going back to the drawing board, a brainstorming session uncovered a brilliant idea. Why not “bolt on” a new building to the side of the stadium and over the existing basement?

Imaginative ideas like this are often floated but rarely realised. But by maintaining a laser-focus on costs, we delivered Australia’s first integrated stadium hotel alongside three innovations in design, construction and procurement:

Innovation in design

Constructed as a ‘pod’, the low-impact design wraps around stadium façade like a second skin. The 138 rooms, flanking each side of the east gate, are linked by an elevated foyer and lounge. Each room boast uninterrupted views of the parklands and the cathedral – important prerequisites established by the South Australian government architect.

The costs associated with the innovative façade, which mirrored the original materials of brass and copper, were offset by savings made from repurposing existing infrastructure. We made use of everything from plant to power, water and sewerage to existing kitchens and lift cores. While the stadium’s original masterplan did not incorporate a hotel, for instance, the planners had the foresight to include extra lift cores which could be used. The building didn’t require footings because it sat on the retaining walls of the basement. And with the stadium’s restaurants undergoing an overhaul as part of a separate project, separate F&B outlets were not required.

The value management process during the design phase uncovered an opportunity to include an additional 10 rooms without significantly increasing the building area – a clear demonstration that value management is not always about cost savings and scope reductions.

Innovation in procurement

The bolt-on solution was brilliant, but it needed to be super-lightweight without incurring significant costs. Time was no luxury either – the hotel needed to be completed before September 2020 in time for Adelaide to host the T20 Cricket World Cup.

After several productive discussions with the incumbent builder, AOSMA decided to put the project out to market as a Design & Construct tender. We saw this as an opportunity for builders to offer innovative structural solutions – which is exactly what the appointed builder, Built Environs, delivered.

Innovation in structural system

Built Environs, a Tier 1 builder in South Australia, proposed building the hotel’s structure in cross-laminated timber, or CLT. Because it is lightweight and can be prefabricated offsite, CLT can fast-track onsite productivity. Using CLT means more time is spent in the planning and preparation phases offsite, and manufacture is undertaken in a controlled environment which minimises risks to workers. Because CLT is around 35% lighter than concrete or steel, it can also cut crane, scaffolding and foundation costs. Fewer workers are needed onsite, reducing labour costs. On the Oval Hotel, the material costs were comparable to steel, but the programming savings amounted to 10%.

Stadium projects are synonymous with budget blowouts, but Oval Hotel met our client’s time, cost and quality goals. AOSMA’s visionary approach, with the help of a talented project team, has delivered a 4-star premium boutique hotel on a 3-star budget, securing a long-term revenue stream in the process.

Oval Hotel also brings a new layer of experience to sports fans, while boosting South Australia’s economy. It may be one-of-a-kind today, but we expect Oval Hotel’s winning combination to be emulated the world over.

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