Technology transforms design of the new Wantirna aged care facility
Aged care

Technology transforms design of the new Wantirna aged care facility

25 November 2019

In a dark warehouse in North Melbourne, a simple tool is being used to visualise a new residential aged care facility.

Called Big Plans, the technology helps designers to see what a building will look like in 3D. The cost-effective tool is transforming the way we design healthcare facilities.

How it works

Traditionally, architectural designs would be reviewed and tested by user groups using only 2D drawings, 3D virtual models or physical architectural prototypes.

But Big Plans offers a cost-effective alternative. Using overhead projectors, the architectural plans of the new Wantirna residential aged care facility are cast life-size onto a large white floor. Clinicians, nurses, back of house staff, engineers, project managers and designers are walking through full-scale floor plans of the new facility.

Nurses push wheelchairs and move patient beds around resident bedrooms. They’re testing the spatial practicality of doorways and ensuites. Meanwhile, designers are using iPads to view the layout, interiors and sightlines in 3D.

Zoltan Kokai, Executive Director of Information, Technology and Capital Projects at Eastern Health is here with his team to test the plans before signing off on the design.

‘It is sometimes very challenging to visualise what a two-dimensional plan will look like in 3D,’ he says. Today, thanks to Big Plans, the team have made a crucial discovery. ‘We need to increase the size of the passenger lifts to enable them to carry the king single patient beds we use in our aged care residential care facilities, in case one of the bed lifts is temporarily unavailable,’ explains Kokai. ‘If we had to redesign this later in the process, or retrofit after construction is completed, this would cost a significant amount of money and time.’

Teams test out the new floorplans
A view of the room with the plans projected at full-scale

Caption: Teams test out full-scale floorplans of the new facility.

Cost-effective design

Principal Advisor of Design, Judith Hemsworth explains: ‘The Big Plans technology has enabled the entire project team to fully interrogate the proposed designs and successfully identify a number of enhancements to the care environment for residents. They have also been able to identify any issues that were not immediately obvious from the drawings, which will eliminate potentially costly changes at a later stage.’

Project architect and director of Silver Thomas Hanley, Natalie Pitt, agrees: ‘Now we can make the adjustments to the passenger lift size during the design development phase and it won’t have a significant impact on the cost of the project.’

Helping teams collaborate

But it’s not just saving money that makes Big Plans a valuable tool, Hemsworth says.

‘I believe the best design outcomes are achieved via a collaborative co-design process between the client, building designers, the project stakeholders and end users as well as our own project planning, design, delivery staff and department and other subject matter experts.’ She continues: ‘The combination of testing physical objects such as furniture and equipment in the virtual environment, and the ability of the group to interact with and experience this approach simultaneously, is unique.’

Big Plans’ multi-purpose space

Big Plans have a dedicated space for testing plans located in North Melbourne. Teams of up to ten people can view and walk through architectural, landscape, interior or mechanical plans at actual size.

The space helps people to collaborate, and provides designers and user groups with the opportunity to:

  • prototype and refine ideas
  • test multiple variations
  • optimise designs to eliminate risk early in the design process.

A new aged care facility in Melbourne’s east

The Wantirna residential aged care facility is a new 120-bed residential aged care facility in Wantirna.

The $81.58 million development will provide public sector residential aged care accommodation next to the existing Wantirna Health service. The facility will be dementia-friendly and suited to older people with complex care needs or limited mobility.

The four-storey facility will feature single rooms with ensuites in a home-like environment. Residents will have privacy and independence while receiving best-practice care.

The new Wantirna residential aged care facility is due to open in 2022.

Find out more about the Wantirna Aged Care development via our dedicated project page.

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