Brisbane Airport’s New Parallel Runway is one of the largest infrastructure projects currently underway in Australia, and once complete, it will provide Brisbane with the most efficient runway system in the country. Here, we meet four of the project managers who are working together to bring this complex project to life.

ben-garnett-3Ben Garnett, Deputy Project Manager – Airfield works, New Parallel Runway

I have been with the project since well before construction began, playing various roles up until the dredging and reclamation commenced in 2013. My role during the Dredging and Reclamation Contract was Assistant Project Manager – Construction.

Ultimately, my role was to oversee the construction activities associated with the contract. Given we are on the client-side, we are not actually undertaking the construction, we employ contractors who have the experience and knowledge to complete the construction.

Our role is therefore more contractually focused – ensuring that what is included in the technical specifications and engineering drawings is being delivered in the field. This covers a range of disciplines from engineering, construction, environment, safety and quality.

A key client activity for works on the airport is to ensure construction activities “airside” do not impact on the operation of the airport.


Artist’s impression of the Dryandra Road underpass, part of the New Parallel Runway construction works.

Issues that can cause interruption to operations include the generation of foreign object debris (FOD) near runway and taxiways, machinery penetrating the airspace, delays in activities that are occupying parts of the airfield or security breaches.

I am happy to say throughout the dredging and reclamation there were no unplanned disruptions to the airfield. We also had involvement with a number of key third parties given part of the project was within their boundaries (this included Queensland Urban Utilities, Brisbane City Council and the Port of Brisbane).

My current title is Deputy Project Manager – Airfield Works, though prior to this I was the Project Manager – Phase 2 Design, meaning I held overarching responsibility for the successful delivery of the tender/procurement documents, ensuring that the design elements included were accurate and clear.

For works associated with the New Parallel Runway (NPR) we are primarily using construct only contracts, which in simple terms means what is documented gets built, i.e. there is no design completed by the contractor.

The implication of this approach is that the engineering drawings and technical specifications need to be fully developed to clearly articulate the scope to the contractor. It also means that all of the design elements need to be coordinated and fit together.

During the tender period the contractor will price the job based on the engineering drawings and technical specifications, and, as such, if something does not work, or there is an error or omission, typically it means that Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) is liable. Therefore, to ensure cost and program certainty, part of my role during the design phase was to monitor and critically analyse the design documentation to ensure it was complete, clear and integrated.

If we had elected to adopt a design and construct contract, my role would have been focused on ensuring the performance requirements of the infrastructure were documented. Because the design is left to the contractor the performance requirements must be clearly communicated to ensure the client’s objectives are achieved.

The design process 

Broadly the design process that we implemented can be separated into the following stages: option assessment, concept design development, cost reduction and value engineering, and detailed design.

During the option assessment stage the major design elements are investigated and different options are identified. These options are assessed via a matrix to determine the best option to base the design on. Typically, the matrix includes criteria such as cost, whole-of-life considerations, functionality, constructability and risk.

In the concept design development stage, the preferred options are further developed and a concept design is documented (typically to a 30 per cent design development level). At this stage the concept design allows a high-level review to be undertaken to ensure the selected option achieves the desired outcomes.

During the cost reduction and value engineering stage, the design is critically analysed to determine whether any aspect of the scope can be removed/modified to achieve a cost reduction while still maintaining the functionality of the design.

Finally, the purpose of the detailed design stage is to fully develop and document the design into the engineering drawings and technical specification for construction.

The NPR is the first runway to be delivered since the privatisation of Australia’s capital city airports in the late 1990s/early 2000s.

Previously, major airport infrastructure design and development was led by the Commonwealth Government and its agencies.

Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC), a completely privately owned company, principally by Australian superannuation funds, will deliver Australia’s first privately funded capital city runway.

The efforts in design, management, and value engineering have contributed to the success of the NPR reaching its current stage of development and will ensure its successful delivery in 2020.

Overcoming challenges

One of the most significant challenges of the project relates to the ground settlement that has/will occur on our site. The project site is situated on soft soils and, as a result of the additional fill that has been placed on the site, up to two metres of settlement will occur across the site.

This degree of settlement has significant implications to the design of the runway system. A runway system is designed with very specific maximum grades to ensure the safe and comfortable ride of an aircraft and its passengers. Should any “bumps”, however minor, be encountered, they would be heavily felt given the speed an aircraft is travelling.

To overcome this challenge we undertook extensive geotechnical investigations to characterise the site. Working with our geotechnical consultants (Golder Associates) we utilised probabilistic assessment to determine the settlement that was likely to occur on site. Based on the settlement predictions we developed a reclamation strategy to respond to the varying ground conditions.

This strategy involved the placement of eleven million cubic metres of sand dredged from Moreton Bay, in conjunction with the engineered matrix design of 330,000 wick drains, to effectively provide the measures for ground settlement.

Another unique aspect was that we were required to obtain approvals from Federal, State and local governments. This resulted in approximately 600 approval conditions which the project had to comply with.

Often the approach that is adopted in relation to environmental approvals is to “back to back” the approvals into the contract documentation. Because of the complexity of the approval conditions, BAC was concerned that the back to back approach may result in items being missed.

To overcome this challenge, the NPR team developed a comprehensive approvals register which was used to track the approval conditions. The NPR team then developed a project construction environmental management plan to capture and communicate requirements to the contractors. This also had the advantage of the contractors understanding the environmental requirements at time of tender and therefore being able to accurately price the requirements.

Constructing the dredge pipeline across Luggage Point Sewage Treatment Plant (Brisbane’s largest sewage treatment plant) also introduced some key challenges. To overcome these challenges, BAC engaged with Queensland Urban Utilities (operator of the Luggage Point facility) prior to contract award to identify and document all of the requirements in relation to the works at Luggage Point. These requirements were then included in the contract documents which clearly defined the obligations that the contractor had to fulfill.

ian-davies-2Ian Davies, Project Manager – Dryandra road works,  New Parallel Runway

I am the Project Manager – Dryandra Road Works for the construction phase of the NPR Project. This follows on from my previousrole as Design Manager, where I was responsible for the design development for this works package. Along with my design duties for Dryandra Road I have had oversight of a number of key contract readiness activities including:

  • Development of the Master Program for the whole of NPR Phase 2 works
  • Procurement strategy and document preparation which included three phases

a. Contractor expression of interest (EOI)

b. Request for tender

c. Contract award processes

In my capacity now as BAC Project Manager for the Dryandra Road Works, I will be managing a client team of up to 20 who will ensure our contractor, McConnell Dowell, deliver this critical structural element in accordance with the performance metrics for quality of built infrastructure, management of geotechnical interface and groundwater controls, within the time and cost commitments of the contract we have signed.

The decision to proceed with a “construct only” form of Contract was made very early within the delivery planning stages, and hence all design and contract preparation works have been undertaken on this basis.

The main impact has been the time required to fully develop and document the design, which included essential engagement with all relevant stakeholders, but principally the airport operations team, who will, upon completion, take delivery of the asset for its long term operation and maintenance.

Some of the impacts of adopting a “construct only” delivery method are summarised in the table below:

Positive impacts construct only

  • Ensure that the Owner has clearly considered its requirements and how these may impact the form of infrastructure solution and the performance and resultant maintenance requirements within an operating airfield environment as a result of the design.
  • Allows the owner a greater degree of control over the resultant infrastructure design, inclusive of whole-of-life performance and operational considerations, impacts and interfaces.
  • Better informs the infrastructure and contract delivery requirements, and as a result, better informs industry of the resourcing and skills requirements within their respective teams/joint venture arrangements.
  • Improved consistency and control over geotechnical design in relation to the site ground conditions, and hence consistency of infrastructure response, across contract packages and ongoing site settlement beyond the initial contract delivery period.
  • Enables BAC to make required long lead decisions in relation to surcharging of the soft ground conditions in advance of contractor procurement and hence minimise the overall construction period.
  • Improved certainty over scope and programming of deliverables, which enables the operational planning for the new infrastructure to commence early with more confidence in the issues and responses to be managed.

Negative impacts construct only

  • Potentially constrains opportunity for industry to add value to the infrastructure solution. In the case of the Dryandra Road Works, this consideration was addressed within the design development and tender/procurement planning.
    As a result, some scope elements were converted to design and construct contract, where the combined benefits of construction planning, risk management and construction methodology would benefit each contractor (tenderer) not being unduly constrained.
  • Additional time required within the overall delivery program to integrate and reflect on all required inputs within the completed and documented design.
  • Management of the time required to successfully document the level of detail required within the design documents. The key to this is to ensure the tender and contract documents clearly communicate the scope and delivery obligations within the contract, to ensure clarity and certainty.

Unique conditions

As with most projects at Brisbane Airport, the ground conditions are rather unique due to the location of the site on the old, low-lying Brisbane River Delta. This presents some challenges in the context of building, maintaining and operating an airfield. Accordingly, the design response to these conditions has been to simplify the infrastructure and construction methods as much as possible.

The groundwater conditions are also relatively unique. The groundwater table varies continually, and can rise by up to a metre very quickly in response to rainfall events (above a trigger threshold). This poses a challenge as the underpass roads that are grade separated from the airfield taxiways will be up to three metres below the groundwater table once operations commence.

As a result, we have had to cater for strict water quality requirements associated with the management and discharge of water from the site, which is necessary to temporarily lower the groundwater during construction of the underpass structures.

Finally, the taxiway bridge structure is designed to cater for current and projected future aircraft types ensuring the linking taxiways for the new parallel system will be used for generations to come.

Challenges for this project included the interface between geotechnical design for site ground conditions, and the ongoing monitoring associated with actual response on-site of the in situ soils (being able to confidently proceed with engineering infrastructure design in parallel with the actual ground settlement occurring).

The timeliness of stakeholder inputs to the design was also challenging, as was ensuring alignment of the needs from various parties whose planning and design timelines do not align with those of the project (i.e. management/mitigation of risk) with regard to scope and time interfaces.

Key elements of works to be delivered under the Dryandra Road Works in the coming months include:

  • Sand removal from within the footprint of the construction
  • Sand placement within nominated precincts for future infrastructure, (e.g. new fire station, airside perimeter roads, etc.)
  • Excavation and dewatering of the underpass
  • Ongoing dewatering activities and backfilling of the underpass
  • Supply and installation of piles, and construction of the underpass (in situ concrete) including base slabs and walls
  • Portions of taxiway concrete deck construction, utilities diversions and associated road works

gw1Garry Wickham, Design Manager – Airfield works, New Parallel Runway

Designing a new runway is an expansive yet highly specialised design endeavour. It involves the engagement of many different stakeholders comprising a number of internal areas of Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC), as well as from across the aviation industry including airlines, Airservices Australia and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) having input into the process.

I am the NPR Project Design Manager – Airfield Works. The main responsibilities have included preparation of the design brief; selection of the engineering design consultant, and then developing the design with their airfield design leads; coordinating the multiple internal BAC stakeholders’ design requirements and responses; and overseeing the finalisation of the airfield design product.

Since joining the project in 2014 my initial actions were to finalise the airfield planning for the project, ensuring all other major infrastructure projects on the airport with a potential design or timing interface were accounted for in the NPR planning; ensuring that projects like terminal and apron expansions at the Domestic Terminal were considered in detail; and participating in the development of the strategic approach for procurement of the Phase 2 works, which resulted in the “construct only” approach for three separate contracts: Seawall and Site Access, Dryandra Road Works, and Airfield Works.

The decision to develop and issue a construct only contract was based on the detailed procurement strategy established for the project. Within the context of the airfield works contract, the decision to adopt a construct only approach had impacts in the following areas:

  • The design brief needed to be structured to support the development of a fully detailed design
  • Management of BAC stakeholder input was crucial
  • It was essential that BAC developed a clear understanding of the available design options and applied suitable criteria to selecting the preferred options

Airfield design 

There are several unique elements in the design of the airfield. The Airfield Ground Lighting (AGL) system will deliver an enhanced standard of airfield lighting, thereby facilitating enhanced safety and additional airport capacity during poor visibility conditions.

The AGL is installed into the aircraft pavements and therefore the engineering design solution requires significant coordination with the pavement design engineers to ensure the long-term reliability of the aircraft pavement is not compromised. The AGL system will utilise LED lighting technology which is more energy efficient.

A modified design approach for the stormwater drainage system was also developed to eliminate the need for open drainage channels – this results in significant safety improvements by reducing bird/wildlife attraction and eliminating deep, open channels that can be a hazard to operational vehicles.

One of the key challenges in finalising the documents for release to tender is the sheer volume of documentation – that includes over 10,000 individual pages, over 2,500 pages of specification and over 1,250 construction drawings, as well as a couple of gig of data supplied in digital form.

The key challenge is to ensure that all information, written, digital and in drawing form, is consistent and integrated across all sections of the documentation, an enormous exercise in coordination, attention to detail and accuracy.

Another challenge was the fact that the Design needed to cover a diverse range of infrastructure; from the intricacies of the electronic control systems for airfield lighting to the species detail for the airfield landscaping. Wherever the contract is silent or unclear, it can lead to potential design inconsistencies or additional cost for BAC.

The selection of the final design consultant and the successful tenderer are some of the most crucial decisions for a client team, and so BAC put significant effort into the procurement and selection process to ensure the most suitable candidates were chosen for these important works.

karyn-rains_headshotKaryn Rains, Approvals and Communications Manager, New Parallel Runway

I was part of the team founded by BAC in late 2004 to obtain the planning and environment approvals for the NPR project, and over the last twelve years I’ve held a number of different roles on the NPR project, including Assistant Project Manager and Environment Manager. My current role is Approvals and Communications Manager for the project, which I have held since construction began in 2012.

The main challenge associated with managing the approvals and regulatory requirements of such a large and complex project is being responsible for two main project disciplines: regulatory approvals and project communications. Performing both roles has required a strong commitment to developing and ensuring a good systems approach to both.

With around 600 regulatory conditions placed on the project, it was necessary to capture all approvals in a single repository, determine who was best placed to implement them – BAC or contractor – and allocate responsibility accordingly in contract documentation and project management plans.

Another challenging aspect was the fact that multiple agencies from all three levels of government (Federal, State and Local) had set conditions which, from a contract perspective, were best managed as a set of seamless requirements.

BAC untangled the full suite of conditions and developed performance-based requirements suitable to capture all compliance jurisdictions and incorporated them into the contractual obligations. This made it clearer and simpler for the contractor to price and implement the regulatory requirements for their part of the works.

I’ve had a number of highlights during my involvement in the NPR construction to date. These include:

  • Drawing positive comments from government, winning industry awards and receiving recognition as a global benchmark for airport developments for the environmental assessment and community engagement process undertaken to gain approval for the project in September 2007
  • Completing Phase 1 of the project with relationships with our neighbouring enterprises, BCC, QUU, Port of Brisbane, Maritime Safety Queensland and our contractors, both local and international, positively strengthened
  • Winning the 2014 Australian Engineers Excellence Award for Environment for the first phase of construction
  • Watching the shapes of drains, roads and embankments you have been looking at in drawings for many years take physical shape in the landscape

I am looking forward to the next phase of engagement with the community – sharing the progress of the project.

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