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Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works
CSIRO Consolidation Project, Australian Capital Territory
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Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works
CHAIR (Mrs Andrews)
Gallacher, Sen Alex
Southcott, Dr Andrew, MP
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Content WindowParliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works - 28/02/2014 - CSIRO Consolidation Project, Australian Capital Territory
ALEXANDER, Mr Scott Norman, Advisor to CSIRO, Analytics Group, CSIRO
BENNETT, Ms Hazel, Chief Finance Officer, CSIRO
BILSTON, Mr Brendan John, Project Director, Point Project Management, CSIRO
GROSE, Mr James Cobham, Principal, BVN Donovan Hill Architects
MANNERS, Dr John Michael, Chief, Plant Industry, CSIRO
MIKULIC, Mr Antony, Deputy General Manager, Business and Infrastructure Services, CSIRO
WALLIS, Mr Mark, General Manager, Business and Infrastructure Services, CSIRO
Committee met at 09:59.
CHAIR ( Mrs Andrews ): I declare open this public hearing of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works into the CSIRO's ACT facilities consolidation project. I call the representatives of the CSIRO. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that these hearings are formal proceedings of the parliament. Consequently, they warrant the same respect as proceedings of the parliament itself. I remind witnesses that giving false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. Ms Bennett, would you care to make some opening remarks?
Ms Bennett : Thank you, I would. Before I commence my brief opening statement, I would wish to table one minor correction as required to the CSIRO statement of evidence. In paragraph 148, the statement:
The Black Mountain campus is currently provided with 748 car parking spaces distributed throughout the site.
Should be continued, noting, 'During phase 1, 18 car parks will be removed.' I offer the committee this correction in the handout. Very briefly, if I may, on behalf of my colleagues and myself I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to present our proposal this morning and, again, for participating in our site tour. We hope this has assisted the committee to better visualise our proposed consolidation.
CSIRO is seeking to redevelop its Black Mountain site in Canberra. Our proposal goes towards ensuring our financial sustainability in order for us to deliver on our science mission and underpins the ongoing quality of our science for the nation. Ultimately, through this proposal we are looking to provide the Commonwealth with value for money by reducing the whole-of-life costs of CSIRO's property in the ACT. This includes lower repair and maintenance costs, offset to some extent by planned maintenance work; lower building operating costs associated with reduced property footprint and increased energy efficiency in newer buildings; and cessation of operating expenditure on leases.
We want to provide modern, fit-for-purpose laboratory and office accommodation with science facilities that support and enable CSIRO to continue to deliver world-class research and meet changing regulatory and environmental compliance frameworks. This will allow better collaboration across CSIRO's science community on the site and encourage greater collaboration and co-location with external partners. It will provide a positive working environment, contributing to the attraction and retention of staff and collaborators. It will provide the opportunity for others to co-locate with CSIRO on the site, as part of a longer term vision we are undertaking with our innovation system partners to create a global research precinct in Canberra.
At CSIRO, we are incredibly proud of the work we do and the difference we make. As Australian's national science agency, we are one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world, with around 6,000 people working in 11 research divisions across 54 sites in Australia. We work with industry, governments and communities. We are in the top one per cent of global research institutions in 15 of 22 research fields and in the top 10 in four research fields, two of which are carried out at the Black Mountain site. Though our science, we provide innovative and sustainable solutions, ideas and technologies, knowledge exports, industrial and environmental innovation, plus new jobs. We support new industries and provide fresh opportunities this nation.
We have a proud base here in Canberra. In 1926, parliament set aside land on Black Mountain for our organisation. We have continued to grow and develop the site, culminating in what we are presenting to you today. Black Mountain remains our longest-serving research site, specialising in plant and environmental research that is recognised around the world. More broadly in the ACT, our people are also conducting research in mathematics and information sciences, and are providing foundation science for activities elsewhere across the CSIRO. Canberra is home to our IT support function and our corporate head office, which are currently on leased sites away from Black Mountain.
In this process we have examined options to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our ACT property portfolio which would result in providing better facilities to support our people and science directions and contribute to the financial sustainability of our organisation. The outcome of our assessment is that the best-value-for-money option is to invest in the construction of new and refurbished facilities at Black Mountain and to consolidate from our sites in Campbell, Acton, Yarralumla and Crace into a more effective and concentrated CSIRO zone on the Black Mountain site. This development would see CSIRO reduce its ACT property footprint by a substantial 42 per cent through going from approximately 110,000 square metres to around 66,000 square metres and would see us establish Black Mountain as our primary site in Canberra, incorporating both science and corporate operations.
In 2012 CSIRO prepared a detailed business case in accordance with the Commonwealth property management framework and the two-stage capital works approval process, in collaboration with the Department of Finance. This was approved by government in the May 2013 budget. Subject to the support of this committee and approval of our proposal by parliament we plan to reinvigorate the Black Mountain site over two phases to align with funding allocations approved by government.
Phase 1 would commence as soon as possible, with completion by April 2016. It would see: the construction of the first of two buildings which will form new, fit-for-purpose research facilities; the refurbishment of the existing discovery centre to support the precinct; new car parking; associated infrastructure and landscaping; some demolition of obsolete buildings; and the relocation of our Campbell based staff to Black Mountain prior to the expiry of that lease in June 2016.
Phase 2 is expected to commence in September 2017, with completion in 2019. It will see: the construction of the second adjoining building of the new research facility; refurbishment of four existing buildings; associated infrastructure and landscaping; demolition of remaining obsolete buildings; and the relocation of our Acton, most of our Crace and Yarralumla staff no later than January 2020, again to align with lease expiry at those sites.
CSIRO is confident that the proposed works represent value for money for the Commonwealth. The estimated out-turn cost for the project is $195.6 million, exclusive of GST. This includes: construction costs; site preparation; infrastructure service costs; management and design fees; furniture, fitting and equipment relocations; and contingencies and escalation. CSIRO has sufficient funding for the proposed works, and we have not sought any additional budget funding from the government for this proposal.
In summary, the consolidation of our ACT sites is a very high priority for CSIRO. It represents a key milestone in modernising our research and support facilities, implementing significant operational efficiencies and consolidating Canberra operations on one site. We are committed to our purpose of undertaking transformational science which makes a difference to Australian society, industry and the environment. We are passionate about reinforcing Australia's position on the world scientific stage and, through our proposal, we believe we can deliver a high quality outcome that achieves value for money for the Commonwealth.
My colleagues and I would be pleased to answer any questions, Madam Chair.
CHAIR: I would be keen to get an overview of what the objectives of the project really are. At paragraph 11 of your submission you say:
The underlying objective of the project is the overall reduction of CSIRO’s property footprint in the ACT to achieve significant savings in recurrent property operating expenses …
Then, at paragraph 17, you detail a number of project objectives, including science purpose, economic utilisation et cetera.
So I would like you to give the committee a better overview of what the driving forces—the key objectives—are behind this project.
Ms Bennett : As you can probably tell from our statement of evidence, in some sense the drivers are coalescing. There is an economic driver. As a government funded organisation—though we also have approximately 40 per cent external revenue funding—CSIRO is under continual financial pressure. The property portfolio in the ACT is costly—more costly than a modern suite of buildings would be—and we need to reduce our recurrent and maintenance expenditure. That will be achieved through reduction of the property footprint and the demolition of buildings which are uneconomical to maintain. Part of the plan will allow us to relocate staff from under-utilised facilities—which again goes to that space occupancy—to reduce our footprint.
Part of the issue we have as we do that is that we can maintain our enhanced science outcomes. We are at the point where, in those facilities, in some sense there are dual purposes. Because the facilities are old and ageing and costly, we cannot continue to do short-term fixes that enable us to be compliant with regulatory regimes and still continue to invest in our science.
So the underlying purpose, I would say, is financial sustainability. It is achieved through the property consolidation. That in itself addresses the regulatory regime challenges we have, and all those together mean we are investing in property which enables us to continue the science we do.
Senator GALLACHER: I may not have read the papers as completely as I should have. Is there a dollar value on the consolidation of square metreage?
Ms Bennett : Do you mean in terms of square metreage?
Senator GALLACHER: Yes—you are going down to 64,000 square metres from 110,000 square metres. Is there a dollar value on that?
Mr Wallis : Do you mean a dollar value in the buildings we are demolishing?
Senator GALLACHER: No, I mean that, since your footprint is smaller, you must be paying less in leases, I suppose.
Mr Wallis : We own the site.
Senator GALLACHER: What about the leases you are getting out of?
Ms Bennett : We are releasing the leases—which, if I recall correctly, are around $5 million per annum. The cost of the leases in Campbell and Yarralumla are around $5 million per annum.
Senator GALLACHER: That is a substantial footprint.
Ms Bennett : There is a square-metreage saving per head in space consolidation of the Black Mountain site alone.
Senator GALLACHER: So there is a saving of about $5 million from moving and consolidating?
Ms Bennett : Yes.
Senator GALLACHER: Thank you.
CHAIR: At paragraphs 185 and 186, which are the options analysis—and you referred to it in your opening remarks—you speak about the options that were considered. Could you give us some more detail on each of those options? You also referred to an external review of the business case, but I have not seen that external review. Would it be available to the committee?
Ms Bennett : In terms of the option analysis: the range of options we looked at included a leaseback of the corporate and scientific facilities. We then examined whether, within the site we own, we could contemplate some arrangements with external providers. We also looked at the possibility of remaining in the leased facilities and working with the relevant landlords to consider whether we could achieve some improvements there. Those were done very much in terms of all the options on the table.
Overwhelmingly we were conscious that Black Mountain is our own site, and our preference was therefore to remain on our own site and bring our footprint down by releasing ourselves from the lease sites and then moving ourselves to a smaller holding on the Black Mountain site to get some scale efficiencies. We did look, therefore, at the Black Mountain site to see whether we could avoid building a new building and instead going for a refurbishment. But one we looked at the age of the buildings on the Black Mountain site we found that we physically could not get all our staff into buildings where the infrastructure had a long enough life to make it economically effective. That is why we have a combination here of a new build and refurbishment of those properties.
CHAIR: Are we able to get a copy of the external review that was undertaken?
Ms Bennett : We provided a full business case as part of the new policy proposal, and we could provide that to the committee.
CHAIR: Okay. I have a question on the critical milestones for the project, which are in paragraph 191. You state:
The critical milestone to be achieved is the vacation of Campbell prior to the expiry of the lease in June 2016.
Do you anticipate that there will be any issues which would impact on your achieving that milestone?
Ms Bennett : Subject to approval of the project, we do not.
CHAIR: So sufficient time has been allowed in your time frames that its being an issue would be factored in?
Ms Bennett : Yes, we have sufficient time in the project plan.
Mr Bilston : We are approximately three weeks ahead on our procurement for a managing contractor, and we have allowed a sizeable float at the back end of the project for any contingent activities to occur.
Dr SOUTHCOTT: The staff association in their submission asked for the provision of no less than 300 secure, covered and well-lit bicycle storage bays. You said in your submission that phase 2 will provide end-of-ride facilities—change rooms, lockers and bicycle parking facilities. Could you give more detail about what that involves?
Mr Mikulic : In the proposal at the moment, for the end-of-ride facility we have provision for around 200 bicycles. That is in excess of the local planning regulations, even the Green Star. However, we have undertaken surveys with our staff to gauge their use and planned use after the consolidation at Black Mountain, and that is indicating a need in the order of 178 bicycles. So we are well provisioned in that area. That will comprise bike storage, bike security, showers, lockers and so forth. That is also available for the general amenity of runners, joggers and so forth.
Dr SOUTHCOTT: Is there any capacity to expand that in the future?
Mr Mikulic : Yes—if that need arose, it would be addressed sometime in the future.
Dr SOUTHCOTT: In your submission you talk about bushfire prevention. There have been some fires near this site. What does the redevelopment mean for bushfire prevention at the site?
Dr Manners : We currently have a site emergency planning committee, and we have a site emergency plan which has a particular focus on bushfire because it is a significant risk for the site. As the project progresses, to undertake the construction and the movements of people between buildings, we will have to modify that plan to accommodate the phases of construction and the new stuff that enter the site. That is basically an ongoing and active planning process we undertake.
For example, in late December we undertook a scenario of a bushfire, which we hypothesised would occur up on the interface with the Botanical Gardens. We went through that in a digital form and a walk-through form to ensure that we had all processes in place. I would foresee that the emergency site planning committee would be doing that on a more regular basis than an annual, seasonal preparedness. We would be doing that on a building phase preparedness.
Ms Bennett : I will add to that. In June 2013 CSIRO commissioned a bushfire hazard assessment of the Black Mountain campus. The recommendations of the report are being implemented, as John has indicated, through his committee. These include the reduction of flammable fuel and the creation of a buffer zone to adjacent bushland. As John has indicated, we undertake regular maintenance and landscaping treatment at Black Mountain campus to ensure that all the requirements are maintained to minimise bushfire risk.
Dr SOUTHCOTT: Will that buffer zone remain under the redevelopment?
Ms Bennett : Indeed.
Senator GALLACHER: The decision to locate there and give you 37 hectares was a pretty farsighted decision, I think, given that it was done in 1927. I know we saw some buildings obviously in need of demolition and refurbishment, but are you going to do any civil works to make it a homogeneous site? It is not a secure site, is it? Or are parts of it secure? It is accessible to anyone who wants to drive—
Ms Bennett : The site itself is accessible, yes. We are working on vehicle access to make sure that that remains safe. But you are right: the site itself is accessible. We start the security at the building's entry. Perhaps, Antony, you can talk about the civil works.
Mr Mikulic : The project is in two stages. Stage 1 will address immediate civil works required to support the new building and associated work such as car parks. Phase 2 will see that work expanded. Ultimately it aims to work towards a master plan which identifies some of the issues you touched on, and that is the longer term goal of providing some unified arrangement which will incorporate ring roads and further opportunities on the site.
Senator GALLACHER: I know that your job this morning was to show us the things you need to fix, but are there vacant areas there for future development or future expansion?
Mr Wallis : Yes, there is an opportunity. We have developed a 20-year master plan for this site which identifies opportunities for the attraction of further collaboration—whether it be with other government agencies or with independent industry partners we can attract to the ACT. Also, we have had meetings with the ACT government around opportunities that they may present in attracting further industry here to the ACT. We see that as a real opportunity to further advance the science we undertake on that site.
Ms Bennett : The site is adjacent to the Botanical Gardens on one side, so it would be that side we are trying to free up for collaborators. We would hope, in due course, on the master plan to put the roadway down that side of the site so that partners had vehicle access and a public road. If you were looking at the site from Clunies Ross Street, that part would be on your left; CSIRO's property is more on the right. So that is our long-term vision to address the access.
Senator GALLACHER: So this project is a step on the way, but it is not in an area constrained at all from future collaboration or redevelopment? There is plenty of room for that?
Ms Bennett : Indeed there is; and that is our intention and desire.
Senator GALLACHER: There are a couple of other issues which I think have been raised with you by the staff association. I note that you say that your people are your intellectual value. Is there contention about widespread open-office-plan accommodation in the design?
Ms Bennett : As we are well aware, not only here but also in more broad terms with our staff, individuals fundamentally want to feel that they can work efficiently and effectively in a fit-for-purpose building. CSIRO has determined that we will be compliant with the government standards, which are formally known as the PRODAC—the 14 square metres. We have been complying with it in other refurbishments and other buildings, such as the New Horizons building in Clayton, which we were talking about. We are slowly, I think, starting to get some experience of our own staff who are operating in these environments to share with other staff.
We acknowledge the level of concern of some members, but, as we indicated as we showed you some of the facilities, 14 square metres is more than other members of staff have at the moment. We are expecting and anticipating different individuals to have a different reaction. It is part of our staff consultation process to talk and show and demonstrate to staff what it looks like and what it feels like. As we said, there are examples of buildings in Canberra and within our own organisation in other locations through which we can show and demonstrate how this works.
CHAIR: How does the design relate to Australian best practice and international best practice?
Ms Bennett : One thing is purely the space, and then it is what we do with the space. We have come down to office space—the 14 square metres—but there are other things such as the general amenity and the collaboration space. Mark, could you talk about this?
Mr Wallis : Madam Chair, we will bring forward our lead designer, James Grose, from BVN. He will talk about world's best practice and spatial or workplace planning.
CHAIR: Yes, that is fine.
Senator GALLACHER: The concern has been raised that there could be a loss of scientific productivity, which is counter to your objectives.
Ms Bennett : Indeed. We clearly have indicated to staff that there will be plenty of opportunities for consultation experience. We do not believe that there will be loss of productivity. There are institutes within Australia—the Walter and Eliza Hall research centre, the brain institute in Melbourne and the Hunter Medical Research Institute, in Newcastle—and there are examples internationally where these kinds of standards apply. I do not think any of them would hold that their science productivity has been compromised. And we are using these standards in other parts of our organisation.
Senator GALLACHER: Finally, there is a very direct concern that you are not meeting your obligations in respect of the CSIRO enterprise act, which states the steps required regarding CSIRO's obligations for childcare facilities when staff numbers increase. Child care is a very hot legal potato.
Ms Bennett : It is. The enterprise agreement has specific provisions around consultation, around the need for us to embrace and to conduct staff demographic analysis, a staff survey, each time there are significant additions to current facilities and for new building projects. We are very aware of our obligations and we will meet them. We are already consulting with staff. There are surveys out at the moment. We are still analysing the latest survey, which is something we do regularly. We will analyse the results of the staff demographic analysis in the survey. We will consider the results and what these mean and respond accordingly. So we are in the process of consultation with our staff.
Senator GALLACHER: When the 37 hectares are fully populated—and it might take 20 years to fully populate them—what sorts of numbers would we be looking at on site? What are your numbers now, and where would you like to go?
Ms Bennett : Our numbers now on the site are around 1,200 staff, moving up to 1,660. I think that is something that I, in some sense, could not speculate on. If you recall, should partners wish to, and probably with the kind of height restrictions on the site, we can probably take up to 10 quite significant buildings and properties on the site. We would welcome that. We would welcome the opportunity to have science collaborators and industry on site, but I think under a 20-year vision. We and our core foundation partners, the ANU and other parties that we are talking with—I would not be able to put a figure on it. I can say in a broader sense, in general, about precincts, that the literature internationally starts to indicate that, when you get something in the order of 8,000 to 10,000 people in one location, you do get that kind of hub of industry and of research together, with a significant scale impact. We are moving to 1,660 in our areas. We would still be relatively spread out. And I think the site therefore could quite easily contemplate in the order of 8,000 if we manage to achieve the 20-year vision.
Senator GALLACHER: Without going too much into the costs, what are the risks? I think someone was announced as the risk analyst.
Ms Bennett : Indeed.
Senator GALLACHER: What are the broad risks that you have identified and evaluated on this program?
Ms Bennett : While Scott is finding his papers, I can start off. We did the risk analysis and, as you would be aware from the attachments, there is a rating of current risk and then we move through the mitigation factors. The current rating for the high and extreme risks was that there were approximately eight of them.
There was clearly the risk in planning, the failure to recognise the project breadth from the start, which we felt could be quite adequately mitigated down. There was construction risk that somehow through the construction process we do not reflect the approved design—that there are changes to the design. Again, strong project management would be required to mitigate that one.
We did have a risk at the time of submitting between budget approval and election process. There was a risk that the team quite appropriately, I think, put down about the change in government support. That had to be acknowledged as a risk at the time.
Clearly, there were risks around the design brief not meeting CSIRO's requirements—again, the importance of getting our design team in very early on this project; that the program was not effectively planned and executed; the fact that at the end of the day the delivery of the facilities does not meet our science requirements; and that design does not achieve environmental sign-off. I am happy for Scott to take over but, as you can see, most of those are fundamentals of good, tight project planning and project management.
Senator GALLACHER: What I was curious about, really, was that in this redevelopment over a period of time, will there be any loss of productivity or efficiency in conducting your work?
Ms Bennett : Our plan is to minimise the disruption to staff in terms of making sure as far as we possibly can that staff move and move once. There are some staff who will move twice. Antony are you able to clarify?
Senator GALLACHER: So keeping the whole facility running at the same time as you rebuild it?
Ms Bennett : Yes.
Senator GALLACHER: How are you going to do that with 1,200 people?
Mr Mikulic : That may require some individuals to relocate in a decanting exercise and relocate some of the equipment that they currently utilise, but we attempt to make that a minimal impost on the staff so that we do not impact on the science that is being delivered on the site.
Senator GALLACHER: Has the fact that you have to do it over such a long period impacted back into the cost?
Mr Wallis : Yes, it has.
Ms Bennett : Yes.
Senator GALLACHER: That is all I really wanted to know.
CHAIR: I would like some more detail about the design because we are required to look at whether or not this project is fit for purpose. If that means we need to call a further witness and we should do that. I am very interested in the design and the best practice and how what you are proposing fits within those models.
Mr Mikulic : We will ask James Grose from BVN Donovan Hill, our project architects, to join us, if that is acceptable.
Fit for purpose is obviously identified as an important criteria for the project and in the selection of the design consultant. Something we were certainly focusing on was experience with research facilities both nationally and internationally. BVN Donovan Hill were successful in that process. They have an extremely impressive track record and also been involved in a number of projects which had similar challenges to what CSIRO is aiming at here. We have asked James to join us at the table today and perhaps James could talk to some of those examples.
CHAIR: Welcome. I do need to remind you that the warning that I gave the beginning of this hearing of course applies to you as well now. Could you provide us with some more information with regard to the design process that was undertaken and give us some evidence particularly in relation to the fit-for-purpose nature of the facility.
Mr Grose : These research buildings over the last five to 10 years have changed very much in the nature as the nature of the research itself changes. Technology has in many ways liberated the way that people work in buildings. The downside of technology liberating people and enabling them to collaborate virtually is that collaboration face-to-face or in the creation of workplace communities—that is, physical, tactile, visceral places where people as human beings interact—has been the thing that has suffered in the development of technology and workplaces. That especially applies to research buildings more so than, say, commercial buildings, where business tends to roll over much more quickly with changes in workplace communities and technology. So the work that we have done over the last, say, five years in research buildings throughout Australia is about creating an appropriate workplace community for people to create collaborative experience.
The way that we do that is to create buildings that are highly flexible because, as we have seen in the last 10 years, technologies change radically. Ten years ago technology routing in buildings determined the way that you planned buildings. Now technology is effectively invisible. So our aim in this project is to make an invisible technology place but highly collaborative human community places. That does not mean that in the workplace people get a generic treatment of how they sit or how they work or how they collaborate in open space. The approach to designing these spaces in a fit-for-purpose manner in terms of workplace is that it is horses for courses. We do not make generic interior places; we make places that are needs based. So our role has been, and continues to be, to engage with people at CSIRO on all levels, with all users of the space, to ensure that their work practices and habits and, indeed, their projected or anticipated work habits will all be able to be accommodated within this new series of spaces in the new building and the refurbishment.
CHAIR: Within that, though, there must be some standard or some guidelines for research facilities that would need to be met. I understand the need to accommodate the staff that are currently there, but we have heard previously about the need to attract and then retain staff into the future as well.
Mr Grose : Absolutely.
CHAIR: So how does this facility then relate to other research facilities in Australia and internationally?
Mr Grose : That is where design becomes incredibly important—the presentation of the building and the architecture as part of the offering, if you like, for graduates, especially recent graduates, to be drawn from the best institutions not just in Australia but also internationally. So the architecture of the place—that is, the making of what it feels like to be in the place—becomes enormously important to make sure that younger generations of scientists are attracted to a place which is highly compatible with and equal to international places of similar quality.
Mr Wallis : In addition, in the development of our accommodation standards for CSIRO we undertook space utilisation and an assessment on meeting our obligations around compliance but also ensuring that we benchmarked ourselves against a number of the leading Australian research sites that are contemporary in delivery: the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, the Brain Research Institute in Melbourne and the Hunter Medical Research Institute. CSIRO also undertook an independent assessment of our benchmarks against leading international research agencies through a study tour in 2013 of nine sites throughout the United Kingdom, Belgium and Germany. Those included the Rothamsted Research park in the United Kingdom, the Sainsbury Laboratory in Cambridge, the National Institute of Agricultural Botany field station in Cambridge, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult at the University of Warwick, the international optical laboratory at the University of Warwick, the Food and Environment Research Agency in the United Kingdom, Bayer CropScience in Belgium and the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Germany. We believe that the benchmarking and independent assessment that we have undertaken will leave us in good stead in the ongoing consultation with our staff to understand how the idiosyncrasies in the way that we operate at Black Mountain will be implemented into the design, on which we will be working very closely with BVN.
Ms Bennett : If I can support that, the four areas we were looking at in particular were the open plan versus the office based environment, general amenities in terms of meeting rooms and collaboration spaces, the shared science services—a number of times what we find is that we are trying to push particular equipment, fridges et cetera into the corner of one lab, whereas the modern, contemporary design is to have laboratories with shared areas for certain facilities, which eases the pressure on the purchase of equipment multiple times, is another form of better use and helps us on the compliance standards—and conferencing facilities. What we found through that tour is that many of those facilities typically achieved an occupational density of less than the 14 square metres per person that is the current Australian standard for office work space.
In terms of open plan versus office based environments, the use of open-plan workstations was common across the facilities visited. The most intensive use of open-plan environments was noted in the UK, but in these facilities public circulation areas are linked into the office modules and meeting rooms. Visual continuity is also maintained, which is an important point that James has also mentioned. In some sense, the eye is very important to the interpretation of what the space feels like, so that look is very important and not to be underestimated. Also, as you would be aware, when going to some buildings you go in and you just feel that there is empty, wasted space, which is another point. We do not want our scientists to feel we are wasting space in a nice atrium and not putting it towards the science. We ourselves have been using these types of standards in our fit-outs over recent years, so we have also been experiencing this with our scientists across a number of our sites.
Senator GALLACHER: You didn't happen to wander into Apple or Google or Microsoft and see what they do for their people?
Ms Bennett : As part of this particular tour, no, but I know that officers in CSIRO have walked into Apple and Google.
Mr Wallis : We have also considered across industry. We have looked at the way banks operate. We had a look at the Commonwealth Bank facility at Darling Harbour in Sydney because they have gone to the opposite extreme to where we probably sit at the moment: we have a number of our scientists in offices and they have a completely activity work based environment where nobody actually has an allocated desk. We believe that to go to that extent would be to the detriment of our staff because there is a requirement to have a sense of place and a sense of team in the work that we undertake as scientists within the organisation. But there were some opportunities that we saw for the way that we can adopt some of the activity work based support areas around meeting rooms to support a more open-plan environment and, as was discussed earlier, to look at areas where staff can congregate to discuss ideas. John may be able to discuss this more thoroughly, but there is the opportunity for computational scientists to meet with our scientists from our planned industry, or from our marine and atmospheric research, or from our ecosystem sciences for discussions. That is how a number of our more recent success stories have actually been achieved.
Dr SOUTHCOTT: I wanted to ask a question about that. I understand that the collaboration principle is built into the design, but it is not really clear to me how that collaboration and cross-fertilisation that you just talked about occurs across the site.
Mr Wallis : That is precisely why we have put forward the proposal that we have. It brings the majority of our scientists from disparate buildings across the site into one facility, to at least the property to help facilitate that. Then it really is left to the science to ensure that facilitation is managed.
Dr Manners : Maybe I can comment on that. The way the science is conducted has changed radically. Computation digital technologies are having a huge impact on both biological science and environmental science. There is a coalescence of that technology and the way that people use it. At the moment, as you have seen in the site tour, we have staff distributed amongst many buildings. It is not an ideal environment for people to interact and exchange ideas. For example, we really want to bring people who have expertise in complex modelling for environmental prediction together with people who are now commencing complex modelling in biological systems using the information that is being drawn from genomics et cetera in the understanding of genomes. The design and the ability to bring people into a single space, plus the appropriate accommodation designs, will allow them to interact more freely and they do not sit in siloed offices in siloed buildings. That is really what the key element is about: to bring the new science that we are doing and cross-disciplinary science to fruition. At the moment we have to manage that across a very complex set of spatial dispersion. Bringing this together and facilitating it, and providing supportive environments for that, is really what is going to get the best outcome.
Dr SOUTHCOTT: Is there any central facility where the staff do interact which provides some cohesion to the site and morale for everyone about being in a joint enterprise?
Dr Manners : Are you talking about the present site?
Dr SOUTHCOTT: No, in the proposed redevelopment.
Mr Wallis : Yes, Dr Southcott, there are some opportunities. The current cafeteria that is available at the Discovery building will continue to be the focus for opportunities for staff to gather. However, there will also be opportunities on each floor within the building for staff to congregate in a less formal environment, such as a meal area et cetera. The opportunity for collaboration space—and it could be for free-thinking collaboration—will also be discussed. That is all part of the discussion that we now need to have with our staff to understand how those opportunities or those environments can support them moving forward with exactly that cross-pollination of ideas, whether through meeting rooms, free-thinking space, conference facility areas or just meeting each other for a cup of coffee to discuss a problem that they have.
CHAIR: What evidence can you give the committee of consultation with staff and of CSIRO's ability to have dealt with the issues that the staff have raised?
Mr Wallis : On 15 December 2013 I and representatives from our workplace relations, our change management and our communications teams met with representatives from the staff association and the CPSU.
CHAIR: That was just last December?
Mr Wallis : That is correct. In the year preceding that, whilst we were undertaking the initial scoping work for this project, we engaged with a number of staff groups across the site, including management, and with our staff on the site to inform the project as it was being initially scoped. However, as we are now going through into the detailed design documentation phase, we commenced further consultation with our staff through an engagement with the staff association and the CPSU in December. That was in addition to all the previous consultations that we had undertaken and also through town hall meetings that were undertaken on the site, on Yarralumla, at Campbell and at Black Mountain in November last year. There was further discussion with the staff association in January this year. So there have been a series of consultation processes that have been undertaken over the last 14 to 15 months and they have been at various levels of staff engagement.
Ms Bennett : We had an intranet site set up towards the back end of last year as we held those town hall meetings, which were more baseline information, making staff aware collectively of where we were at, and supplementing the specific, focus group type of work we had done. The intranet site is now posted—this is just one example—so we are sending out regular briefs to staff in general. As Mr Wallis said, we are really doing now the communication at a variety of levels: general awareness; the intranet site with the ability for questions, for us to be able to post information and for staff to be able to communicate back; and then the focus group type of engagement which has led us to the initial design. John and various other members were personally involved in some of those, and those will continue as we go through to the detailed design. Then there is also the formal communication with the staff association. So it is multifaceted.
CHAIR: What were the priority issues raised by staff and how have you address them?
Ms Bennett : The staff association letter—and we appreciate the support—has provided us with very good sense of where our staff concerns are. Clearly we recognise it. The group executive of the relevant group for many of the staff on the site comes from the Rothamsted institute in the UK and has done something similar. I led one particular town hall meeting with John in November. The questions were almost solely around the personal: 'I'm going to have to move. Will I move once or twice? My space is going to change.' I think staff are very comfortable with the broader—why we are doing in, the need to do it, the need for good facilities. The intensive communication is, not surprisingly, about the individual moving from a space that, even if it is not ideal, has been the space that they are familiar with, in an environment they are familiar with, so very understandably it is around the personal space and the broader facilities on the site. We have spoken already about the child care, the bike places, the general amenity on the site. So in general, not surprisingly, it is around the personal journeys staff are going to go on, which is why we have communication and change management embedded within our project structure.
CHAIR: Were there any issues raised and are there any issues with the disruption to operations or to staff during the construction phase, because I understand you are going to have a significant number of contractors and tradespeople on site?
Mr Wallis : That is correct and that has been a concern of not only our scientists but also our project team. We will be working with our managing contractor when they are appointed to ensure that we have the appropriate traffic management plan in place to minimise impact for our staff. A building of this nature will have a number of tradespeople on the site at any given time, so we will be identifying parking arrangements as interim arrangements for them, how they access the site et cetera.
CHAIR: In your documentation you do have details about the additional people who will be on site during construction. I am just looking for that at the moment. But it was and a significant level, so it raises the issue of car parking as well.
Mr Bilston : I think we indicated in the statement of evidence grossing at 800 employment opportunities and that we would see it peaking at about 150 contractors at any one time, with their own parking facilities and amenity to be constructed temporarily on the site whilst the works are being undertaken to minimise the impact on staff and other users that come to Black Mountain.
Ms Bennett : The other thing that we are conscious of is the pressure on the cafe facility—in both ways: we do not want our contractors to feel they having to waste time; we do not want our staff to feel that they are no longer able to access. So there is a variety of issues that we do recognise. As you can tell from Mr Bilston, we recognise them and they are included in our thought process and our planning.
CHAIR: Have there been any asbestos issues identified as part of this project with any demolition?
Mr Mikulic : We have an ongoing program of asbestos removal outside of this project, and that program is continuing as we speak. Some of the buildings being demolished may have asbestos in them. They are identified on our asbestos register and will be dealt with at the time. There is currently mitigation processes in other buildings that are associated such as the pilab, encapsulation, removal. There are a number of methodologies which are in place. So they are fully recognised and will be dealt with.
CHAIR: Do you anticipate there being any issues that would cause a delay to the project time line?
Mr Mikulic : With regard to asbestos or any issue?
CHAIR: Both, actually, but I was asking about asbestos.
Mr Mikulic : No, we do not believe so. As I said, we have a very detailed asbestos register that we have had in place for quite some time as part of our formal obligations, and those works are underway. In part that is in support of the project but, as I said, it is also just as part of our normal course of works. Those asbestos plans, I must add, have also been developed with Comcare. So we are fully aware of our responsibilities—monitoring and any other impacts associated with that.
CHAIR: And more broadly, given that you have raised the issue?
Mr Mikulic : No, we believe, as we identified earlier, we are currently three weeks ahead of our program, which is quite fortuitous. At this stage we believe that there are no 'subject to' approvals. We do not believe there are any impediments.
Ms Bennett : We have a realistic project schedule that accommodates, I guess, awareness that there are some risks. We are confident that the we have an appropriate schedule.
Mr Bilston : It is quite normal in construction activities that we will encounter the unexpected. We have made sufficient allowances in scheduling, and also in studies and investigations, whether they be geotechnical, environmental and the like, to identify issues before they occur. But, again, we have allowed sufficient time at the back end as our float that we can manage, if and when we encounter issues like that.
CHAIR: Thank you. There being no further questions from members of the committee, is there anything further that you would like to add?
Ms Bennett : I would just like to ensure the record is accurate. I believe I said on the leases around $5 million; the figure is $4.3 million. That is to just to give comfort on that.
Chair, no, we thank you very much for the opportunity to present the redevelopment to the committee.
CHAIR: We thank you for the opportunity to visit the site this morning and the inspection with the opportunity to meet and speak with some of the staff that were there and get an understanding of the sort of work you are doing on that site. Thank you for that.
Resolved that these proceedings be published.
Committee adjourned at 10:54