Bridgette Kelly and Julian Hamill graduated from UTS one year apart, but they both began working as assistant project managers at commercial real estate company CBRE within one week of each other. Together, they’re working with UTS and the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) to deliver high-tech sports and sports science facilities within the Australian Rugby Development Centre (ARDC) at Moore Park. The ARDC is set to open for teaching in 2018.
I’ve always had an appreciation for the built environment - I grew up in the inner west of Sydney and spent a lot of time in the streets playing sport with my mates. I was out there every afternoon after school; I saw everything that was going on. Every couple of months there was a change in my neighborhood - old dilapidated Victorian-era houses would be demolished and replaced by this era's iteration of dwellings. The design of the new and old buildings were all a reflection of the period in which they were built and I guess I wanted to understand the drivers for how and why the built environment is formed. Now, here I am working on a building that will shape the future of sport science!
Bridgette and I started working at CBRE, which UTS appointed as the external project management consultant for the ARDC building, around the same time, roughly a week apart, in August 2015. I studied a Master in Property Development at UTS and Bridgette studied civil engineering and business. Prior to working at CBRE, I worked for a buyer’s agent, so we would purchase properties for clients - residential, commercial and industrial properties - which were either lived in, worked in, knocked down or built up by our clients. I wanted to be involved in what it takes to make that happen. So I started putting my name out there and Geoff Warren, CBRE state director, was kind enough to meet with me and talk though what it means to be a project manager. After that I knew what I wanted to do. I applied for the position of Assistant Project Manager, went through the interview process, and was then offered the role.
Bridgette and I work very closely together on the ARDC project, which is exciting for a number of reasons, including that we’re both former students of UTS! We’ll go to a meeting with UTS and Bridgette will present on the fit-out aspect and then I’ll give an update on the status of the base building construction, and any upcoming design changes. As project managers our job is to be the conduit between the client, the design team and the builder. For example, if the client requests a change to the design of the building, it is our job to go away and make it happen. Once we develop a solution with the design team and builder, we then go back to the client and say, ‘This is how we can make it happen’. The first solution isn’t always the final answer. We always need to ask the hard questions: ‘How is this going to affect the budget? How is this going to affect the program? And, most importantly, is this the best solution for the client?’
The ARDC building has now ‘topped out’ which means the structure is, essentially, as high as it will go. It’s a great milestone. Next up is the fitout works - putting in all the services, flooring, ceilings and the partitions. Overall, it’s a five-and-a-half story building plus a basement, so there is a long way to go!
I like working with Bridgette because she brings real analytical accountability to our work. She follows up everything and everyone, so nothing slips through the cracks. Problems can quickly snowball into issues if not addressed, and Bridgette ensures this doesn’t happen.
Julian and I are both assistant project managers at CBRE, so we work on a large portion of the coordination aspects of the project, and between the project’s many stakeholders. When we started, the ARDC project was just kicking off. The architect, Populous, was appointed at that time. And so, the initial tasks we undertook involved coordinating all the different parties – requesting proposals from consultants, engineers and property surveyors, and then appointing and managing the briefing and design implementation process.
I studied civil engineering and business at UTS and I graduated at the end of 2015, after six years, while Julian was at UTS for three years. We never crossed paths at UTS, as we were in different faculties and wouldn’t have had any classes together. As part of my degree, UTS helped me gain internships in a construction site-based role, and I knew this was the direction I would like to continue with. I applied to CBRE as I felt this position would allow me to further develop my skills in the industry, and being a client-facing role I would be able to also better my ability to manage the demands of both the client and various project stakeholders.
On this project, I am the main point of contact when communicating with UTS and Julian is the main interface between CBRE and the builder, as well as the main point of contact with the ARU. We both also play a significant role in coordination between the client and project design consultants. If there’s a problem, we have to take a solutions-based approach. You don’t just give them an issue and not have a solution in mind. Julian’s quite good at being diplomatic and negotiating with the different parties – he can get a solution from a difficult situation. Because we’re the project managers, it’s up to us to resolve everything. There are so many different stakeholders and components and we really need to communicate well to keep everyone across everything.
The ARDC, which is due to be completed later this year ready for the first session of 2018, will have a mix of specialist learning and research spaces for biomechanics, exercise physiology and motor learning, as well as a gym, general teaching spaces and a running track. There will also be office space for staff and PhD students and the top floor includes a multi-function area and terrace space which can open up for events. The university’s physiotherapy discipline is now also going into the building, so we’re working with UTS on some design changes.
It’s good that Julian and I started at the same time, having both just finished uni - we can bounce ideas, problems and solutions off each other. It has actually probably made our transition from uni to the industry a little easier. It’s also great having completed different degrees, as we bring different skill sets and perspectives to the project.