Spring 2021

Engaging interviews, behind-the-scenes insights, news, trends and topical features that celebrate places that evolve our landscape, and the people who bring them to life - welcome to Made by FDC.

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The collection at the new National Herbarium of NSW is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere, boasting 1.43 million plant specimens that were recently valued at $280 million. Safeguarded by the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domains Trust (RBG&DT), its records hold the secrets of plant species dating back to 1770. These specimens offer crucial insight into how we can better manage and conserve the natural environment now and in the future.

While the existing Herbarium facilities in Sydney’s Domain had been home to the prized collection for decades, they were no longer equipped to keep it safe in the long term.

It needed new, state-of-the-art facilities that would safeguard the collection for generations to come.

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A world-class Herbarium for the future

The new facility had to meet stringent storage, weather, and quarantine requirements – and also be a space that inspired scientists and visitors alike. Denise Ora, Executive Director of RBG&DT has advocated for a new Herbarium for years.

Her vision was a building that would set the global benchmark for botanical science – combining practicality and design excellence to keep specimens safe for the next 70 to 100 years.


Early involvement crucial to success

With a slick proposal grounded in creating a real sense of space, NHNSW awarded the design and construction to FDC in partnership with renowned architects, Architectus and Richard LePlastrier.

A crucial element of the project was getting involved from the very early stages – starting with paper and rough sketches.

“When you get involved early anything is possible,” says FDC project manager, Peter Stait. “We could help shape the whole design, ethos and methodology, but most importantly we could also identify the major risks and acted quickly to mitigate these.”

To set a new standard with the facility, the design had to be smart as well as striking. With an ambitious vision and complex technical requirements, the project’s success relied heavily on the collaboration between FDC’s specialist internal Construction and Mechanical teams.

FDC proposed one of the most primal building elements that has been around for thousands of years for the centrepiece: walls made of rammed earth.

“The six custom rammed earth walls were going to be the heart of the facility. There were very specific temperature and humidity parameters that we had to work within,” says Peter.

Rammed earth is known for its sustainability and geothermic properties. The practice of it has existed for thousands of years making it one of the oldest building elements around.

However, when the team started exploring rammed earth, they hit a speed hump straight away.

“We found out that rammed earth had no current certification as a building material. But it brings a unique integrity, a low embodied energy and sustainability to any project, so we were determined to get it certified,” explains Peter.

And in six months, they had rammed earth certified as a structurally load bearing and fire rated construction material.

The team sequenced the construction process to ensure they wouldn’t be hindered by the weather. First, they constructed the fly roof. Then two teams began compacting 2100 tonnes of locally sourced materials into the formwork with gronkers, a pneumatic rammer for compacting materials. Each vault took 12 to 15 days to complete.

A striking design, with hidden complexity

The buildings design was inspired by NSW state flower’s seedpod, the waratah. And hidden underneath the striking exterior of the facility is a complex, world-class system designed to safeguard the Herbarium’s collection for the future.

To protect the specimens, each vault needed a distinct amount of pressure, temperature, and humidity. Additionally, it was critical to keep outside air, insects and dust out of these spaces.

FDC’s Mechanical team designed the central HVAC system in partnership with the greater design team. Six bespoke units are the heart of the design, capable of meeting the stringent pressure, temperature, and humidity specifications for each vault – and allow servicing, and future replacement to happen from the outside, preventing unnecessary disruption of the vaults.

The HVAC system also had to cater to other critical areas and administration spaces where operable windows added complexity to HVAC control.

“We mapped out the different use cases and requirements for each area and automated the HVAC functions behind the scenes. There’s a great deal of complexity in making something simple for an end user,” says director of Mechanical Services, Paul Nielsen.


Stepping into a scientist’s shoes

The new National Herbarium of NSW is truly a work of team collaboration. From concept to construction the project has involved workshops between FDC Construction and FDC Mechanical teams, engineers, and architects.

These workshops ensured the facility had optimum functionality for staff and proper storage for the collection.

This extensive planning and workshopping process took two years to complete before the team had a final construction plan.

User workshops with the scientists and staff were vital to achieve this. “The most exciting part of the design process has been stepping into the Herbarium staff’s shoes,” says Paul. “Just to have a think with them and understand deeply what this building has to do for the next 70 to 100 years.”

A new branch in history

Australia is steeped in botanical history and this facility is a new chapter in that story. The Herbarium’s state of the art facility stands as a step into the forefront of the ecological science community. It’s indeed the benchmark for the global botanical science community.

It will preserve existing and extinct specimens for generations to come. With its sweeping fly roof and vaults that appear as if raised from the ground itself, it’s truly a grand new home for the collection.

The new National Herbarium of NSW, in the Australian Botanic Gardens at Mt Annan is due to open to the public in early 2022. Currently, the RBG&DT team is working tirelessly to digitise its collection as part of the moving process to further ensure the protection of its records.

Photography by Brett Boardman Photography

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A historic law firm gets a new vision

Founded in 1822, Ashurst has truly conquered the test of time. Stemming from William Henry Ashurst’s social justice efforts, the company has transformed into one of the most progressive multinational law firms today. With 29 offices around the globe and a diverse range of industry specialties, they have cemented themselves as one of the most trusted and proven firms in the world.

For their Melbourne location, Ashurst wanted to create a space that showcases the company’s confidence and quality, while also enabling a trusted partner relationship with clients.

“We wanted an office that offers a collaborative and interactive space for partners and staff that encourages conversation and teamwork,” said Valarie Canestra, Head of Operations, APAC at Ashurst.

The vision for this location was to create a workplace that supports partners and staff and welcomes clients.

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A team fit for success

FDC’s team in Victoria helped bring the vision to life with the help of renowned Australian architecture firm Bates Smart. The significant fitout includes 155 workstations, 19 meeting rooms, quiet spaces, a cafe, and an internal staircase that connects teams across three floors.

Getting involved early allowed the details of the fitout to flourish, giving Ashurst, FDC and the architects time to collaborate, locate and acquire specific materials, and complete key construction points with the utmost care.


A space that connects

When clients and staff enter the reception space of Ashurst, they’re greeted by the sweeping sculptural centrepiece of the office – the staircase. Its quiet sophistication is the elegant backbone of the space.

Constructing the staircase was a complicated and highly sequenced process.

“It was a new piece in the building. Each structural element had to follow the next in a precise order” explains FDC project manager Howie Phu. “It took a lot of long hours, overnight work, constant follow-ups, and coordination to make sure that everything was correct before we moved to the next step.”

The stairs offer faster and more natural movement between floors, while giving people the opportunity to connect, for ideas to flow and relationships to flourish.

Cafes are naturally a social space for sharing, connecting, and meeting. For Ashurst, who have built their reputation on strong relationships with clients, it was integral to create a cafe inside the office. Combining modern lines, terrazzo tables, and woven textiles, it is a warm but professional space that fosters the development of meaningful partnerships.


Embracing Australia

Ashurst is a global firm with its own identity. To merge place and branding, the office’s colour palette was selected with great thought and intention. Soft neutrals that speak of clean professionalism are paired with warm earth tones as seen in the carpets in reception and Australian indigenous art on the walls.

All three floors implement this carefully selected colour palette and finishes to communicate the success of the firm and its location. FDC worked collaboratively alongside the architect to ensure the right materials were sourced to create a solid sense of identity for the office.

“The timber selection for the finishes took a lot of concepts and prototyping,” says Howie. “It took six to eight weeks for us to really home in on the colour of timber the architect was trying to achieve.”

The care and detail put into constructing these finishes reflected this effort.

“The panelling is really special. Each piece was carefully machined, coated, washed, then brought to site and installed individually. The pattern is as unique as a wave,” Howie explains.

A partnership to last

The new Ashurst Melbourne office is a space that will nurture new and existing partnerships between staff and clients. Grounded in warmth and tranquillity, it provides a harmonious space for its people to continue award-winning work.

“Working in this neighbourhood environment has encouraged teamwork and conversations,” said Valarie. “It has bought people together in a number of settings. We’re extremely proud of the project and the space.”

FDC congratulate the entire Victoria team on this project and will be continuing to work with Ashurst on the design and construction of their ACT office.

Photography by Sean Fennessy

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Creating lasting impact at our annual Melbourne Cup luncheon

For FDC, Melbourne Cup isn’t about the horses or winning a race.

It’s about giving back in a way that matters to every one of us. For the past 20 years, the FDC team has come together with industry partners and friends at a Melbourne Cup luncheon to raise money for a charitable group. While the organisation changes each year, the goal is always the same – to contribute to a cause close to the FDC team.

Over the years we’ve had the privilege to support some amazing programs. The Kids Cancer Project (TKCP) and The Butterfly Foundation are very close to our hearts and we’re incredibly proud to have been able to help them provide vital assistance – and share their stories with you.

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Engaging with survivors

Although 86% of children diagnosed with cancer survive, their health isn’t always completely restored. Almost all (98%) will develop a chronic illness from the intense treatments their growing bodies and developing organs are exposed to. That’s why long-term follow-up care is critical.

Unfortunately, a recent survey revealed more than half of childhood cancer survivors have disengaged from survivorship care. While there are many barriers to receiving care, distance and lack of facilities are among the top. There are only eight clinics across the country to service more than 20,000 survivors – and only one of those eight can provide ongoing care into adulthood. The current catchment area for these clinics ranges up to 3,000kms.

Professor Claire Wakefield, Head of the Behavioural Sciences Unit of the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, collaborated with TKCP to develop a targeted program that reimagines how survivors receive care – ensuring everyone can receive the post-cancer care they need to live a long, healthy life.

Re-engage is an evidence-based care program that uses state-of-the-art e-technology to overcome some of the barriers of distance. It pairs a patient with a nurse who conducts a comprehensive health assessment, including an overview of medical records, then presents the results to a multi-disciplinary panel.

The panel develops a tailored treatment schedule and provides detailed recommendations to the patient’s GP. Continued support from the nurse and the GP empowers survivors to access ongoing care and actively manage their health.

FDC’s Melbourne Cup luncheon in 2016 raised funds to help build a case for Re-engage and help Professor Wakefield and TKCP roll out the program.

“It’s amazing to think that while enjoying the 2016 FDC Melbourne Cup lunch, participants have created such a lasting impact,” says Owen Finegan, CEO of TKCP. “FDC’s $200,000 commitment has now led to over $2 million being invested into the program to engage survivors and ensure they have a quality of life that we all take for granted.”

“The program has equipped young survivors and their parents, who had limited access to cancer follow-up care, with the skills and information to cope with health challenges that follow cancer treatment.”

Re-engage continues to deliver its important services through trial programs, with the next one focusing on supporting brain cancer survivors. The Re-engage-Brain program will be implemented at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Westmead Children’s Hospital and Perth Children’s Hospital.

“Without the support of FDC and TKCP, none of this work would have been possible. It is so heartening to hear feedback from survivors, for many of whom Re-engage has been the only avenue they’ve had in many years to address their health needs. I cannot wait to see the results from the next major trials, before we work towards implementing Re-engage nationally, so that all survivors can benefit, no matter where they live.”

–  Professor Claire Wakefield


Making bodies BRIGHT

Children who feel good about themselves are happier, healthier and more confident. Developing a positive body image is important for all children, and it starts in early childhood and continues into adolescence.

Sadly, approximately half of pre-adolescent girls, and increasingly pre-adolescent boys, experience dissatisfaction with their bodies, according to the Butterfly Foundation. This can impact children’s mental and physical health and increase their risk of developing an eating disorder.

The Butterfly Foundation has developed a primary school program, Butterfly Body Bright to help families, schools and communities foster a foundation of positive body image in childhood.

Butterfly Body Bright is currently a free program for primary schools that aims to empower kids to be brave, resilient, inclusive, grateful, happy and thoughtful in their bodies through an evidence-based curriculum. It offers strategies for developing a positive school culture, training for staff to increase their knowledge about body image in children, age-appropriate lessons and activities, as well as resources for families.

“Everything we do is personal, and this one really gets to the heart of a number of people in the business,” says FDC team member Ashley Nicholson.

FDC’s 2018 luncheon supported the launch of the Body Bright pilot.

114 children from years four to six and 12 teachers participated in the pilot, leading to instant results for some students – 54% reported an immediate increase in feeling happier toward their body after one lesson.

Thanks to the success of the pilot, the program launched on 20 July 2021, with 130 schools already implementing it into their school community. Additionally, 371 staff from these schools have registered to complete the staff training.

“When we reflect on the last couple of years in developing a program, it’s really provided us with the opportunity to create something amazing for primary schools,” says Body Bright Manager Dr. Stephanie Damiano. “It’s a really comprehensive resource that schools have never had access to.”

Butterfly Body Bright hopes to bring its program to primary schools all over Australia to help kids feel bright in their bodies.

Visit Butterfly Body Bright’s website or watch their promotional video to learn more.



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New technology is helping reimagine the meaning of worksite safety. 

In construction, looking after people’s safety is a non-negotiable. Here at FDC, we’re committed to finding new and improved ways of looking after our people – whether that’s on site or in the office. Along the way, we’ve come across some interesting trends and technology that have the potential to transform worksite safety. Here’s one that caught our attention.

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Robotics and drones

Construction sites across the world are starting to welcome robots and drones to increase worksite safety and efficiency. Recently, FDC hosted Spot – a Boston Dynamics drone brought to Australia for the first time by Sphere Drones. In an Australian first, Spot was brought onto an FDC construction site to test its capabilities.

Spot performed site walks, explored tight spaces, and inspected high-caution areas using its game-changing, customisable functions. With 360-degree sensors, Spot can perform a full site walk with a greater range than humans. When you add acoustic sensors to Spot, it can even detect specific noises such as leaks. Thermo cams and gas detection devices can also highlight similar issues.

Watch the video to see Spot in action on site with our FDC team.




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