Winter 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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Focused on creating employable students who are future ready, Macquarie University has become a hub of inspired and unconstrained thinking.

And its buildings and spaces have a crucial role to play in facilitating and nurturing such thinking.

“Buildings and places have to relate to people and what they’re doing,” says Mark Broomfield, Director of Property, at Macquarie University. “They have to be conducive to the function – if it’s teaching, it’s research or just general learning and interaction.”

But relocating the university’s library in 2009 created a hole in the Central Courtyard Precinct, which is the heart of the Macquarie campus.

“When you don’t have a central place where people can gather, socialise, learn and interact with one another, you don’t have a community,” Mark says. “So we went through a process of working out how we can rejuvenate the heart of the university. That was the start of a seven-year journey.”

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Bringing students back to the heart

Through extensive consultation, placemaking workshops and a design competition, Macquarie University embarked on creating a safe and vibrant place to work and learn and live – bringing student accommodation into the heart of the campus.

“A lot of the Australian student accommodation in universities is located on the fringes, but we wanted to bring it into the centre. As we now have over 40,000 enrolled students, we wanted to create a truly mixed campus that students can come to, where they can mix, socialise and learn together,” Mark explains.

The Central Courtyard project spans an impressive 35,000m2 and included four buildings, the original central courtyard itself and the surrounding Mars Creek and its landscaping.

The Lincoln Building, which was designed by the renowned architect Colin Madigan in the ‘60s to house the administration and Chancellery, was deteriorating. It needed a retrofit that would bring it into the 21st century, while respecting its original design intent and structural integrity.

The Central Courtyard or 1CC was to be transformed into a place for graduation and a social and teaching hub. The two new residential buildings, R1 and R2, would house a mix of international and local students from years one through to four, offering short- and longer-term accommodation.

“The project also included opening Mars Creek to daylight, because two thirds of it had been channeled underground. It was an opportunity to really open the landscape for which the University is famous, and make it even better,” says Mark.

“Creating a sustainable campus was one of our strategic goals across the university. The entire central courtyard development has been funded by a sustainability bond. So one of the goals of the build was to achieve a five star green star rating for the whole precinct.”

Turning vision into an inspiring place

With a clear vision and designs complete, Macquarie University awarded the $234million redevelopment project to FDC in February 2019.

Tony Carton, Head of Project Management, at Macquarie University says FDC had the best approach to the project.

“FDC had a lot of innovative ways of attacking the project. After a series of interviews and discussions regarding how we could value engineer and improve the design, we became more and more comfortable with the team as the interview process went on,” Tony explains.

A decision Macquarie University now know was the right one.

“I couldn’t imagine a more cooperative, more engaged, more conscientious company. They were an excellent partner for us to work with,” says Tony.

This project was FDC’s largest to date. At its peak there were 550 workers on site, carrying out over $1million worth of work per day.

As any project of this size would have, there were a couple of challenges along the way. A global pandemic halfway through the build, for one. But despite COVID, FDC managed to complete the build on time.

“The FDC team didn’t miss a beat. They provided additional facilities to maintain construction and their focus remained on how to get the best outcome for us and the project. As the project director, it’s been a very rewarding process, because we ended up with a great product that everyone loves,” Tony says.

The façade of the residential buildings also posed a challenge. The design was incredibly difficult to construct and the team at Macquarie was considering simplifying it.

“But we decided to go ahead with the original plan. FDC worked with our team to figure out the right solution. At no point did they say it was too hard or impossible,” Tony recalls.

But the pièce de résistance of the precinct is its magnificent graduation hall.

The five-storey 1CC building has a massive footprint and a large atrium for plenty of natural daylight. To create a large, clear space for the Graduation Hall on the Lower Ground level, and support four levels of structure above it, the structural design required careful consideration. In the original design the graduation hall was supported by a large structural steel truss located on the Ground Floor. Due to the massive loads involved, the truss would have required concrete encasement.

“We looked at the original design concept with SCP, our Engineers for the project and in consultation with Macquarie University’s Property Team,” says FDC project director Damon Malek. “We thought we could come up with a different concept, with an improved outcome for the layout on the ground floor. By removing the truss structure and essentially hanging the building off massive concrete beams on the roof, we created a clear span graduation hall and a better layout for the food court area and new U-Bar. Our solution required some challenging construction techniques, with temporary structural steel columns and hydraulic jacks to lift the entire structure to enable their later removal. But I believe the added complexity and effort was a good investment.”

It’s a part of the build that FDC and the Macquarie team hold close to their heart.

“I take my hat off not only to the architects, but to the construction team and subcontractors as well,” says Mark. “The amount of effort and attention to detail that has been put into this is really amazing. Walking into that room today and onto the stage as a student… it’s something that would sit with you for the rest of your life.”

Damon is incredibly proud of his team.

“The space is about 45m long and 25m wide, clad in Tasmanian Blackwood timber veneer. It’s an amazing feeling to be in such a large, clear span space. It feels warm and the acoustics are excellent.”

The precinct that was once described as grey and ‘60s vintage has been transformed into a 21st century, vibrant and colourful hub. One building has already been accredited with 5-star green star rating, with the others soon to follow.

“When students were encouraged to come back to campus in early 2021, the place was packed,” Mark says. “It’s a testament to the hard work of everyone. It feels comfortable and alive with energy, conducive to learning, socialising and teaching. Everyone loves the space.

“FDC and its subcontractors should be proud to have been part of revitalising this public institution, here to educate and inspire future generations to come.”


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Damon and Matias 3

Helping kids on the autism spectrum thrive nationwide

For the one in every 70 Australians on the autism spectrum, the world can be an overwhelming place. School can be confusing, stressful and unpredictable. But one organisation is transforming the educational experience of children on the spectrum around the country.

When FDC Project Director Damon Malek’s son Matias started kindergarten, the family noticed some changes. He became unhappy and got very upset at school drop-offs. At his teachers’ advice, Damon and his wife took Matias for an assessment, and he was diagnosed with autism.

Soon the family realised that a mainstream school didn’t have the resources and the understanding required to support Matias. So they decided to explore Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect).

As Australia’s largest national service provider for people on the autism spectrum, Aspect operates nine independent schools across the country – as well as 113 satellite classes based in mainstream schools. It offers tailored education to around 1,185 children on the autism spectrum every year and runs one of the largest autism-specific school programs in the world.

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The life-changing impact of Aspect

To many children on the autism spectrum, social interaction and communication don’t come naturally. They can have high sensory needs and feel easily overwhelmed by large crowds, noise, bright lights and strong smells.

“Many of our students don’t develop speech by the time they start school, which makes it even more difficult for them to express themselves and stay emotionally regulated,” says Nadja Balemans, Philanthropy Executive at Aspect. “Our schools cater for all of their special needs by providing a safe space, as well as individually tailored education and support.”

Class sizes are small, with a high teacher to student ratio (six to eight students and two teachers). Specially trained teachers and teacher’s aides provide tailored support to each student based on their individual goals.

“We use a lot of technology in our classrooms, including speech generating devices, autism-specific learning apps and interactive whiteboards,” shares Nadja. “On-site therapists also support our students, who can access occupational therapy, speech therapy and behaviour support sessions while they are at school. When students receive an autism-specific education this also has a positive impact on their mental health and overall wellbeing.”

The change for Matias was instant – two days after moving to Aspect Western Sydney School’s satellite class he was happy to go to school again.

For Damon, one of the biggest benefits of Aspect is that satellite classes are based within mainstream schools.

“Matias has one on one support, but he can also participate in mainstream classes, like Woodwork for instance. It’s important for him to have the opportunity to mix with his peers, but it’s equally important for his peers to interact with Matias and others on the autism spectrum. It’s a wonderful way to help shift society’s perceptions about disability.”

Aspect aims to prepare students for a successful transition to a mainstream school, where they can access the same opportunities as their peers without disability.



Overcoming geographical challenges

But not all kids on the autism spectrum have access to Aspect’s wonderful teachers and resources. Access to autism-specific education in regional and remote communities is lacking, so these areas have a real need for support.

“I remember riding through Forbes in Central West New South Wales for an FDC charity bike ride,” Damon recalls. “I thought about how difficult it must be as a parent to have no support readily available for your child. Everyone says every child is entitled to an education, but the reality doesn’t always match the rhetoric.”

But Aspect aims to change that. In 2020, it launched its autism-specific Distance Education program out of the Aspect Hunter School.

“Provided to students from Year 3 to Year 6 who don’t live near an Aspect school, our autism-specific Distance Education program is the first of its kind in Australia,” Nadja says. “The program allows students on the autism spectrum to learn from home by connecting them to teachers via a range of digital learning tools.”

It supports children in regional and remote communities who do not live close to an Aspect School. Students learn from home and participate in at least 15 face-to-face days at the Aspect Hunter School in NSW each year.


Expanding support

At FDC, we support charities that have a personal connection to our people. Given how much Aspect has done for one of our families, we are very proud to be able to give back to the organisation. By supporting the expansion of Aspect’s Distance Education program to 10 students in high school, we hope more children like Matias can benefit from Aspect’s unique approach.

“FDC’s generous contribution of $25,000 will enable us to extend our Distance Education program to Year 7 and 8. We’ll be able to offer more Autistic children in regional and rural areas of NSW access to tailored support and technology needed to participate in the program,” Nadja explains.

Damon is proud to be working for a company that continues to give back to the community.

“FDC is such a generous company, always getting behind really good causes. And it’s just incredibly thoughtful of them to do something like this for my son’s school.

“We’re so grateful for Aspect. It provides such amazing support for kids, and for parents.”




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Safety on Site 2 LR

The evolution of safety

Safety innovations have made a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of construction workers, but there’s no substitute for a culture of care, where looking out for each other is key.

Safety innovations, including software and equipment, are making their mark on the construction industry, helping to create better and safer workplaces in the process.

One in six workplace fatalities in Australia each year are construction-related, but initiatives, such as the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012 to 2022 are taking steps in the right direction by promoting a vision of healthy, safe and productive working lives.  This holistic approach seeks to examine construction from every angle, by addressing both the physical risks and the impact on workers’ mental health to bring new opportunities to improve work health and safety.

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Smart Software

Andrew Smith, FDC’s National HSEQ Systems Manager has worked in the industry for over 30 years and has seen first-hand how technology has helped safety in the construction industry evolve. Safety equipment has been given a serious upgrade. Workers can now perform site inspections that stream live footage back to offsite managers for analysis, and hard hats can detect unsafe levels of carbon monoxide.

Mobile plant, including cranes, excavators, scissor lifts and concrete pumps, are improving their capability to feed the operator vital information when environments become unsafe. Inbuilt anti-tipping and anti-collision mechanisms are examples of technological improvements that assist workers perform high-risk activities, avert danger and save lives.

One key innovation that Andrew credits with making a positive impact on the safety at FDC is software that complements FDC’s management systems. “Put simply, the software solutions being used by FDC are making it easier for our people to do their job. We have a very succinct management system that guides people to do what they need to do. While we’re in the early stages of transitioning to software solutions, early feedback is that site teams are spending more time planning and supervising on site. Time well spent in reducing error and reducing incidents on site,” he says. “It’s about better decision making, increasing efficiency, and more accurate recording and reporting mechanisms. So, if we’re working on a remote job in Grafton, for example, senior management can see the key performance indicators in real-time from their phones or other device, whether they’re in Sydney, Melbourne or Perth.”



Reducing injury

“At FDC, our policy of providing safe and healthy work conditions enables our projects to be delivered without incident or injury. It’s a family business and our culture is about helping each other deliver successful projects in a safe manner.

Last year, FDC delivered an award-winning premium seniors’ living village, Greenaway Views, in Canberra’s Tuggeranong. The transformation of the former social services building into a vibrant oasis for over-55s is one project that stands out in Andrew’s mind. Not simply for the sheer scale and nature of the project, but because it was delivered without a lost-time injury.

We’ve delivered many projects in complex environments where we’ve been especially vigilant to ensure live sites, including Blacktown and Westmead Hospitals remain operational. Teams would be building, working with our clients, consultants and subcontractors, while enabling the hospital to continue to operate effectively and provide the level of care their patients deserve,” he says.

“We have real relationships with our clients and the communities we work in and have a genuine care about project outcomes.  That culture of care starts at the top. For over 30 years, FDC has maintained a creditable safety record and our focus is to keep improving, innovating and finding the right safety solutions to keep people safe. Safety solutions that clients demand, safety solutions that FDC are proud of. Our culture of always looking out for one another plays a big part in that too. When you work for a company that inspires its employees to care about themselves and each other, you expect to see safe outcomes.”


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