The making of Australia’s newest iconic walk – Design and Pre-fab

Tucked out of sight in a giant warehouse fondly termed ‘The Shed’ in Brisbane’s industrial Murrarie, is an exciting hive of activity. Here, the structures for Spicers Retreats’ latest ecotourism project are being prefabricated – they will soon accommodate guests from near and far who come to experience Australia’s newest five-day trail walk in South East Queensland’s magnificent Scenic Rim.

Looking across ‘The shed’ from the joinery area.

 Eco cabins under test construction.

Upstairs in ‘The Shed’, there’s a temporary design and construction management office. Downstairs you’ll find a team of tradespeople on the ground, making the modular structures that will later be transported 100km West of Brisbane to the special sites within Main Range National Park, where they’ll make up two new eco camps. To create the new five-day walk, these two new camps will merge with existing camps and accommodations from Spicers’ two-day Scenic Rim Trail walk. It is the vision of keen walker, conservationist, and Spicers business owner, Jude Turner, who grew up in the Scenic Rim region, that the five-day experience will become Australia’s newest iconic walk: “I really felt Queensland deserved a Great Walk like other parts of Australia and New Zealand!” says Jude.

LEFT: Design leads: Luke Rowlinson, Architect (WOA), Claire Baguley, Project AND;
Design Manager (Spicers), and David Hoddinott (Director, Polyform Construction).
RIGHT: Kevin Quaife (Quantity Surveyor/Project Manager, Thomson Projects), Luke
Parker (Polyform Construction Manager), Luke Rowlinson (Architect, WOA), Zain
Holt (Polyform Operations Manager), and David Hoddinott.

The new eco camps will be located in pristine, remote sites within Main Range National Park and require the off-site pre-fabrication followed with the on-site installation of the following built forms: 14 Eco Cabins, 4 Wash Pavilions, 2 Common Pavilions and all interlinking decks. Spicers have sensitively designed these structures to be self-sufficient and to sit lightly within their surrounds (i.e. no dig footings, renewable energy sources, etc), creating minimal impact on their environments while concurrently creating a once in a lifetime hospitality experience. Similarly the manufacture and on-site build processes must have minimal impact on the environment (i.e. use of local sustainable materials, no wet trades, no cranes, employing regional labour for construction). The way sustainability is woven admirably throughout this project is a whole other story.

Claire Baguley, Spicers Project & Design Manager, and Luke Rowlinson, Architect (WOA),
regularly discuss and make minor refinements to plans.

Polyform Director, David Hoddinott, and Architect, Luke Rowlinson, are both based at
‘The Shed’ enabling efficient communication, and concurrent design and manufacture
processes. To their right, a package of modular walls for one Eco Cabin waits to be
stored on the shelves behind, where it will remain until transported to the Scenic Rim site.

The design and pre-fabrication of the walk structures has been a highly collaborative, agile and iterative process to deal with the myriad challenges of manufacturing ‘bespoke’ quality modular structures. Spicers’ Project and Design Manager, Claire Baguley, oversees the design and delivery of the walk’s new accommodations, ensuring the vision of Jude Turner and the Spicers Product Development Team is clearly conveyed to the shed-based team. Claire liaises closely with Luke Rowlinson of Wladyslaw Obod Architects (WOA), and David Hoddinott, Director of Polyform Construction – both based at ‘The Shed’ for the life of the project – as well as Kevin Quaife, Quantity Surveyor and Project Manager from Thomson Projects, and Polyform’s Construction and Operations Managers.

The team are constantly refining the design and build processes to ensure all details
are resolved prior to constructing on site.

Earlier in 2018 saw three months of intensive prototyping kick off the prefab stage of the project. During this time, the team made up to 300 tweaks to refine the design and build processes. “Prototyping of design concepts allows us to test the design from both a spatial experience and constructability perspective in a controlled warehouse environment…We wanted to ensure every detail had been resolved prior to setting foot in the National Park,” Claire explains. “We need to be certain that all components can be re-complexed with absolute accuracy once we get to site,” adds David. “Weekly and sometimes daily meetings with Claire onsite, as well as sharing an office with Luke from WOA, means that any design detail issues can be resolved almost instantly.” 

The collaborative nature of this team and the strong push for innovation, combined with bespoke quality and sustainable practice, makes this an exceptionally refreshing project. “The opportunities for greatness this project presents inspires me,” says Claire. Further to this, guest experience remains front and centre, as ever: “The quality of spaces and facilities that these buildings provide will equip Spicers staff to have customers feeling considered, pampered and cared for in the unique Spicers way… Guests will notice every detail has been considered and centred around their experience,” explains Luke (keep an eye out for more on the project Architecture soon).

A member of the Joinery team checks that ply furniture components fit together.

Modular construction packages are stored on a shelving line along one side of the warehouse,
in the order that they’ll need to be transported to the site.

The site construction phase began in Autumn of 2019 and it’s estimated it will take around 18 weeks to complete. Watch this space!