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New Dental School exterior

A $130 million redevelopment and new build at New Zealand's only national centre of dentistry is creating the most technologically advanced facility in Australasia for teaching, patient care and research, Faculty of Dentistry Dean Professor Paul Brunton says.

The project is also now the second largest capital development ever at the University of Otago.

View the project details and site web camera

World-class teaching environment

The faculty performs about 60,000 dental treatments annually for the public, hosts the Sir John Walsh Research Institute, and caters for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in dentistry, oral health and dental technology.

Professor Brunton says "great people are better in a great building," and while the faculty is already high in the QS World University Rankings by subject, it wants to return to the top 10.

Students and patients

"We only exist for the benefit of our students and our patients - and the service we give has to be the highest quality," he says.

"We get out of bed every day to make a difference to our students' and our patients' lives."

Doing that includes performing globally recognised research, to improve treatment for patients, underpin teaching, and influence national policy-makers to benefit the country as a whole.

"Having a fantastic new facility will allow us to grow, develop and innovate - and I anticipate we will become the best of the best in Australasia and beyond, with students benefiting from a cutting-edge dental education based on our research," Professor Brunton says.

New Dental School

New facilities

The University has been home to New Zealand's only Faculty of Dentistry since 1907, but the faculty has been in its current building for 57 years, so will get:

  • New operating theatres and surgical suites that cater for developments in surgical specialties
  • 215 new high-specification dental chairs, 61 more than now
  • Digital patient records that can be accessed on computers at the chairside, instead of paper files
  • Space to meet increasing demand from international students wanting to study at Otago
  • Digital imaging that will reduce x-ray exposure and eliminate the handling of potentially hazardous chemicals
  • More radiography imaging machines in patient treatment areas
  • Digital imaging technologies that improves support for researchers, particularly for investigations into sleep apnoea and movement of the jaw
  • Tutorial spaces linked to patient treatment areas - integrating technology to enrich the learning experience.
  • Co-located laboratories for the Sir John Walsh Research Institute - currently, researchers and students are divided among many small labs
  • Academics' offices clustered on the floor below the laboratories, allowing ready access to clinics, students and research facilities
  •  Better performance, through better design, creating better flow.

Construction

Campus Development Division Director David Perry says the project has two stages.

The first is constructing the Clinical Services Building, where patients will be treated, behind the existing Walsh Building, in Great King Street.

The main contractor started constructing the new 8,000m2 Clinical Services Building in 2016. This phase also includes demolishing and replacing the Student Commons and refurbishing the Blue Lecture Theatre and foyer - all three link to the Walsh Building in Frederick Street.

The refurbishment of the lecture theatre and foyer was completed in March 2018, while the replacement of the Student Commons and the Clinical Services Building scheduled for completion early in 2019.

The Clinical Services Building will house a Central Sterile Services Department (CSSD), clinic support, dispensary, general clinics, generator space, loading dock, operating suite, orthodontics, paediatric dentistry/special needs, plant rooms, primary care, radiography, reception areas, storage, toilets, waiting areas, and a workshop.

Phase Two

Phase two of the project - extensively refurbishing the 1981 Walsh Building - will begin once the Clinical Services Building is completed.

The 8,000m2 Walsh Building will house non-public functions - academic offices, bio-materials, biosciences open laboratory, dental technology labs, faculty administration (including the Dean's office), graduate space, histology, molecular-bio sciences space, postgraduate areas, simulation labs, staff and student common rooms and seminar rooms.

The Walsh Building will also house a Southern District Health Board hub clinic and a Research and Intramural staff-practice clinic

New Dental School drawing

An atrium of 1800 m2 will link the Walsh Building and new Clinical Services Building - and will be 'the heart' of the facility, used by patients, students and staff, Mr Perry says.

Heritage

The Walsh Building's heritage-listed, glass-curtain facade in Great King Street will be replaced with a replica that meets current weatherproofing and technology standards, while the north and south-facing mosaic walls will be renovated.

Both those projects involve Salmond-Reed Heritage specialist consultants, and the overall revamp of the Walsh Building includes ongoing consultation with Heritage New Zealand, which lists the 1961 modernist building as a Category 1 historic place.

The team

Project Director: University of Otago, Campus Development Division
Decant Project Manager: University of Otago, Campus Development Division
External Project Manager: Aurecon Advisory
Architect: Jasmax
Structural, Civil and Fire Engineer: Beca
Services Engineer: Aurecon
Quantity Surveyor: Chas E George
Main Contractor: Leigh's Cockram JV