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Dental decant a complex affair

Thursday, 7 June 2018 1:38pm

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Inside the new Clinical Services Building, where steel wall partitions are going up and a host of pipes, ducting and trays for electric cables have also been installed in the past few months.

Just finding new spaces for everyone took about 18 months – decanting the Faculty of Dentistry to overhaul the Walsh Building is not a task for the faint-hearted.

It involves moving almost 300 people and five laboratories to nine locations around the University of Otago’s Dunedin campus. For Wes Jenkins shifting his family household from the United Kingdom pales in comparison.

The Campus Development Division Project Manager smiles wryly while saying it is also “pretty strange when you find yourself in meetings talking about organisms in the molecular microbiology lab and how they’re going to move those things … I’m usually talking about design or construction”.

“But, that’s the good thing about being involved in the project right from the start. You build up a knowledge about what the faculty does.”

"But, that’s the good thing about being involved in the project right from the start. You build up a knowledge about what the faculty does."

This is Mr Jenkin’s second decant – but largest – for the Faculty of Dentistry’s $130 million project that involves constructing a new Clinical Services Building where patients will be treated in Great King Street and redeveloping the existing Walsh Building in front of that site.

This second decant involves 16 individual moves. It started in November 2017, should be finished by Nov 2018, and is part of an overall four-stage decant strategy that spans the timeline for the dentistry project.

The longest decant is four years. About 40 staff and a Simulation Laboratory – with artificial heads for practising dentistry – moved to the Dunedin Hospital Children’s Pavilion during the first decant in 2015/16 and the lab will return to the Walsh Building when work finishes there in 2020.

The shortest relocations are for about 16 months. The Dental Technology Teaching Laboratories are shifting to a specialist laboratory portacom in Union Street in November 2018 then returning to the Walsh Building in March 2020.

Because the campus is already packed tight with people and facilities, just finding spaces for this latest large decant involved investigating a stream of suggestions – “very few came through as actually feasible and readily available,” Mr Jenkins says.

“At one stage we were looking at putting a lab out at Invermay near Mosgiel because we couldn’t find anything on campus.”

Now locations have finally been nailed down, they still depend on people moving out of those areas or other redevelopment projects finishing.

“It’s like one of those shuffleboard games,” Mr Jenkins says, or even dominos. If one piece does not fall into place, a lot of other pieces cannot either.

"It’s like one of those shuffleboard games."

The Project Team also has to get the decant laboratory spaces adapted for their new uses and encourage people to rationalise before packing their offices.

The scale of the detail involved in moving hundreds of people and five laboratories is massive: designing and constructing decant spaces; mapping the locations of phone jacks and network ports for computers then livening them; arranging swipe card access; connecting printers; new seating plans; decommissioning and recommissioning equipment; creating an information pack for all relocating staff; sourcing boxes; agreeing on labelling protocols; arranging evacuation drills after staff relocate; new signs, the list goes on.

But luckily most office furniture – apart from filing cabinets – does not have to move because decant offices are already furnished.

That is only a minor detail though, because the Project Team is still dealing with the construction of the new building as well.

A removal firm will do the relocations in stages and to help ensure they run smoothly, ‘Move Champions’ are being appointed among the staff, Mr Jenkins says.

They will be at each departure and arrival point on relocation days, as the key contact for staff and removal specialists. One of their tasks is ensuring people do not swap offices, sparking a host of issues with technical support and lost items.

The removal company will only be taking instructions from the Move Champions and the Project Team.

IT staff will be on hand and pre-move tours can be arranged for staff so they see their decant spaces beforehand where possible.

Mr Jenkins knows the decant involves a lot of work for a lot of people – and says staff have been very patient about any construction disruptions already – but he believes the results will be worthwhile for everyone, including patients.

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Cranes at work on the new Faculty of Dentistry Clinical Services Building, where patients will be treated, behind the existing Walsh Building in Great King Street.

Construction of the new Clinical Services Building started in 2016. It will include 214 new dental chairs, 61 more than now – and patient records will be digital and accessed on computers at the chairside instead of being paper files.

After the Clinical Services Building is finished near the end of 2018, the Walsh Building’s remaining clinical areas will relocate to the new facility.

Then, the Walsh Building will be refurbished. It will house research laboratories, academic offices, student support, and teaching laboratories.

"At one stage we were looking at putting a lab out at Invermay near Mosgiel because we couldn’t find anything on campus."

The two buildings will be linked by an 1800 square metre atrium, which will be the heart of the facility, used by patients, students and staff, Mr Jenkins says.

The decant has already involved shifting the Biomaterials, Biomechanics and Forensics Laboratory and the Histology Laboratory to the Centre for Innovation in St David Street last year.

The next stages should start late July. That depends on the refurbishment of St David 2 being completed so people can move out of the Jamieson Building at 398 Cumberland Street and faculty staff can move in.

People from the Walsh Building are also moving to the Children’s Pavilion at Dunedin Hospital, 533 Castle Street and 71 Frederick Street, while other people are moving out of the Children’s Pavilion as well.

The Molecular Biosciences Laboratory is also moving to the Biochemistry Building at the end of August and two Dental Technology Teaching Laboratories to a specialist laboratory portacom near the Higher Education Development Centre in Union Street in November. The portacom is currently being used as decant space for the Science 1/Mellor Laboratories redevelopment.

The Campus Development Division is part of the Operations Group, which has three top priorities:

Enable – the University to achieve its visions and mission
Engage – with our students, each other, our customers and externally
Experience – of our students, our customers, and externally to be outstanding