The Mater Private air handling unit (AHU) replacement project entailed the replacement of 22 AHUs in the Mater Private Hospital that were approaching the end of their operational life.

The Mater Private AHU Upgrade was awarded the Best HVAC Upgrade or Retrofit Project at the 2019 AIRAH Awards.

Mater AHU Upgrade 2019 AIRAH Award finalist
Upgrade of air conditioning systems to increase reliability, and improve system efficiency & maintenance accessibility

Mater Health Services (MHS) aims to provide the best health care in Brisbane. Providing comfort and a high-quality environment for the patient, together with meeting vital surgical obligations are the upmost priorities for MHS. In keeping with this, the AHU upgrade project would address the existing AHUs which were unreliable, performed poorly and difficult to access for maintenance, while improving air regulation and circulation across the hospital.

DMA Engineers was engaged by MHS via John Staff Projects (QLD) Group as Principal Consultants to deliver this project. We were responsible for undertaking the mechanical engineering design and the associated electrical, hydraulic and fire design alterations. This included:

  • Ensuring the overall electrical demand during and after the transition period would not exceed the existing demand.
  • Reconfiguring emergency lights and exit signs to ensure compliance with Australian Standard AS3000.
  • Reconfiguring the tundish to ensure condensate from AHU was drained away.
  • Upgrading smoke detectors in plant room.
  • Upgrading ductwork to meet current building regulations.

As a Principal Consultant for the project, we were also responsible for leading and coordinating with the project teams consisting of architects, structural and acoustic engineers to ensure the design met MHS design guidelines and aligned with operational requirements.

Site challenges overcome through innovative design

This project presented many challenges including an evolving design brief, limited as-build information, constraint on the existing building structure and infrastructure, and the need to maintain an operational environment. We addressed these key issues through innovative design, and implemented the following to ensure the key project objectives were met while maintaining operational continuity:

  • Used Revit/3D modelling to produce highly coordinated documents to resolve architectural, structural and engineering building services design to ensure key risks associated with the works were clearly identified and managed.
  • Worked closely and persistently with MHS stakeholders to ensure the design met MHS design guidelines and aligned with operational requirements.
  • Regularly consulted with MHS stakeholders to ensure the construction schedule met the hospital operational requirements. The outcome was the project was delivered in four stages, with each consisting of multiple sub-stages which allowed the hospital to maintain an operation environment during the AHU changeover and ensured the overall electrical demand during and after the transition period would not exceed the existing demand.
  • Actively involved the AHU manufacturer in the project to ensure the exact unit configurations and sizes were known, allowing us to work out the best way to transport the equipment into the plantroom which was congested with existing services. This meant the AHU replacement could be procured and installed in a cost effective and timely manner.
  • Reviewed existing equipment duties, operating conditions and limitations and size the new cooling and heating coils to maximise dehumidification within the limits of the existing systems.
Key outcomes achieved

Through the above process, we were able to ensure the project was fit for purpose and met all MHS guidelines, delivering reliable and more energy efficient AHUs with improved dehumidification performance and maintenance access.

Ultimately for the client, these outcomes will provide more consistent temperature, better humidity control and air quality and reduced running and maintenance costs due to more energy efficient and reliable AHUs being installed. The improved maintenance access together with the good maintenance plan now in place will increase the life expectancy of the equipment and reduce the exposure to health and safety risks arising from the regular maintenance works required to be undertaken.

2019 AIRAH HVAC Retrofit or Upgrade Winner


For more information on this project, please contact us.