The early works program encompassed a number of projects with the primary focus on resolving critical safety issues. Other projects were included within the scope due to the requirement to relocate and upgrade integrated systems at the same time.
Planning of the early works began more than 18 months ago and needed to be complete before site hand over to the Principal Contractor. The delivery of the early works was complex with many projects interlinked, and timeframes reliant on specific projects to be completed prior to delivering tasks in another project area.
The early works includes 36.5% of the original project scope relating to the initial funding received in December 2019 and the additional $2.6 million received for animal life support system works. All components were delivered and completed by June 2021. The Reef HQ Aquarium Renewal Annual Report for December 2019 - June 2021 is now available.
Reef HQ Aquarium Annual Report Summary
Since December 2019, the Australian Government has invested $40.1 million in the refurbishment of Reef HQ Aquarium.
- The original funding of $26.9 million was for capital works that relate to demolition, replacement and upgrade to ageing infrastructure at our 34-year-old facility. The aggressive tropical environment and stress that has resulted from holding in excess of 4 million litres of salt water, have impacted the facility since its build.
- As part of the Government’s COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund to assist Great Barrier Reef tourism and the North Queensland
regional economy, we received $2.6 million for the upgrade and maintenance to the animal life support systems. These systems
control the environments within the live exhibits and are crucial to the health and care of our animals.
- In October, a funding boost of $5 million from the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund will see a modern new facade, and a new admissions and foyer area to enhance visitor accessibility at the Aquarium.
- Lastly, $5.6 million for upgrades to exhibits to refresh the visitor experience.
- The redevelopment of Reef HQ Aquarium is a keystone project within Townsville’s Waterfront Priority Development Area and
supports the Townsville 2020 vision to create world-class experiences to drive economic growth through new investment and greater tourism spending.
Reef HQ Aquarium Renewal Annual Report: December 2019 - June 2021.
New plant rooms were built on level one over the substation to house electrical and mechanical services. This includes the thermal energy storage unit, primary life support systems, electrical battery storage and main switchboard. Some of these services required relocating due to works and changes in their current housing area, and others are new to Reef HQ's operation systems, but were implemented to improve energy efficiency. The relocation of systems into secure areas improves access and safety for staff, while also eliminating the issues created by pigeon excrement.
In order to complete the new plant rooms and relocation of equipment, we also:
- Relocated the thermal energy tank. The chillers, which assist to maintain optimum temperatures in the exhibits, were moved for the new plant rooms and relocated to level one.
- Installed air handling units in each of the new plant rooms.
This is one of three new plant rooms, housing the predator tank sand filters and the thermal energy storage system. Plant rooms have been built on the observation deck at Reef HQ Aquarium.
The majority of the electrical infrastructure was nearly 30 years old and required maintenance and upgrades to meet current standards.
The old switchboard was housed in the cultural centre, adjacent to Reef HQ Aquarium. The new switchboard is located in one of the new plant rooms on the observation deck. These upgrades improve safety, eliminate flood risk and enabled a new egress pathway from Reef HQ Aquarium.
This is one of three plant rooms on the observation of Reef HQ Aquarium, and houses the new main switchboard.
Major projects associated with the main switchboard include:
Thermal Energy Storage System
The thermal energy storage unit is a key component in stabilising and sustaining electricity supply. The unit is a revolutionary renewable energy system that will deliver a cooling solution for refrigeration that could help to optimise the use of renewable energy and reduce emissions from heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration. The technology uses an onsite thermal battery that stores excess solar power generated through the existing solar array at Reef HQ. The energy is stored as ice, and can be used at night to power life support systems and temperature controls for the coral reef exhibit, which requires uninterrupted power 24/7. (The technology, developed by Glaciem Cooling Technologies Pty Ltd is being installed at three organisations around Australia, including Reef HQ Aquarium. The project is funded by the Australia Renewable Energy Agency as part of its Advancing Renewable Program.) You can learn more about the thermal energy storage system in the media release when this was first installed. Click here to learn more.
In September 2020, the thermal energy storage unit was installed into the plant room on the observation deck of Reef HQ Aquarium.
Electrical Battery Storage
Completing Reef HQ's self-sufficient energy requirements is the installation of an electrical storage system to store renewable energy and operate the transfer of energy when there is a power failure.
When completing upgrades to the coral reef exhibit protein skimmers, energy recovery was incorporated via pico-hydro generators, which will generate electricity 24/7.
Substation demolition and restoration
The previous Ergon substation located outside the Reef HQ theatre entrance in Kelleher Place was demolished with Ergon installing a new padmount transformer in a different location. This new transformer takes up a smaller footprint and allows the Aquarium to regain the area previously taken by the substation to improve the management of fire and emergency services, including egress from Reef HQ and provided an opportunity to rationalise and modernise services in this area. The footprint gained could be used as a gathering / receiving area and forms one part of the admissions or exit space.
The relocation of the Ergon substation has opened up egress opportunities in Kelleher Place at Reef HQ Aquarium.
Both wet and dry fire systems were upgraded to meet current standards, and were triggered by works associated with the relocation of the main switchboard.
The fire occupant warning system and fire indicator panel were completely replaced to meet the NCC 2019 building codes. This includes the installation of dry fire systems in the new plant rooms to detect electrical fires.
The fire hydrant booster pump was moved into a gated area off Kelleher Place at Reef HQ Aquarium.
The wet fire hydrant system included a connection manifold to the Townsville City Council mains water system and relocation of a 600mm Council stormwater pipe in Kelleher Place. It also involved the installation of a fire hydrant booster pump. If firemen don't have enough water pressure to reach an incident on the other side of the building, they can connect their systems to this pump, which will pressurise their hoses so they may do so. The booster pump has been installed into the gated area in Kelleher Place that housed the sand filters.
Life Support Systems
Reef HQ Aquarium received $2.6 million as part of the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund for Reef tourism businesses. This was for upgrades to life support systems, which ensures the stability of systems that are crucial in maintaining optimal conditions for the animals. Projects included:
- Sand Filter Systems
- Protein Skimmers
- Reverse Osmosis Machines
- Heat Installation
You can learn more about the life support system upgrades by clicking here.
Modifications, upgrades and repairs, including waterproofing, were required for a number of external and internal areas, sometimes due to concrete erosion or poor design. This included repairs to external walls and the generator room, as well as mezzanines. Another project requiring structural works included:
Discovery Lagoon Filtration System
The filtration system that services the discovery lagoon and level one exhibits, was removed from the ground floor and relocated to a new compliant mezzanine underneath the first floor, to facilitate the repair of the nib wall. The nib wall is the supporting structure of the 750,000 litre holding tank, and is part of the major works.
The relocation of filtration systems will ensure systems are more energy efficient as they do not have to pump water as far. An access platform has been built above the piping to enable staff access and ensure staff safety when servicing the discovery lagoon and ancillary exhibits. These exhibits will currently remain active during the works.
View above and below the platform for discovery lagoon services.
A number of mechanical services required replacing as they had come to the end of their life. Replacements included:
- Mechanical switchboard for creek-water pump, predator tank sand filter system and the wave machine.
- The wave machine included other upgrades to the air delivery system, motors and pneumatic equipment, and new blower motors.
Some hydraulic services were modified, replaced or repaired as part of the retrofit actions in other works, such as the main chilled water piping was upgraded and plumbing, plus pumps, were overhauled in the creek-water intake system.
Building Management System
Upgrades to the building management system are being planned. Critical modifications have been adjusted as part of the main switchboard and power management upgrades.
Reef HQ IT Server
A new IT server was installed and upgrades to NBN, fibre network connections, secure cabinets and uninterrupted power supplies were implemented to upgrade system securities and efficiencies.
Monitoring Water Quality
New equipment has been purchased for monitoring water quality and to determine a baseline. During works, in particular the relocation of boulders and the installation of cofferdams to replace acrylic windows in the coral reef exhibit, any changes or discrepancies in water quality can be identified quickly with solutions implemented to reduce and eliminate stressors to this tank.