Early Works Program

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.



Plant Rooms

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.

One of three new plant rooms housing sand filters and renewable energy systems

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.


Main Switchboard

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.

One of three new plant rooms includes the one housing the main switchboard

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.

The thermal energy storage unit gets craned into the plant room on level one of Reef HQ Aquarium

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.

Pico-hydro Generators

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.

The relocation of the Ergon substation has opened up egress opportunities in Kelleher Place at Reef HQ Aquarium.


Fire Systems

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 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.


Structural Works

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.

View above and below the platform for discovery lagoon services.


Mechanical 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.

Hydraulic Services

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.


Other Projects

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.

Last updated: 27/07/21