Education a builders’ money spinner

STRONG international demand for WA’s higher education services is providing builders with a steady stream of money.

Each year, WA’s universities spend more than $50 million on capital works programs. Maintenance and refurbishment’s add millions more.

The University of WA has an annual budget of $15.5 million for capital works and refurbishments and an additional $5 million for maintenance.

UWA property manager Wayne Browne said the university spent one per cent of the total replacement cost of the UWA campus on maintenance. He said the university aimed to increase that to about 1.25 per cent of the $500 million estimated replacement value of the campus.

The major project for UWA this year will be the WA centre for oral health at the QEII Medical Centre. Currently out for tender, the $30 million centre will be funded by the WA Government in conjunction with the university.

In addition, the university has 10 commercial and industrial properties worth more than $150 million, scattered around Australia.

Mr Browne said one of the reasons the university had such a strong property portfolio was because the WA Endowment Act, which controls how university money is invested, states that all money made through property had to be reinvested into property.

Mr Browne said amendments to the Endowment Act, now before parliament, would allow the university the flexibility to reinvest the money elsewhere.

Edith Cowan University, which has four metropolitan campuses and a Bunbury campus, spent on average about $10 million on capital works.

At the Joondalup campus, a science and health building is being built by Cooper & Oxley for $27.5 million while a $32 million administration and teaching building will also be built.

And the future looks bright for commercial and industrial builders with a further $30 million worth of building in the planning or early construction stages at the campus.

More than $40 million worth of capital works are also being planned for the Mt Lawley campus.

Curtin University spends more than $7 million on capital works programs on its campus. Off campus, the university is refurbishing the heritage-listed State Government printing offices which it bought three years ago for about $2.5 million.

The 1,800 square metre building, on the corner of Pier and Murray streets, will be used for the university’s Graduate School of Management. The School, which is moving from the QV1 building, will double its size.

The Town of Victoria Park council last week approved a $20 million education building on the Bentley campus to be used by the Curtin Business School and the School of Physiotherapy which is relocating from the Shenton Park campus.

The four-storey building will also house a 3.5 megalitre thermal storage tank which will be used for the university’s air conditioning system.

Curtin University general manager of properties Martin Dunleavy said the tank would make cooling more energy efficient. It will be used for storing water which will be cooled at night using off-peak electricity. The $2.5 million cost of the cooling system is expected to be paid off within seven years.

Mr Dunleavy said the University was conscious of the need to make energy-efficient buildings which could also save the university money.

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