Supporting the urban renewal of the iconic, former Channel Nine studios at Willoughby in Sydney.

In 2020, SMEC joined with Australian property group Mirvac to redevelop the iconic Channel Nine studios in Willoughby, Sydney, in a project that unlocks the site to the public for the first time in over 60 years.


Located approximately six kilometres north of Sydney’s central business district, the site covers 3.2 hectares of land. Mirvac acquired the site to bring to life a new community that will feature 10 architecturally designed apartment buildings, approximately 6,000 square metres of publicly accessible open space and complementary retail outlets, with new and upgraded connections.


SMEC is providing civil engineering design and flood management services for the redevelopment.“Our team has provided value to this challenging site through the delivery of a bulk earthworks strategy and stormwater management plan that will improve construction outcomes,” said Scott Carne, SMEC’s Manager Urban Renewal.

“Through constant communication, strong teamwork and collaboration, we were able to complete the works despite the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. By using 3D modelling and delivering the design in BIM, we were able to present and discuss designs with Mirvac and relevant stakeholders remotely, but in real time, which streamlined the review and approvals process.”

Strategies to improve construction outcomes

The existing topography of the site posed a significant engineering challenge. The steep slope, with an overall fall of 30 metres, required careful civil design considerations. These included early project phase 3D bulk earthworks design, building floor level design, positioning and interfacing of the buildings to surrounding existing topography. Our team co-ordinated the threshold level of building entrances early in the process so they were suitable for all abilities and provided required flood protection, which then set the floor levels in each building.

“Throughout SMEC’s involvement in the project, our team’s focus was to provide solutions that could improve development outcomes, such as more developable and public open space,” said Cameron Miles, State Sector Manager, Urban Communities NSW/ACT.

“One of the ways we achieved this was by collaborating with SMEC’s geotechnical engineering team to design an earth retaining wall that could lead to more space for public parklands in the development.”

Our bulk earthworks strategy, which we developed in close partnership with the project architect and structural engineer, has also enhanced the subsequent stages of the development, as the project moves into built form construction.

Stormwater management and services coordination were also intricate and required working around existing assets to achieve development outcomes. Our on-site stormwater detention has been designed outside of buildings, which will allow implementation of formal drainage and permanent outfall early in the construction phase and will further aid in construction delivery. The tanks are also easier to access for future maintenance, which will help to minimise lifecycle costs.

With a development of this size and scale, constant communication and engagement were essential to building a close working relationship with the local council to achieve the desired outcomes.

Throughout SMEC’s involvement in the project, our team’s focus was to provide solutions that could improve development outcomes, such as more developable and public open space.”
———— Cameron Miles, State Sector Manager, Urban Communities NSW/ACT.

Digital technologies supporting social distancing

From the inception of the project, SMEC developed designs in 3D and implemented an overall Building Information Modelling (BIM) approach across the project for civil works.

During the pandemic, social distancing and lockdown requirements meant much of the project interaction and engagement took place online. The digital model made it easier to collaborate with each of the project consultants and enabled the team to discuss and resolve design issues rapidly, using the clear, integrated visual representation of our design to streamline the review and approvals process.

“Digital Engineering (DE) integrates CAD, GIS and BIM to deliver intelligent solutions on projects,” said Erezi Utiome, Digital Engineering Practice Lead.

“Through our Technical Services leadership, we’re leveraging digital engineering to drive incredible benefits and we are excited about the opportunities that a digital engineering approach to urban development will provide our clients.”

SMEC is looking forward to continuing our partnership with the Willoughby project team in 2021, as final approvals are received and construction commences.


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