3. IP Australia Accommodation Project, Woden ACT

IP Australia seeks approval from the Committee to proceed with the IP Australia Accommodation Project: Building Refresh Discovery House (the Project), in Woden, Australian Capital Territory.
The estimated cost of the project is $39.7 million (excluding GST).
The project was referred to the Committee on 22 June 2017.

Conduct of the inquiry

Following referral, the inquiry was publicised on the Committee’s website and via media release.
The Committee received one submission and one confidential submission. A list of submissions can be found at Appendix A.
On 15 September, the Committee conducted a public and in-camera hearing. A transcript of the public hearing is available on the Committee’s website.

Need for the works

IP Australia is the entity responsible for administering Australia’s intellectual property (IP) rights system. Its area of responsibility covers trademarks, patents, designs, and plant breeders’ rights.1 At the public hearing, IP Australia told the Committee:
We process 800,000 customer transactions each year, transacting each year with around 125,000 of our individual customers. In terms of people, we have around 1,275 employees nationally, with 1,159 based at our headquarters, Discovery House, in the Woden Town Centre in Canberra.2
In its submission, IP Australia stated:
In 2015 IP Australia developed a Workplace of the Future Strategy 2015-2018 to provide an overarching approach to developing and programming works to suitably accommodate an evolving workforce.3
The Workplace of the Future Strategy found that the ageing accommodation is ‘not only dated’, but also ‘no longer entirely fit for purpose’. Specifically:
IP Australia’s current style of accommodation is predominantly traditional open plan. Its bay to office ratio has been tailored to support a hierarchical management structure. Executive Level 2 (EL2) and a significant number Executive Level 1 (EL1) [staff] are accommodated in a cellular arrangement of offices located along the central spine of each floor plate;
interspersed amongst the offices and bays of workstations are meeting rooms and quiet rooms. However, in recent years almost all quiet rooms have been converted into offices. Further, a number of large meeting rooms have been converted into secluded bays of workstations, principally used by project teams. This has created pressure on the availability of meeting rooms;
approximately 230 patent examiners are accommodated in a unique cellular arrangement of individual cubicles;
IP Australia’s occupied workpoint densities are currently lower than the 14 square metres per person mandated by the Department of Finance. While the design density at the agency is currently 13.2 square metres [per workpoint] the vacancy rate is 22 per cent. The issues that limit the ability of IP Australia to effectively consolidate staff and improve occupational densities includes:
the allocation of offices to EL2s and a significant number of EL1s, which not only increases the footprint for these staff but as the office to bay accommodation ratio is rarely a neat fit there are many instances where bays remain unfilled. Additionally, this workforce profile makes restructures complex as the construction of new offices is often required, which is both a lengthy and costly process; and
the specialised nature of accommodation for particular cohorts such as examination teams, which were previously deemed necessary due to the requirement for concentrated work.
the inflexible configuration of accommodation combined with an inflexible information and communication technology (ICT) solution means that moves and restructures require significant after hours resourcing.4
In order to address the limitation of the existing fit-out, IP Australia told the Committee that it had developed the following objectives for the Project:
a contemporary fit-out that supports flexible work practices, thereby allowing IP Australia to increase its occupational workpoint densities with a view to achieving the Government’s target of 14 square metres per occupied workpoint;
reducing the costs associated with churn (staff relocations required to run the business, related to organisational changes and the preferred co-location of Group staff);
improving the typology and ratio of meeting rooms and shared spaces to better meet the needs of an emerging and future workforce;
upgrades to aged (20 years in North and South Wings) base building services and amenities;
future proofing the agency for changes in IP Rights demand levels through integration of a sublease strategy; and
targeted enhancement to accommodation, which includes on site access to a childcare facility and health and wellbeing room in order to retain and attract high value employees.5
The Committee is satisfied that the need for the work exists.

Scope of the works

IP Australia told the Committee that the Project would include a building refresh, covering the following aspects:
relocation of the café and multipurpose amenities room;
fit-out of new childcare centre designed to cater for up to 60 children;
reconfiguration/relocation of the existing conference facilities/hearing rooms;
a health and wellbeing room; and
a rolling program of flexible fit-out improvement to the office tenancy.6
In addition to these proposed works, IP Australia noted that a range of base building works will be undertaken under the new lease arrangement with the building owner:
lobby upgrades to accommodate a new café;
bathroom upgrades to all floors and common/shared areas to meet current codes and requirements, and to ensure that the standard of amenities is consistent across the whole site;
lift interior upgrades and review of lift services;
upgrade of mechanical/heating, ventilation and air conditioning services, including increasing the sensor zones to improve energy efficiency management;
building/Construction Code and Disability standards compliance upgrade to lifts, bathrooms and stairs where applicable;
installation of energy efficient lighting and controls throughout the building;
refit of all floors with new ceiling tiles and grids and new air conditioning diffusers;
recarpet of all floors will be incorporated with the proposed program of upgrade works; and
improved entrance airlocks.7
The Committee finds that the proposed scope of works is suitable for the works to meet its purpose.

Cost of the works

The total estimated cost of the project is $39.7 million (excluding GST). It includes the cost of construction, fixtures, fittings, furniture, design and project management fees, contingencies, relocation costs, internal resourcing and risk estimation costs.8
The Committee received a confidential supplementary submission detailing the project costs and held an in-camera hearing with IP Australia on the project costs.
The Committee is satisfied that the costings for the project provided to it have been adequately assessed by the proponent entity.

Committee comment

The Committee did not identify any issues of concern with the proposal and is satisfied that the project has merit in terms of need, scope and cost.
Having regard to its role and responsibilities contained in the Public Works Committee Act 1969, the Committee is of the view that this project signifies value for money for the Commonwealth and constitutes a project which is fit for purpose, having regard to the established need.

Recommendation 2

The Committee recommends that the House of Representatives resolve, pursuant to Section 18(7) of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, that it is expedient to carry out the following proposed works: IP Australia Accommodation Project: Building Refresh Discovery House, Woden, Australian Capital Territory.
Proponent entities must notify the Committee of any changes to the project scope, time, cost, function or design. The Committee also requires that a post-implementation report be provided within three months of the project completion. A report template can be found on the Committee’s website.

  • 1
    IP Australia, Submission 1, p. 3.
  • 2
    Ms Patricia Kelly, IP Australia, Transcript of evidence, 15 September 2017, p. 1.
  • 3
    IP Australia, Submission 1, p. 11.
  • 4
    IP Australia, Submission 1, pp. 11-12.
  • 5
    IP Australia, Submission 1, p. 9.
  • 6
    IP Australia, Submission 1, p. 14.
  • 7
    IP Australia, Submission 1, p. 14.
  • 8
    IP Australia, Submission 1, p. 21.

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