Norman Disney & Young (NDY) worked with Perumal Pedavoli Architects and the ACT Government on The Secure Mental Health Unit (SMHU), a unique fast track facility providing 25 hospital inpatient beds, co-locating acute and rehabilitation for patients requiring medium and low secure mental health services.

SMHU is a bespoke facility and the first of its kind in the ACT.

It provides a safe and structured environment with 24 hour clinical support for people with moderate to severe mental illness who cannot be safely cared for in a less restrictive environment. This includes people who are, or are likely to become, involved with the criminal justice system, and civil clients of general mental health services.

This project, with its unique blend of security and health requirements, challenged the NDY team to draw upon extensive experience in health and correctional facilities to develop a solution that addressed issues such as:

  • Bedroom fire safety
  • Minimisation of self harm
  • Prevention of willful damage
  • Containment/concealment of services to prevent tamper
  • Balancing initial capital cost with energy consumption and long term maintenance costs.

The site selected for the facility was the derelict Quamby Youth Detention Centre (QYDC), which opened in 1962 as a shelter for youth on short-term remand or those who were unable to live at home. The facility was closed in 2008 and there was no as-built information for the services infrastructure which reticulates around the site. As a result, extensive on-site surveys were carried out to minimise the risk of damaging assets as part a planned demolition process to clear the site for the new building.

Key services challenges for the project included the proposed electrical re-supply of the adjacent Period Detention Centre, which was fed from the substation adjacent the QYDC building.

The fire engineering strategy and subsequent mechanical system approach ensure that the facility is not only safe, but that appropriate temperature conditions are maintained in patient areas to minimise stress and irritation. The services were designed and constructed in such a way that the possibility for self-harm is minimised, while access for maintenance and repairs is maintained in accordance with current Work Health Safety guidelines.

This project was procured under the Act Health HIP GC21 – 2 Stage Lump Sum Contract Structure.