Located near Wonthaggi in Victoria, Australia, the Victorian Desalination Project (VDP) has just been awarded the coveted Sir Osborn McCutcheon Victorian Architecture Award for Commercial Architecture 2014 by the Australian Institute of Architects. Working on the $3.5bn PPP project – one of the largest in the world – were peckvonhartel, ARM Architecture and landscape architects ASPECT Studios. Work was completed in 2013.
Also heavily involved were engineers Beca and Parsons Brinkerhoff who formed a joint venture to deliver engineering design services for client, Thiess Degremont Joint Venture (contracted by AquaSure).
The plant is one of the largest reverse-osmosis desalination plants in the world, capable of supplying up to 150bn litres of water a year – more than a third of Melbourne’s annual water needs – with capability to expand to 200bn litres a year.
According to Beca, the VDP is ‘the most technically advanced, environmentally sensitive and energy efficient desalination facility in Australia’. Its concept is based on a ‘green line’ that runs through the site, moving from a natural landscape element to a constructed dune formation, a living green roof (the largest in the southern hemisphere), a footprint encompassing buildings and, ultimately, a restored landscape within a coastal park.
The Beca/Parsons Brinkerhoff joint venture provided engineering design and construction phase services for the reverse osmosis desalination plant, inlet and outlet tunnels, marine structures, 52-mile (84km) water transfer pipeline and 54-mile (87-kilometre) underground power line to supply power to the plant.
Locating the underground power supply in the same easement as the transfer pipeline minimised construction time and maximised the use of space.
The plant has a very small footprint, taking up just 94 acres (38 hectares) of the 650-acre (263-hectare) site. The remaining 556 acres (225 hectares) are an ecologically sustainable coastal park with new habitat for local fauna, including freshwater wetlands, woodland and coastal heath landscape.
The underground pipeline connects regional communities to drinking water from Melbourne’s Cardinia Reservoir or the desalination plant via delivery points along the pipeline, as and when required. The two-way desalination pipeline connects areas in South Gippsland and Western Port to the Melbourne water network.
In September 2012, drinking water began to flow from the Victorian Desalination Plant through the underground pipeline and into Melbourne’s Cardinia Reservoir as part of the project’s commissioning process.