Multiple Sclerosis Queensland- Project Dignity 120

12 February 2020

Gripfast worked with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Queensland over three years to develop their new Strategic Plan, Project Dignity 120. The $200m PD120 was the principle development project for MS Queensland for five years from 2015. The project aimed to deliver 120 new, purpose-designed accommodation solutions for people living with MS with high care needs where than they can live independently and with dignity, while still being able to access 24-hour support.


The project involved the development of a new suite of designs incorporating the latest in assistive technologies for residents with very restricted mobility in motorised wheelchairs. The first block of units was completed in April 2018, setting a new standard for high care living.


At the time of the project, the current Australian Building Codes, Standards and design guidelines for residential accommodation did not distinguish between the needs of aged care residents, those with low-care requirements in manual wheelchairs and residents with high-care needs whose only mobility is a motorised wheelchair. Not only did the current standards fail to account for the additional size, weight or level of manoeuvrability of motorised wheelchairs, they did not consider high-care residents own limited mobility, safety or care needs. The consequence was that residential solutions were either grossly under-designed, or more closely resembled a critical care ward of a hospital or traditional institutional setting – neither of which were acceptable in 2018.


MSQ engaged the services of Gripfast Consulting to assist in managing the project and provide support and advice to MS Queensland’s Board and Executive Leadership Team as they rolled out PD120. The project had three distinct phases (each a project themselves), though these overlapped over the delivery period:


1. Design & Development. Develop and cost a high-care unit design that met the unique needs of high care residents as well as making the carers role easier and safer.


2. Fund and Market. Raise funding to cover the development of the unit complexes across Queensland while marketing the innovative approach to funding agencies/bodies, users and NDIA.


3. Deliver and Develop. Progressively deliver the accommodation solutions across Queensland (QLD) while continually refining the design and funding models.


Gripfast worked closely with MS Queensland’s Board, it’s staff and its residents to support the team in designing, developing, costing, and delivering the overall program, culminating in the delivery of the first completed residential complex at Springfield, QLD.


The project team successfully achieved each outcome.


Outcome 1: Design and Development. The design of the PD120 unit template started with potential unit layout drawings and that captured the combined knowledge and experience of the Gripfast team and MS Queensland’s staff who have been delivering residential care for people living with MS for many years. Before starting, the Gripfast team researched building codes, standards and guidelines nationally and internationally to ensure that the final product would represent ‘world’s best practice’ in high-care living. The project management team arranged a series of internal design review meetings with the Gripfast and MS Queensland's teams to document the requirements before going to an architectural firm to document and further develop concept design drawings. The evolution of the design are shown in the figure, where the initial concept designs developed by Gripfast were reviewed and updated over a series of design reviews, culminating in a standardised unit design.


This approach was unique in that it was led by the project management team drawing on other skills, qualifications and knowledge to build something that is new to the marketplace and has now been used, not only by MS Queensland, but other by Not-for-Profits working in the sector and the National Disability Insurance Agency. It is rapidly becoming the defacto ‘industry standard’ for high care design and development.


Before taking this to an architect for documenting and development, the MS Queensland/Gripfast team engaged with residents, particularly Wendy Lovelace who is a qualified architect, a Board Member of MS Queensland and a person living with MS. Wendy’s personal insight provided a degree of clarity and integrity to the design that has set it apart as ‘world’s best practice’.


The last step in achieving the ‘Design and Development’ outcome was to produce a standard PD120 scope document. The MS Queensland team worked in close cooperation with the Board and, building on the designs and documents provided by Gripfast developed the PD120 template – the last of the design puzzle.


Outcome 2: Fund and Market. The key to gaining funding for the PD120 project was to explain to the Board why a ‘best practice’ high-care unit costs up to four times what a standard residential unit costs. Drawing on years of research and experience, the Gripfast project management team developed a simple but comprehensive brief for the Board and delivered it to the PD120 Committee. This allowed them to approach funding agencies armed with accurate, easy to understand costings including state-of-the-art assistive technology, plus through-life savings.


Outcome 3: Deliver and Develop. The first opportunity to deliver a PD120 project came with an agreement between MS Queensland and Springfield Land Corporation (SLC) to develop a 16-unit development in their Health and Wellness sector of Springfield. The challenge came in delivering it as a ‘turn key’ solution (a requirement of SLC) which dislocated the project management team from the design and delivery process. The risk was that MS Queensland’s exacting design requirements would be missed and the end product would not be up to the PD120 standard. Working as one with MS Queensland and Clayton Utz over a six-month period the team collectively worked on the contractual agreement to ensure that MS Queensland’s design and cost parameters were adhered to. As predicted, numerous cases of ‘design drift’ were identified during construction (by Gripfast and MS Queensland acting as one) and the robust and very specific contract provisions negotiated over the six-month period proved invaluable in ensuring that the design’s integrity was maintained. The final product represents the successful completion of PD120’s first project – a world leading facility.


The Project won the Australian Project of the Year 2018 in the Australian Institute of Project Management Community Services Division.