Thirty years on: reflecting on the construction industry’s contribution to building an icon

Adjunct Professor David Chandler OAM FAIB outside Australian Parliament House during its construction.

Thirty years ago this month Queen Elizabeth II officially opened Australian Parliament House. Since then, the building has been praised worldwide for its design and visual aesthetics. What is sometimes overlooked however is the incredible contribution of the construction industry to the development of this iconic building –  an effort led by Construction Director of the project and Adjunct Professor in the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics David Chandler OAM FAIB.

Mr Chandler – who will take part in a panel discussion about the construction at the official 30th birthday celebrations in Canberra on 5 May – says the completion of Australia’s New Parliament House (NPH) in 1988 involved a magnificent team effort from the over 10,000 professionals and a “workforce united for one purpose.”

“That purpose required the collaborative combination of unique management, design, craft, fabrication, construction and commissioning skills to deliver one of the highest quality projects ever undertaken in Australia. These skills have flowed into almost every facet of the Australian construction industry, having a major influence on many important public and private buildings since,” says Mr Chandler.

“The NPH project had many tough days to negotiate. Industrial disputation, constant design changes, administering over 3000 contracts, coordinating complex off-site and on-site inputs, a negative media and politicians always on the look-out for stories about delay or cost over-runs seemed at time insurmountable. But, this was soon turned around as the Australian public and the on-site team saw the progressive realisation of a new national icon for which all became duly proud.

“Memories of the tough days were displaced by the times ahead. There were none prouder than the 1500 constructors and their families who gathered on the building’s grassy slopes to observe the Queen formally open the NPH for Australia’s bi-centenary in 1988.”

David Chandler was the Construction Director of the Concrete Holland Joint Venture who led the construction of Australia’s New Parliament House. He has over 40 years’ executive experience in the major projects, property development industry and related corporate management. He is a passionate advocate for the need to transform the Australian construction industry and grasping the emerging opportunities in a digital, industrialising and global construction market.  

David has recently accepted his appointment as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics at Western Sydney University. He is also the Industry Engagement Lead for the University’s Centre for Smart Modern Construction (c4SMC). This initiative involves securing new industry investment in academic and research capabilities in the School’s Construction Management program. The c4SMC initiative at Western Sydney University aims to help prepare tomorrows construction graduates and the enterprises they will lead to be ‘future-ready’

Visit the c4SMC site for more information.


4 May 2017

Emma Sandham, Senior Media Officer