A temporary COVID-19 Surge Centre was built and completed on Garran Oval for the ACT Government in May 2020, just five weeks from the project’s start date. Built using prefabricated wall frames and roof trusses made from TRUECORE steel, the facility – located adjacent to Canberra Hospital – was required to support the state’s healthcare infrastructure during the height of the pandemic and prevent the existing hospital system from getting overwhelmed by rising COVID-19 cases.

When Aspen Medical was contracted by the ACT Government to build and operate the 51-bed, 200-staff COVID-19 Surge Centre in April 2020, they approached Manteena Commercial to complete the construction of the facility within five weeks. Manteena reached out to long-time partner Austruss to see if they were on board to build the steel frames. 

Using a 2D drawing of the proposed floor plan, Austruss worked with Manteena to design the 51-bed medical structure. With such a limited time to develop a design for the building, Austruss knew that design flexibility was going to be key to the success of the build.

“I made the wall frames telescopic so that they could be extended and decreased as needed. That then meant they could infill different door formats into each frame and slide the door the way that they wanted by just screwing it off where they wanted it once onsite,” Austruss owner and managing director, Andrew Fowler said.

After Manteena gave the go-ahead on the Tuesday prior to Easter, Austruss delivered the first frames to the site on Easter Sunday, thanks to their employees committing to work through the weekend for this important cause. “We are all incredibly proud as a business that we’re involved with a project that is trying to help people,” Fowler said. 

The facility has been built using prefabricated wall frames and roof trusses made from TRUECORE steel and manufactured off-site by Austruss. No other materials for the framing were considered.

Manteena Commercial project director Rod Mitton said, “We didn’t have any time to explore other options and quite frankly we just knew that the product was right for this project and that’s proven to be the case.”

Project Goal

To design and build a 51-bed emergency department within 5 weeks that could be packaged up and repurposed in the future. 

Key benefits delivered

  • Design flexibility:
    • With the floor plan for the structure still being finalised while frame fabrication was underway, design flexibility was key to the success of this project. Says Fowler, “Even as wall frames were being delivered, changes were being made to the floor plan. And the product [TRUECORE steel] was strong enough to fulfil these changes and adapt to different loadings on the structure.”
    • The frames made from TRUECORE steel allowed for design flexibility. Says Mitton, “The product allowed for flexibility – allowing changes to be made onsite. You take out a few screws, make a few changes and then all of a sudden you’ve got an opening where you didn’t have an opening before.”
  • Impressive strength-to-weight ratio:
    • Framing made from TRUECORE steel is structurally very sound, which helped to allow for large spans of ceilings.
  • Speed and efficiency:
    • The frames that Austruss made from TRUECORE steel were produced quickly and designed in a way that they were fast to erect onsite and facilitated the running of services (water pipes, electric cabling, etc.) very easily.
  • Consistent quality: 
    • Knowing that TRUECORE steel is a consistent quality product gave Austruss confidence with what they committed to deliver.
  • Reliable supply chain:
    • Vital to Austruss turning around the framing so quickly was knowing that enough TRUECORE steel was readily available within such a short timeframe.


This project was another success for both Austruss and Manteena who have worked on many projects together since Austruss opened their doors 17 years ago.

“We’ve had a longstanding relationship with Manteena. It comes down to the speed of trust. If you trust people you can get a lot done incredibly quickly,” Fowler said. The unique circumstances of this project just further cemented their working relationship. “It just adds a new level of trust between both parties,” he added.

Praising Fowler and the Austruss team, Mitton said, “Andrew’s very inventive and if you have an idea or a need, he will come up with a solution. We knew that if Andrew committed to the project, then he would deliver.”

The facility was completed within the 5-week timeframe on 15th May 2020. To ensure maximum mileage the team designed the structure in such a way that it can be packed up into 40-foot containers once it’s no longer needed and transported elsewhere.

“It’s designed to be reused again,” Fowler said. “And we complied not just to a temporary design. It can be classed as a permanent building from a structural point of view.” Additionally, the structure is built to cyclone standards to account for the helicopter landing deck near the hospital.  

When reflecting on the project, and the important part that Austruss played in preparing for a public health emergency, Fowler said, “It always comes down to us having confidence in the products we use. If we didn’t have confidence in TRUECORE steel to be available, and be consistent through the design phase, then we couldn’t have been confident with what we were going to deliver. The consistency of the product and it being readily available and ready to go here in Australia is an important attribute for us.”

Principal steel products: 13,400 linear metres of TRUECORE steel and COLORBOND steel (fascias, gutters, roof and carport roller doors) 

Images courtesy of Aspen Medical and Manteena Commercial